Human Resources

Do Employers Care How You Did in College?

Explaining strategy

Getting a job is often about connections and timing, and many of today’s high-paying jobs are found through unofficial channels.

Today’s job market is tough, with a national unemployment rate of 7.6%, as of March 2013 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). This is an improvement on the 9.8% rate many of today’s graduates faced in their freshman year. What this translates into is a competitive job market where candidates are screened in ever changing ways. Crunching numbers in hopes of identifying patterns and traits consistent with successful candidates is one way big data is transforming the hiring process.

If you’re seeking work at major corporations, governmental institutions or non-profits, how can you make yourself stand out amidst a pile of applications? Resumes to HR departments, letters of recommendation and an online college education can all fail to impress from the main point of employment: How can you, as a recent college graduate, produce a return on your income for your employer?

Hiring Practices

Forbes published data about the hiring practices at a financial services company. These practices had been recently re-tweaked to find a better use to how the company was hiring and could that increase its sales performance. The financial services firm discovered that by focusing on less traditional measures for candidates, the firm could realize an increase of about $4 million increase in revenue. Here’s what mattered highly to the firm:

  • Candidates having accurate, readable resumes
  • Candidates completing programs in their education process
  • Candidates successfully selling high-value products in previous work
  • Candidates showing key success highlights in earlier job roles
  • Candidates able to work under flexible or unguided conditions

What did NOT matter to the firm was:

  • The candidate’s choice of university or college
  • The candidate’s GPA levels
  • The quality of the candidate’s references

For example, Las Vegas-based is among the top Fortune 100 companies to work for. They only consider GPA’s important enough to list as prerequisites for intern positions. Otherwise, what they want is experience and passion for the job. And, their corporate culture allows for a particularly comfortable transition from college life into web development. One of the company’s recent job ads mentioned no preference for showing up to work either in a tuxedo or pajamas. As long as the projects, usability patterns and idea generation remains high, doesn’t seem to care much about your choice of attire, only your drive, commitment and ideas.

At the Interview

Employers are increasingly sensitive to the volatile job market and the expense of losing valuable employees to competitors. Building on the corporate loyalty and affection that employers seek is a way of reinforcing one’s position as a valuable team player and a sign of passion for the job.

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The Gallup Business Journal published data last year illustrating a disconnect between employees and the goals, strengths and power of the brands they represent. Having a clear idea of who the employer is and how you could best fit in is a good position to be in at the interview table. Understanding what the company stands for is fundamental.

Misuse of technology, on the other hand, is a quick trip to the circular file. HR professionals are keenly aware of the technological bad habits of new hires, with “nearly half” abusing information technology in some way. For example, texting, social media, and personal communication methods are key areas in which HR recruiters are often scrutinizing candidates. Having these skills may indeed be essential to one’s job, but don’t test the patience of hiring managers. Their job is to build teams and help maintain balance at the company between management and employees. So, leave the smartphone turned off and away for the duration of the interview.

Landing the Job

Once you’ve landed a job, it’s a good idea to let your credentials speak for themselves and apply the skills, resources and attitude that enabled you to tackle complex problems in school, according to Being a productive, quality-centric employee is the gold standard for a solid hire. Producing quality work consistently is the mark of a professional.

Preparing for corporate life in the business world after as many as 22+ years of solo work in academia can be a challenge of its own. Doug points out in the article that one of the more difficult adjustments for students is to learn how to work with other people, after going it (mostly) alone for four or more years.

A Company’s Brand

Some companies find that new hires from the crop of recent graduates can be useful extensions of the company’s brand. Perhaps your brand’s newest fans can also be your company’s best employees. In order to develop a team of knowledgeable employees, company executives look beyond GPAs and college degrees to more useful human potential represented by these new hires.

But for a company to develop effective brand ambassadors, it’s necessary to effectively train these new employees. This includes having a clear definition of the company’s brand, what it means, who the brand is best targeted towards and more. By knowing these attributes up front, a company’s new hires can get behind the company brand, its values, and the excitement of sharing information about the brand online.

School is an opportunity to explore concepts, absorb facts, establish relationships and develop skills. Applying these skills in today’s job market is a challenging and rewarding path for graduates who find their place upon it.

  Discuss This Article

Comments: 1

  • Great post! It’s true that employers don’t particularly care where you went to school or the GPA you earned — but still, having a personal connection at a company due to a shared alma mater can help with networking, and give you common ground to relate to each other in an interview. That’s why it’s a good idea for job seekers to use online resources like social media to scrounge for open positions — always use the power of your shared networks!

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