Five things for employers to consider when hiring students

A look at five points which may or may not help employers cope with the call from upstairs, asking them to recruit a new student for the office. Mostly seriousness with a slight element of irreverent British humour provided

At this time of year, no doubt a large portion of employers will have a pit in their stomachs, knowing they may well have to take on a bunch of new graduates, who swagger around thinking they are God's gift to their subject whilst thinking they have the relevant life experience to support themselves financially, mentally and independently.

Students: You may find this a more relevant perspective.

The fact of the matter is that your workforce is slowly getting older, as are you, and times are changing as society often dictates. The thought of bringing on a new recruit straight out of university could well help the company at least for the short term, bringing new ideas and fresh perspectives to your department. You advertise well, pick a select few which might have the energy to bring something substantial to the team, and after much deliberation, you pick one - just one, for now.

But before you let them anywhere near your office, there need to be some unwritten ground rules put into place. Forget your existing staff for the moment; the new recruit will no doubt enter with a mindset hellbent on priming "inter-office relationships", and productivity will be affected regardless of how you deal with it. What you need is to focus in on the mindset of the student, nip everything in the bud whilst you can and fix any further problems as you go along.

For sake of disclosure, this is mostly down to what I have experienced in the past. After speaking to a number of friends and colleagues (past, present and students), this list represents the most common considerations of them all.

1. Give them plenty of advice, direction and support.

Remember that new recruits can carry out tasks and their job to the full, but will still struggle on some level to cope with the office, the staff, the protocols and procedures, as well as the burden of trying to make a positive first impression. The psychological elements of being the new person in the office will stem all the way back to being the "new kid" at a different school. Try and picture a scared deer in headlights (number 1; number 2 is just a bit strange), and you will get a rough idea.

While they are still in their learning phase, it is important to ensure they are given constructive criticism to help them fulfill tasks in the future to a better quality, but praise is also very important to maintain self-esteem and boost confidence levels. With this, give extra, specific and almost gratuitous details of the task in hand but without sounding patronising.

Have a read up on Herzberg's two-factor/hygiene theory and put yourself in the mindset of the new employee.

2. Preempt and limit the damage radius as much as possible.

The new recruit may well be unfamiliar with the IT infrastructure there is already in place, and the possibility of them "getting lost" around places they should not see could well be a temptation too large. Consider Adam and Eve being tempted into a network location by a suspicious looking snake, only to reveal the company bankroll.

To limit the user account on the new recruit would be a wise move until they are ready and trusted to work fully independently and take off their training wheels. Point them in the direction of the company network policy and highlight the consequences of irresponsible actions. Limiting their movements on the network may hinder their work so be very careful in how you approach this topic.

Creating a virtual LAN which restricts access to essential servers and services, and equipment which shouldn't be touched, moved, felt, rubbed up against or even looked at should be pointed out sooner rather than later, to minimise any damage which would result from the aforementioned actions.

Also, include with any documentation a guide to etiquette in emails. Even though the new recruit may get on well with Janice in accounting, adding a hundred kisses to the end of an email is just unprofessional.

3. Engage them in "comforting" activities.

With the average students' grasp on Facebook and Twitter being quite substantial, engage them in menial tasks which ultimately help the team effort along a positive route and increasing productivity.

Allowing the new employee to create and moderate a group on Facebook which act as an electronic water cooler would enable the workplace to banter around funny and irreverent jokes, images and videos which would normally be sent in emails. This will turn the workplace from a stiff upper-lipped workplace to one which embraces humour, a laugh or two and a more casual attitude.

If one requires it, having an internal wiki or something similar would be useful to have. The concept is free as is open-source software and will be familiar to the student, after using Wikipedia to rip off most of their essays. It also shows the company is prepared to adopt new technologies and develop internally.

4. The workforce is changing; cater to their needs.

Google is the best standard we can see which shows how the workplace as an entity is changing. You don't need to install slides which go from one floor to another, nor employ "bring your cat to work days" as a way to boost morale. New recruits will expect a certain kind of workplace and will most likely be a bit dynamic, different and have a bit of fun in the office.

5. Remember to consider the company name and reputation.

With current students having an addiction or "need" to update their current life status to the world with Twitter, Facebook and a number of other social networking sites and tools, keeping work and personal issues aside can be difficult. After all, work takes up a huge part of our lives and often, whether we like it or not, they interact, like some crazed Venn diagram of lifelong hatred of the career you "fell into".

The company will have a reputation to uphold. Ultimately the reputation falls on the shoulders of individual people rather than what the company stands for, supports or even does. Numerous stories have scattered the web of employees being dismissed from their jobs after comments or events relating to social networking, so nipping this in the bud from the word go is necessary to allow them to keep their jobs and not bringing down the company's reputation in any way.

Ensure that employees, not just the new recruits, are warned about the public perceptions of their company and the people representing the company - the employees - and that things written on the Internet cannot be removed, fact.

Are you an employer looking for new recruits? Will students nowadays have the relevant skills and life experience to fulfill their duties in your company? What killer feature are you looking for in a new recruit? Hit me with what you've got.

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