Hire education: how to recruit top university graduates

Recruiting the new generation of top talent means understanding what young people want from their careers.

Introduction | An emerging cohort | Tug-of-war | The results | Where, why, and who? | Star recruiters

Tennyson Cho was two months into a new job at an independent Toronto investment bank when he decided to quit. The then-22-year-old Queen's University commerce grad was tired of 70-hour workweeks and had grown disillusioned with corporate life. Sure, the paycheque was good, and he enjoyed the work. But Cho also felt lost in the relatively unfamiliar world of the daily grind. Almost immediately, he landed a “9-to-4:30” gig at a local insurance company that paid him about half the money, but also allowed him to hit the town with his buddies after work. After just three days there, though, he resigned again — and went back (somewhat sheepishly) to his former employer. Luckily, they took him back. “I realized really quickly that I was just a cog in the wheel at the insurance company,” says Cho. “I wasn't being challenged. It would have taken me at least two years before I'd even be considered for a promotion.”

Surprising? Well, not exactly, considering Cho's original employer, Westwind Partners, recognized his potential as an integral part of its investment-banking team. After all, he was whip smart, ready to work hard, and he had gained a new-found appreciation for the opportunity to contribute something meaningful to the company on a day-to-day basis. Cho also had the upper hand in a booming Canadian job market in which companies are becoming increasingly determined to lure smart, young and motivated employees as aging baby boomers begin to retire.

These days, knowing how best to woo this next generation of top talent has become a high-stakes game, where gaining the advantage in recruiting and hiring means understanding — really understanding — what young people want in terms of their careers. It also means going a step further and figuring out how to position your business atop all the others vying for top new talent. Are you promoting the right messages in your recruitment drives? What's the most effective way to get those messages out there? Do graduating students want to work for your organization?

To find the answers, we teamed up with two Toronto-based consultancies that specialize in the generation Y set — Brainstorm and D-Code — to get the inside track on how approximately 30,000 post-secondary students across Canada feel about their prospective careers. The result? A revealing — and somewhat surprising — window into where the young generation wants to work, their career expectations and, importantly, what they value most.

Employers who want to win at the game of getting the best and brightest new crop of university grads on board take note: they're a confident, highly motivated bunch that values opportunities for career advancement above all else. And despite what conventional wisdom would suggest, they just might become dedicated career-long employees — provided you can keep them engaged and offer them the right opportunities.

NEXT: An emerging cohort