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Young Talent Recruitment in 2023: The Complete Guide

by College Life
Updated on September 20, 2023

What is the importance of doing young talent recruitment the right way?

There is a famous statistic that you may be familiar with. It goes by many names but the textbook term is “Price’s Law”, named after renown physicist and historian Derek John de Solla Price. He coined the term after noticing that in any given academic subject, a small percentage of professors worldwide were responsible for almost all of the published research done on that subject.

When de Solla Price conducted a similar analysis as it relates to productivity within companies, he found the same thing – he found that in the average company, the square root of the total number of employees does half of the work. Thus, if you have a company with 25 employees, 5 of them are doing around 50 percent of the work at any given time (on average).

Naturally, employers are desperate to hire and keep these relentlessly hardworking employees, but where do you find them and how do you keep them?

Talent Recruitment Fundamentals

If you Google the definition of young you will get the following: “having lived or existed for only a short time”. What’s not mentioned however, is the well known abundance of energy in young individuals. Let’s take a closer look at what this means for the workplace.

There is a mountain of research that suggests that the majority of overachievers are young recent or soon-to-be graduates that are itching to get into the workforce and start their careers. However, identifying young talent is not easy, nor is enticing them to your specific company. Retaining them for a longer period sometimes seems virtually impossible.

As you might have guessed from the name of our platform, at College Life working with young talent is our bread and butter. In fact, it is our mission to help companies succeed with young talent recruitment.

We do this from the employee side by providing a medium where students and recent graduates can find career opportunities. On the employer side, College Life provides companies with a platform to publish & distribute their open positions.

Why Hire Young Talent?

Young, job-seeking students and graduates make excellent candidates, and there are plenty of reasons why. The video below some of these reasons:

How to Manage Expectations

The higher the expectation, the harder the fall. It’s important to have reasonable expectations when it comes to certain subjects. One of those is the employment of young talent. Careful evaluation and the right questions will help you adjust these expectations accordingly.

Let’s be honest: there is no formula in existence that can guarantee you will be able to keep these high performing employees under your wing forever.

The numbers show that most young hires will leave within the first 2-5 years of being at your company. KPMG is so transparent with their expectations that they even launched a #3YearsAtKPMG campaign in which they clarify what value three years at their company will bring to a fresh graduate.

While there are many things you can do to increase the likelihood that they will stay beyond the average period, it is naive to think that they will stay forever. It’s time to get your calculators out and plan accordingly for this reality.

Evaluating Promising Candidates

Successful young talent recruitment and long term retenton fundamentally boils down to being realistic about how these dynamics will play out. One of the easiest ways to do this is to simply talk with potential hires about everything, including what their long-term and short goals are. The problem with this direct communication is that it is unlikely they will reveal to you exactly what their plans are until you’ve established a more meaningful relationship.

There is a useful saying that is very relevant in this context: actions speak louder than words. In fact, you should go even further and consider that words don’t often mean very much. This is because they’re often based off emotions which inevitably change over time.

You may have one potential hire telling you they intend to stay forever and another which tells you they intend on leaving in 2 to 3 years. You should not jump for joy with the first hire or cringe with the second hire – it is too early to tell if the sentiment is genuine and both should in fact be treated as more or less equal.

Asking Questions

So what’s the point in asking them what they want if you’re unlikely to get an accurate answer? Well, you shouldn’t only be asking them about what they want but also about a variety of other topics. You have to do your best to get an accurate assessment of who they are as a person and that will unfortunately take some time.

Your goal is to gather enough information through questions over time to know why it really is that they chose your company and how long they intend to really stay for. If you’re good at creating an open and honest work environment, then they may even tell you themselves.

If you are unable to stop the natural desire of wanting to hire and keep this potential hire or current employee from spilling into your interactions with him or her, you have effectively guaranteed that they will leave sooner rather than later. Worst still, they may even use this to their advantage if they’re assertive.

Nobody likes clingy people in relationships and certainly not in the workplace. However, we haven’t even gotten to that stage yet – if you are reading this guide then you probably don’t have a long line of young talents waiting at your office door (yet). Let’s take a few steps back and start from the beginning.

Where to Find Young Talents

When you go grocery shopping it’s usually a good idea to bring a list. When you’re shopping for high performing talent for your business, that list should read: universities, social media, entry level service positions, and a few niche alternatives you may not be familiar with.

Before you catch the big fish, you have to find the water where the big fish hang out. This can be insufferably difficult. It is easy to forget that in the grand scheme of things we are still in the very early days of technologies such as the internet and social media. This is evidenced by the fact that any given search query, whether for young talent or for the right kind of washable marker, results in an absolute overload of information. Case and point: searching “hire young talent” gives you over 49 million results in Google.

If that doesn’t frustrate you as an employer then we congratulate you for having achieved nirvana. You know that the big-juicy-high-performance-young-talent-fish are somewhere in this mess of results just waiting to be caught, but where?

There’s a simple question that can help you answer the previous question.

“Where does my target audience spend most of their time?”   

There are in fact many places where you can fish out the young talent you’re looking for. However, you have to think outside the box to find the water. If you’re planning to target young talent, here’s the primary list of destinations here you want to go to find them:

1) Niche Platforms

There is in fact a growing industry of services like ours which help your company with young talent recruitment. Depending on where you are in the world and what stage you are at as a company, the ideal middleman will vary. For example, at College Life we focus exclusively on drawing the attention of students and recent graduates on an international scale. Our active job recruitment strategies combined with our branding solutions helped established business giants such as Allianz and Braskem find qualified candidates for their job openings.

Most importantly, our platform lets you see if your hiring approach is working or not. The College Life Work platform allows you to analyze conversation rates across your entire recruitment funnel and gives you the ability to accurately calculate cost per action (CPA), cost per click (CPC) and cost per hire (CPH).

If you’re not drawing the attention of the candidates you want, we’ve got the tools to change that. We can boost the awareness of your brand by capturing the attention of your target audience with branding initiatives that are data-driven and in accordance with the marketing trends of any given channel, whether online or offline.

Here’s an example of College Life Media’s latest award-winning employer branding film for Bierens.

2) Universities

Many companies practice on-campus recruitment with significant success. However, simply waltzing onto a university campus isn’t going to get you the talent you need. It’s easy to forget that most young people are preoccupied with more immediate things like love interests and crippling student loan debt; they probably won’t notice you or one of your company’s representatives waving a business card in their face in between classes.

Going directly to classrooms or clubs can be a good starting point but there is one method which we have yet to see recommended in any other guide on this topic: talk to the professors and go to class. If you are truly serious about identifying and hiring young talent, there is no better way to do that than through the eyes of the people who are quite literally doing this on a daily basis and on a monthly basis with relatively accurate measures: exams.

Ask a professor who their top students are. If they’re freaked out by this suggestion, ask if you can simply sit in on a few of the classes you think are relevant to the work you do. Look for the students raising their arms too quickly in response to questions.

You might even want to consider befriending a few faculty members if you’re really in need of a specific type of talent, such as computer engineers. This will make it easier for you to host workshops that are sure to bring the cream of the crop to the forefront. This is exactly what we helped Allianz do with their II. Allianz Benelux Hackathon, which we co-organized. Their campaign successfully reached 51.526 prospective candidates within 6 weeks.

You would be truly surprised at how many young talents are hanging out right under your nose within arms reach. A substantial percentage of students and recent graduates work at local cafes & restaurants alongside their studies to support themselves financially.

3) Local Venues 

Being observant of who’s the most active barista behind the counter can have you leaving with much more than just a coffee in hand. Be open minded and talk to everyone you meet at these sorts of establishments. If you have a routine, then chances are there is a possibility for friendship with some of these young prospects. If there isn’t a star among them, they certainly know of at least a few that might interest you.

4) Social Media

This one was left last for a reason. As mentioned earlier, there is such an overload of information when it comes to online tactics for young talent recruitment that you are arguably better off using one of the three former methods.

These methods are not mutually exclusive and it is in fact absolutely critical to have some sort of online presence. Moreover, in accordance with the unconventional methods noted above, you must do your best to be creative in reaching out to young talent within the various boxes of social media.

Direct messages on LinkedIn or Instagram are sure to get immediate attention. Likewise, a Tweet or even a reply to a Facebook comment can be enough to get the sort of engagement required to pitch a job offer. When in doubt, consider hiring a company which specializes in using these channels for the purposes you require.

How to Hire Young Talent

When it comes to getting something done, especially if it’s something repetitive, it’s easy to set up a formal process to maximize efficiency. However, some processes are best left informal and spontaneous. In this chapter you will figure out how to leverage your benefits as an employer while wearing your most comfortable pair of pajamas.

So, you’ve caught a few young talents in your net. What are you doing? Don’t just stand there, do something! The most critical factor after you’ve got a promising candidate knocking at your door is time. Depending on where you are in the world and the size of your company, there is usually a 2 week to 2 month window wherein an offer is presented to a candidate for a follow up interview. That is pretty darn sad.

We live in a fast-paced society, and the company that can get the juiciest food in your hand the fastest is the winner. That’s why Subway and McDonalds are the largest restaurant chains in the world. The fact that in the modern day there are qualified candidates waiting for weeks or even months before receiving an invitation for a follow up interview is unbelievable.

Why? Because those same companies will turn around and wonder why they aren’t getting the volume of young and driven talent that they were promised – it’s because all the young talent went somewhere else while they were made to wait. Guess where they went? To the start ups that had them in for a face to face interview within days!

You must always do your absolute best to be punctual when interacting with new candidates, especially those showing promise. Yes, there can be an extremely high volume of applications, but that is simply no excuse because there is no shortage of existing solutions to combat that issue.

The Face to Face Interview

Take a minute to think about the average interview experience. This thought experiment may already make some of you shift in your seat. The fact of the matter is that face to face interviews can often be uncomfortable for both the interviewer and interviewee.

The interviewer knows, for example, that for the most part the only reason the interviewee is sitting across from them is because they need a job. Conversely, it is very common for interviewees to feel like they are just another number on the list.

Instead of an eternally awkward face to face in person interview in a police interrogation style “meeting room”, picture the following: someone in your company who’s higher up, perhaps even the CEO themselves, conducting the interview with a promising candidate over a platform such as Skype, with both participants in the comfort of their own home and in their preferred informal clothing.

The effect is twofold: the first is that both parties are relaxed, and more importantly that the interviewee, the young talent you are trying so desperately to get into your pond, can see very clearly that they are not just another number on the to-do list.

There is no doubt that giving 1 on 1 interviews with CEOs is not feasible under many circumstances, but playing around with the possibility of having people in higher up positions at your company interview promising hires in an informal and relaxed setting is arguably the most effective practice for hiring someone you really want on your team.

Emphasizing a Useful Experience

Some young talents will likely also be interested in the experience they will gain from working at your company. After all, they are starting their careers. As mentioned earlier, you may not yet be in a position where you can accurately assess whether or not they intend on staying for very long at your company which is why it’s best to go right out and add and additional card to the table that they don’t see very often: tell them specifically which notable companies they can work for with the experience they will get at your company.

Some may scoff at this suggestion but again remember what we had said about the meaning of words – they don’t count for much unless they’re written and signed in a contract. Make them know that you know that they don’t know but that you know the stuff they want to know (say that 10 times fast!). In short, tell them you will give them everything they need to have a comfortable and lucrative start to their careers whether or not they decide to stay for the short term or long term.

How to Retain Young Talents

There is a well-known method in business, particularly in start-ups, wherein you throw ideas at a proverbial wall until something “sticks”. When it’s an employee you need to stick to that “wall”, ownership, community, respect, and sensational comfort are the adhesives you require.

Your employee has been working for you for a while and they’re a bit unmotivated and distant like a wife that’s a soon-to-be ex wife. By this stage you should have build a strong enough relationship with this star employee to be able to have an open and honest conversation about how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking. If you feel that one or more of your valuable employees is getting away from you, there are a few things you can do to reel them back in without making it obvious that you’re desperate to keep them.

Your instinct might be to offer them a pay increase but that won’t solve the underlying issue. If they aren’t enjoying what they’re doing and no longer feel they are benefitting in some meaningful way from working at your company, you can offer them all the pay raises you like but it won’t change the fact that they are fundamentally unsatisfied with their daily grind.

Employee Ownership

This is where we can introduce a concept that has been proven to increase employee retention across the board: a sense of ownership. If it’s at all possible, you should always be trying to put your employees, especially the highest performers, in positions where they feel like they are at the in the driver’s seat or at least have a hand firmly on the wheel of whatever work they are doing.

Do not hesitate to ask them what ideas they have on how the workplace could be improved and how their existing work could be optimized. They will probably give you a list of surprisingly good suggestions. If you give them the green light to incorporate at least some of the changes they recommend, it would probably surprise you how much it could rejuvenate an unmotivated employee.


Another crucial factor in keeping employees is creating a strong sense of community. Here’s the thing, it doesn’t really matter how interesting or exciting a job is. Eventually it will become a sort of routine and the wow-factor of the daily menu will become significantly reduced as time goes on. You can’t have the same food for every meal of every day without getting sick of it, no matter how good it is.

Pleasure breeds variety and if you plan on keeping employees purely through the sense of pleasure they derive from their work you will eventually run out of palatable dishes to serve them – perhaps a lot sooner than you’d expect. What will keep employees coming back for years is the sense of community they feel at work. It’s the relationships they have with their colleagues which keeps them coming back through the office door each day with a smile on their face.

This is why many experts recommend a “flat” company structure. Make it possible for these star employees to interact with as many people as possible, especially those in upper levels of management that you know to be high achievers. Wherever possible these interactions should be informal. Formality has never been a strong suit for many younger people and its importance is dwindling in most modern business sectors.

Be Aware Of Boundaries

Do not try to organize events outside of working hours to build these sorts of relationships. This is guaranteed to result in attrition. Very few young people want to spend their free time with their boss and the same is possibly true in respect to their colleagues. It’s something that needs to arise naturally and you can’t create it artificially by forcing employees into positions where they feel like they have to attend and mingle at your goofy event.

If you can organically achieve a strong sense of community in your company then it doesn’t matter if you’re designing futuristic space crafts or shoveling cow manure, your employees will be having a blast regardless (and you better believe that designing futuristic space crafts will feel like shoveling cow manure to most of your employees after a few years).

Appeal To The Senses

It’s easy to forget that humans are animals. At the end of the day, we’re no more complicated than the next species in the food chain even though we think we are. This means that the same sort of baseline motivational mechanisms will work just as well on most people as it does for other animals, and that is of course: appealing to the senses.

You can start by ensuring that your work environment is dynamic and comfortable. There is a very fascinating field of psychology known as human factors engineering which can be incredibly useful in achieving this. The entire discipline is focused around optimizing products and systems so that they are in tune with what the human body likes at the biological level.

The best-known application of human factors engineering is ergonomics; designing products so that they are intuitive and comfortable to use for the average person. Companies spend billions of dollars every year to make sure their products and workplaces are working in conjunction with human nature.

Thanks to the internet if you don’t have the money to hire a specialized human factors engineer, you can get a pretty good grasp of what sorts of tweaks you can make to your workplace that will increase employee satisfaction just by searching around on Google. To save you the trouble we’ve compiled a few of these factors here for your convenience:

1. Sunlight

Air quality, comfortable light, and comfortable temperatures are ranked as the most important factors for office comfort by employees. It is absolutely critical to have an office space that feels open and is well lit by natural light throughout the day.

Obviously depending on where you are in the world and what time of year it is this can be harder to do for some companies than others. It seems laughable that we should need to mention the various benefits of sunlight but the most notable include increased energy and positive emotion.

The outcome is that your employees will leave the workplace feeling much better than they would if your office was windowless and lit exclusively by electric bulbs. It seems like such a small and trivial thing, but it can go a very long way in creating the sort of comfortable work environment people actually want to stay in.

2. Space

If you’ve ever seen the offices or campuses of some of the largest tech companies in the world such as Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Expedia, you will notice that they are surprisingly open. Even though everyone is fundamentally sitting at some sort of desk and in front of some sort of computer, it hardly looks like a confined cookie cutter office space.

Some of these companies even have designated break rooms where you can play video games or board games, or even designated spaces to take a quick nap. This can come across as ridiculous to someone who’s never seen it before and can even be financially out of the question for many companies.

If this is the case for you, there are of course other avenues you can take to have the same effect without putting a dent in your wallet such as getting memberships to co working spaces for all of your employees. Some office companies such as Spaces have both office spaces and co working spaces in almost every major city around the world. Rather than taking the time to retrofit a permanent office location, alternative options such as this may be a more affordable way of getting the same result.

3. Comfort

Among the many interesting things that human factors engineering can tell you, it can in fact give you standards for how bright an office should be, how far away a screen should be from your face so that your eyes don’t get tired, how often you should take a break from screens, and even how high or low you should be sitting so that your back, neck, and shoulders don’t get tired or tight.

Logically, this is extremely valuable knowledge to have that you should pass on to employees. Of course, there will be some differences between what works best for each person but if you can make subtle changes to your work environment such as standing desks and more ergonomic computer equipment, the practical effect is obvious. Your employees will be significantly more comfortable and more likely to be productive. They’ll wonder why their job isn’t making them as tired as everyone else they know who’s working in similar positions.

4. Flexibility

It is important to note that a significant percentage of millennials want to have the ability to work from home at least some of the time. Although this may not sit well with every employer, there are ways to make it work to your advantage and it’s important to keep in mind that a reluctance to be flexible with work location and scheduling is an uphill battle.

The fact of the matter is that fixed offices and 9-5 jobs are slowly becoming a thing of the past. There has been a sharp rise in “digital nomads” over the last few years that is only going to continue to grow. The rub is of course as to how you can synthesize such a level of autonomy while at the same time creating a sense of community. We’re sure you’ll think of something (hint: group video calls and restaurant meetings are a good idea).

How to Handle Resignations

Making the best out of a bad situation is often said but seldom practiced. Keeping things in perspective and maintaining a strong connection with your star will help minimize your losses when they announce their leave to another galaxy.

Suppose you’ve done everything you can to bait a star employee into staying at your company, but the outcome is obvious: they’re going back into the ocean. Hopefully you accepted this possibility the moment you shook hands in the face to face interview when you hired them. Obviously when the rubber hits the road it can be a different story.

Instead of crossing your arms and putting on a frowny face (maybe shedding a tear or two once they’re out of sight) your instinct should be to treat this as an opportunity and maximize it. There is a very high likelihood that your super-fish employee will know other young talents that are looking for work. Rather than being distant with them because they broke your heart, take this as an opportunity to significantly reduce the effort it will take to find a replacement.

If this sort of communication and networking was more prevalent, and adherence to the steps in Chapter 3 were more common, it is debatable as to whether you would even need to spend a single dollar on specialized recruitment methods.

Put Things In Perspective

The most important thing to keep in mind during this stage is the psychological state of the employee who’s leaving. It might be just as bittersweet for them as it is for you and there might be some background factors that you are unaware of that are driving the departure from their post at your enterprise. In any case, they are likely to be fairly motivated and excited about whatever new prospects they are about to pursue.

Rather than curse them for deciding to take a new path, you should do everything you can to use this last charge of energy to your advantage. The most common way this is done, and the way that it should always be done, is to have them personally train their replacement. If their replacement happens to be a friend of theirs this becomes even more advantageous since it will reduce the time it will take for that new employee to feel comfortable in your fishbowl.

Leave On A High Note

Having your star employee leave on a high note with an open door and a few leads on some replacement talent is the best possible outcome given the context. It is easy for emotions to get in the way of this but you just have to keep your expectations in check and realize that you date a few people before you find the love of your life, and it is likewise a matter of fact that the first or second or even third job this young talent has is not going to be their last. That’s just the way it is but you can make it work to your advantage by keeping the steps outlined in this guide in mind. Such is the circle of life!

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