What to Consider When Hiring New Graduates at Your Small Business

Hiring new graduates is a great way to get talented and enthusiastic entry-level employees on board. However, those fresh faces pose some unique challenges. Onboarding new employees properly is always important, but especially when you hire new grads. For many of them, their position at your company is their first experience spending consistent time in an office. As such, they may not know the ins and outs of workplace etiquette and expectations.

Even a new graduate with multiple internships under their belt probably won’t have experience with other aspects of working life, such as health insurance and 401(k) plans. A great onboarding program sets them up for success from the beginning. Here are five tips for starting new grads off on the right foot.

1. Explain Your Culture on Day One

The transition from school to the workforce isn’t always smooth. You can make it easier by laying out what they can expect their working life at the company to look like. For example, even though college students are adults, there are “adultier” adults at colleges who generally go by Dr. or Professor. Explain that it’s OK to call everyone by their first name (as long as that actually is the standard). Nailing this is all about the details — are there office acronyms or slang that would confuse a newcomer? Do people tend to go out to lunch together or brown-bag it? Don’t make them guess!

2. Let Employees Opt out of, Not in to, a 401(k)

Even if a new grad’s starting salary is on the lower end, it’s probably more money than they’ve ever earned before. That makes this the perfect time for them to start saving for retirement. They may opt to put all of their extra money toward paying off their student loan debt, but if you present the 401(k) or alternative retirement plan as the default, your new hire is more likely to develop good financial habits from day one.

3. Discuss Benefits Clearly

Managing health insurance can be confusing, even after decades of experience — so it makes sense that new grads might want a helping hand. Young hires may opt to stay on their parents’ plans until they are 26. Let them know they have that option, but make sure they also understand how the available health plans work. Explain how health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts work, too. Give them time to think everything over but emphasize the need for insurance coverage.

4. Go Over the Dress Code

You might think you don’t have a dress code, but you probably do. Experienced adults know they shouldn’t wear a midriff-baring shirt to a client meeting. Your new grad probably does, too, but don’t assume. It’s so much easier to go over expectations on day one than it is to correct them later. You might summarize the subject with something like, “We’re pretty casual around here. Jeans are OK, but shorts are not. Sandals are good, but skip the flip-flops. When we go out to meet with clients, we all dress up a bit, so leave your collared shirts and professional pants and skirts for then.”

5. Talk Law

New grads may work off the clock, thinking they’re doing you a favor, when in reality they’re exposing you to fines and lawsuits. Set clear expectations for their conduct early on to protect them and the company, including considerations like the best way to report harassment and what rights employees have in the workplace. With any luck you’ll avoid the worst helicopter parents, but if mom or dad is getting a little too involved, let your new grad know that you will only communicate with them, not their family, unless it’s a medical emergency. You only get one chance at onboarding an employee, so make sure when hiring new graduates that you have a program in place that will set them up for success.

Stay up to date on the latest health care regulations and trends for your small business: Subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

COVID-19 Resources: Managing Your Business During a Crisis