Businessman cooking vegetables with a panFinding entry-level candidates packing both the experience and cultural fit is nothing short of challenging—not just anyone will do. But the secret ingredient for finding better entry-level hires may actually come down to who you know.

A strong network is the essential foundation for making better entry-level hires. This is due to the fact that many recent graduates are using their personal, professional, and university connections to break into the job market. If you have weak ties to the educational realm or within your industry, you’re probably missing out on waves of fresh talent entering your field. Not to mention the awesome perks of network-based hiring: faster hiring and start dates when you’re in a hiring pitch; access to candidates more accurately matched to your company culture; and higher retention rates.

Start boosting your entry-level hiring efforts by tapping into (or developing) the following types of connections:

Career Center Connections
Developing connections with college career centers may not be on the top of your to-do list, but it could put you at the front of the line for recruiting talented students even before they’ve received their diplomas. Establishing career center connections doesn’t just have to take place near your office. Thanks to the Web, you can now develop strong ties with university career centers across the country; so, why not key in on the schools turning out the best graduates in your industry? Find the necessary contacts through an online search and begin interacting to ensure you’re not just attending the occasional career fair or speaking event but also being recognized as a reputable (and hiring!) employer.

University Department Connections
Recruiting better entry-level hires starts with reaching students early. While many employers turn to career fairs to gain the interest of soon-to-be graduates, it’s also important to develop ties with their educational gatekeepers: professors and advisers. These are highly influential individuals in a student’s life and their vote of confidence could give you access to a talented crop of recent graduates. Begin reaching out to those within the university departments most relevant to your industry and ask to present on an industry-related topic, trend, or even how to get hired.

Industry Connections
Sending out a smoke signal to your network of industry connections may turn up a fantastic entry-level hire. While you may not currently have any leads on recent graduates or experience interns looking for entry-level employment, someone you know within your industry may know of a perfect candidate. Get in contact with your industry connections and inform them of what you’re looking for. Go beyond a simple candidate or job description and touch on the necessary factors for success in your company culture, as well as required experience and skill sets.

Internal Connections

Tapping into your network of current and previous employees and interns is certain to turn up better entry-level candidates for your available positions. At your next all-staff meeting, inform your employees and interns that you’re looking to fill an entry-level position and present an opportunity to win either a monetary or perk-type reward for a hiring referral. Your best employees and interns will know exactly what it takes to thrive at your company and the position you’re seeking to fill—they’re bound to know someone who has what it takes to succeed.

Online Connections

Having socially-savvy employees and connections may pay off. The average employee will have 150 contacts on social media networks – 100 employees means around 15,000 contacts (and possible candidates). If you’re looking for better entry-level candidates, it’s time to go social. When it comes time to post and share your job listing, have your connections and staff post it to their social media networks to increase your reach.

Who you know may be the source of your next entry-level hire. Get started developing a variety of strong connections across a variety of networks to ensure you land the best fresh talent available.

Which type of connection has brought in the best entry-level candidates at your company?

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