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5 Components of an Effective Early-Career Keep-Warm Strategy

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The average time between connecting with a candidate and their first day on the job is eight months. How are you keeping top talent engaged during that time?

A 2019 study showed that only 36% of Gen Z college students felt prepared for the workforce — significantly lower than Millennials (49%) or Gen X (68%). This was before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, where college students were forced into virtual learning environments and did not get face-to-face interactions with onsite campus recruiters.

There is a great deal of anxiety surrounding starting your first job — anxiety that recruiters have the potential to alleviate. To ensure your early-career candidates feel best prepared for their first day, you need to develop a keep-warm strategy tailored to the individual recruit. Below, we explain five tactics every keep-warm strategy should include and the tools you’ll need to implement it.

5 Tactics Every Keep-Warm Strategy Should Include for Early-Career Candidates

A keep-warm strategy serves a dual purpose: First, it benefits the individual candidate, allowing them to feel equipped with the tools, resources, and knowledge to be successful come their first day. Secondly, it benefits your organization — and your budget — as a whole, as an effective keep-warm strategy decreases the likelihood that candidates will renege on their offer.

When developing your keep-warm strategy, gather your recruiting team together for a whiteboard session. Determine which steps you currently have in place, helping you to better identify potential gaps. Remember, all keep-warm strategies should have these five tactics:

1. Create personalized journeys outlining what to expect on the job

It isn’t enough to create a keep-warm strategy across all early-career candidates. Instead, you need to segment each of these candidates based on their role, department, or prior experience, and create a custom journey specifically for them.

The generation entering the workforce is a group of highly-motivated, passionate individuals. An Ernst & Young study found that 69% of Gen Z job seekers prioritize enjoying the work they do, and nearly half (40%) prioritize being the best in their field. To help them accomplish both, create personalized journeys for each applicant — setting clear expectations as to what’s expected from them before their first day on the job.

Your keep-warm strategy should consist of touchpoints with each candidate, from the time they sign their offer to their first day. Whenever possible, showcase former interns who rose to managerial positions within each candidate’s respective department to explain what a career trajectory might look like. Put together a calendar of events, milestones, or meetups, and encourage candidates to mark these dates on their personal calendars.

2. Create mentorship opportunities for each candidate

At Abode, one of the most significant gaps we see within a keep-warm strategy falls within mentorship programs. Too often, we see recruiters matching mentees with a current employee, without providing training, resources, or even personal introductions.

We cannot stress this enough: Train, train, train every mentor involved in your program. Gather all mentors together, define goals for the program, and set clear expectations on how many meetings they should arrange with their mentee. If possible, conduct regular surveys with mentors to see which materials would help them make a lasting impact on incoming candidates.

Finally, create a personal introduction when pairing mentors and mentees together. Provide candidates and mentors with conversation starters to bring to their first meeting, and arrange pre-set times to make it as easy as possible to schedule a meetup.

3. Recommend skills training or certifications to advance their career

Early-career Gen Z professionals are invested in advancing their careers — and they’re willing to harness new skills in order to make that happen. According to the 2021 Workplace Learning Report conducted by LinkedIn, a staggering 83% of Gen Z professionals want to learn new skills to perform better in their current role. In addition, in 2020 Gen Zers logged 50% more hours watching online courses on LinkedIn’s platform than any other generation.

Translation: Early-career job seekers are eager to learn — so make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Consider which skills would help these individuals advance their career, and recommend pre-courses or certifications accordingly. Or, create a recommended reading list of white papers, books, or articles, and send it to candidates prior to their first day.

Again, be sure to make these recommendations as specific as possible, personalizing them to the individual’s role or department.

4. Facilitate a community environment within the incoming cohort

One of the simplest ways to alleviate candidate anxiety prior to their first day on the job is to facilitate a community within your incoming cohort. However, you cannot expect connections to magically take place.

If you want early-career candidates to forge connections with others in their cohort, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Put yourself in the candidates’ shoes, asking yourself what would make you feel most comfortable in their position — and feel free to get creative! Host a trivia or game night, post water cooler thought starters, or brainstorm other unique ways for candidates to meet each other. Try to spark conversations that extend beyond the workplace, asking about candidates’ hobbies, travel experiences, or favorite books or movies.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for candidates’ input. If you host a happy hour or coffee chat for your cohort, send out a survey afterward, asking how things could be improved then implement those changes in the future.

5. Share a variety of content with candidates before their first day

Here’s our last piece of advice for your keep-warm strategy: Don’t be afraid to mix things up.

Experiment with different content mediums, sending candidates surveys, checklists, videos, events, or even a reading list. Host a variety of different events, and reach out to the cohort afterward, asking which aspects they enjoyed. Whenever an individual takes a step forward within their candidate journey, acknowledge their progress — send them a quick text or email thanking them for their work, or send them a Starbucks gift card to celebrate.

Finally, ask candidates to get involved in refining your keep-warm strategy. You may be surprised at how many early-career job seekers are eager and willing to provide feedback. Continuously request new ideas, and don’t be afraid to implement their suggestions.

Tailor your keep-warm strategy to the individual candidate

Early-career candidates often take months — or even half a year — before signing an offer and starting their first job. As recruiters, this time period often creates a missed opportunity to forge connections with candidates, and better prepare them for their first day.

To alleviate candidate anxiety and prevent reneges, your team should develop a keep-warm strategy that’s tailored to the individual applicant. Provide mentorship training, create a list of recommended skills and certifications, facilitate community connections, and send a wide variety of materials. Lastly, check in with your incoming cohort to ensure they’re finding value in each of these initiatives, and request their feedback for future changes.

For more ideas on how to engage early career candidates, be sure to follow Abode on LinkedIn. In addition, join our Slack community to share ideas with other like-minded recruiters within the early-career space.

“Abode provides a solution that allows us to better connect with Gen Z talent in a way that is engaging to them. It offers a way for Elevance Health to enhance our brand and coin ourselves as an employer of choice for college students and graduates. Working with Abode is an easy and seamless experience.”
Brooke Smith
University Relations Manager,
Elevance Health (fka Anthem)