Hiring for Potential: The Key to Effective Campus Recruitment

Campus recruiting comes with its challenges, requiring you to sift through mountains of applicants who have limited work experience. Making informed hiring decisions upfront can help reduce entry-level turnover and help you make hires that have leadership potential.  

  • To start hiring high-potential candidates, implement the best practices (more on this below).  

  • Make sure you’re assessing your candidates objectively.  

  • Work to reduce bias in your hiring process wherever you can to create more fair evaluation.  

  • Foster a positive candidate experience every step of the way to improve your employer brand and become an employer of choice.  

  • Finally, increasing the accessibility of your positions helps you connect with a wide range of candidates from diverse backgrounds.  

Pre-employment testing is an especially powerful strategy to implement these practices. By relying on predictive and objective data instead of intuition or resumes alone, you can fairly evaluate candidates regardless of the opportunities they may or may not have had. This ultimately increases the diversity of your workforce and sets up your organization for greater innovation and excellence.  

Hiring for potential helps you find the hidden gems in your talent pool with incredible reliability. By focusing on candidate potential over pedigree, you’ll find people who can learn quickly, adapt on the fly, and grow with your organization over time. 


The Importance of Campus Strategy  

Filling entry-level roles is a labor-intensive prospect. You want to find people who are going to absorb their training, get up to speed quickly, and stick around for a while. And finding quality candidates isn’t easy. So where can you turn to find capable entry-level talent?  

Well, each year a new batch of recent college graduates enters the workforce, ready to begin their careers. Hiring from this influx of younger workers is vital to long-term success. Young talent brings a surge of new ideas and innovation to your business. Sure, they require some extra hands-on training to get up to speed, but recent graduates are a critical subset of workers that shouldn’t be overlooked just because they lack experience.  

Early career workers have a positive impact on overall business trajectory. They are still in a learning mindset from their years at school, so they absorb training easily and can get up to speed quickly. From a financial perspective, they also tend to have lower salary demands than more experienced workers, as younger workers are keener on acquiring professional skills than cash alone. And most importantly, they bring new energy and new perspectives, promoting increased innovation and creativity at every level of your business.  

There’s inherent value in having intellectually curious employees. Research from Harvard shows that more open-minded and exploratory employees have a solid business case: they foster a work environment that is quicker to adapt, communicates better, and performs higher than their less inquisitive competitors. Without an effective campus recruitment strategy, you could be missing out on candidates who hold this incredible potential. 


The Challenges with Sourcing College Graduates  

While hiring recent graduates is incredibly important, it certainly has its fair share of obstacles. From evaluating these candidates to engaging with them in the first place, sourcing Gen Z employees is no easy feat:  

  • Candidates lack experience  

  • High-volume hiring requires fast decision-making  

  • Job seekers are more particular  

  • Diversity is essential to success  

  • Remote work presents unique challenges 


Candidates Lack Experience  

When candidates have limited experience, how can you tell who will succeed? And more specifically, how can you tell who will succeed long-term? Because of recent graduates’ lack of work history, determining which of your candidates are most likely to succeed is especially difficult if you’re only reviewing resumes. 


High-Volume Hiring Requires Fast Decision-Making  

As an added complication, college graduate recruitment is a numbers game that necessitates a high-volume strategy. Since so many graduates flood the workforce at the same time, it creates an overwhelming number of applicants to sort through – with limited ways to differentiate them. Not only are you attempting to evaluate candidates who are hard to tell apart on paper, you’re sifting through hundreds of them to find the strongest ones – and the time you have to make decisions is incredibly brief.  


Job Seekers Are More Particular Than Before 

This next generation of workers is incredibly research-savvy. More than ever before, employer brand is key to engaging with the up-and-coming Gen Z workforce. In a recent report from Glassdoor, 86% of job seekers check out reviews and ratings before they apply. In a 2020 Fractl survey of over 1000 American workers, 1 in 3 candidates have turned down a job offer after seeing negative company reviews

Negative reviews can also significantly impact whether people apply in the first place. In the same survey, only 7% of people said that a negative review wouldn’t impact their decision to apply, while the other 93% of respondents said it would have at least some influence on their decision. Positive reviews, on the other hand, drive applications. Glassdoor conducted an experiment and found that job seekers who see positive reviews are more eager to apply to jobs. They’re also more likely to recommend the company to peers compared to job seekers who saw negative reviews.  

Fortunately, even if all your online reviews aren’t positive, you can still mitigate the impact of negative ones: According to Glassdoor, 94% of candidates are more likely to apply if the company responds to reviews and addresses employee concerns. 


Diversity is Essential to Success  

In the Era of Human Capital, employees are your most valuable asset. Without them, you have no business at all. In light of this, meeting diverse goals is critical – it creates a workplace that thrives on innovation and continuous improvement. But effectively reducing bias when hiring can be tricky.  

Many of the traditional ways we evaluate potential new hires are rife with opportunity for bias. Resumes, interviews, and educational background can introduce unconscious judgments when reviewing candidates. If you can reduce your hiring bias, you can increase diversity in your workplace. 

The impact of effective DEI initiatives is tangible in every part of a business. 67% of workers take workplace diversity into account when job hunting. And by easing up on restrictive criteria, you’ll have a larger talent pool than more stringent organizations.  



Remote Work Further Complicates Things 

This shift is all well and good, but trying to determine which recent graduates will flourish despite a bumpy remote onboarding process is challenging to say the least. Previously, in-person interviews could help you see if a candidate can show up on time, navigate new waters, and see how they behave in a professional setting. Once hired, recent graduates could be brought into the fold with extensive in-person training to help them learn the ropes in an office environment. But bringing on these new hires in a remote environment complicates these practices.  


Hiring for Potential 

Hiring for potential means focusing on the qualities that predict a candidate’s future success while deprioritizing the factors that rely on experience. It really comes down to a shift away from backward-looking factors like work history, GPA, or unpaid internships, and towards forward-looking factors like aptitude, personality, work ethic, emotional intelligence, and more. We’ll dive deeper into how to evaluate these qualities later.  

The benefits of this forward-looking approach are that it’s more objective, more scientifically predictive of future job performance, and less biased. This creates a fairer and more effective process than the backward-looking approach commonly used in hiring. 


What is “Potential” in the Workplace? 

Potential refers to a candidate’s ability to succeed based on their general abilities, rather than specific work history, skills, or experience. These general capabilities include things like critical thinking, learning ability, communication, problem solving, emotional intelligence, work ethic, and attention to detail. But the depth of these valuable skills can’t be effectively gleaned from a resume.  

When recruiting for entry-level positions, a candidate’s trainability is more valuable than their work experience alone. High-potential candidates can learn quickly and adapt as the needs of your business change over time. By focusing on these more innate traits tied to a candidate’s potential, you’re able to assess candidates more fairly and find diamonds in the rough.  

Core personality traits, like assertiveness, conscientiousness, and receptivity to feedback are potent predictors of success on the job. Understanding a candidate’s personality can help uncover their capacity for specific roles.  

Similarly, emotional intelligence has gained substantial traction as a valuable indicator of future success. Emotional intelligence, or EI, refers to someone’s ability to understand and navigate the emotions of those around us. Specifically, employees with high EI make excellent managers. So by evaluating the EI of your entry-level candidates, you can find future leaders for your organization.  

But the strongest marker of potential is cognitive aptitude because it’s the most reliable predictor of future job performance


What is Cognitive Aptitude?  

At its core, cognitive aptitude refers to a person’s ability to process information, learn quickly, and apply new information to solve problems. It’s a holistic look at a bunch of combined intellectual skills, including: 


Cognitive Aptitude and Hiring Recent Grads 

Cognitive aptitude is the single best predictor of future job success, beating out all other metrics used to evaluate candidates: 

Predicting Performance


Cognitive aptitude is indicative of a candidate’s potential to succeed in the workplace, giving you science-backed confidence when making your hiring decisions. Aptitude has been studied for more than 100 years and has been proven time and time again to reliably predict future job performance and long-term success. 

That makes it especially effective for hiring recent graduates. Candidates at any skill level can demonstrate their cognitive abilities, allowing you to measure candidates objectively – and with the same yard stick to help reduce hiring bias. It gives you a definitive way of comparing candidates effectively and objectively, all while helping you reliably find the strongest candidates. 


Best Practices to Hire for Potential  

Effective campus recruitment does more than just fill entry-level roles quickly – it helps you find your organization’s next leaders.  

The best practices for hiring high-potential candidates breaks down into 4 key parts: 

  1. Assess candidates objectively  

  1. Reduce hiring bias  

  1. Improve candidate experience  

  1. Increase job accessibility 


Add Objective Evaluation Methods to Your Hiring Process 

Objectivity is critical to making faster, more informed hiring decisions. When it comes to objective methodology, assessments provide a way to directly measure the qualities that predict a candidate’s potential.  

Adding pre-employment assessments is an incredibly efficient and accurate way to capture more information about your candidates that you can’t gain from a resume, like their cognitive aptitude. This is especially relevant for recent graduates, as their resumes tend to be light on job-relevant experience. With early testing, you can determine your strongest candidates from the start. This allows you to spend more time with the candidates who are most likely to succeed and eventually move into leadership positions.  

Assessments work very well at scale to evaluate large talent pools, which are common with campus recruiting efforts. More importantly, assessments help to reduce some of the guesswork around which candidates will perform well, allowing hiring professionals to focus on candidates with the greatest potential. 

Cognitive Testing

Adding cognitive testing helps you easily and accurately answer the question “which of my candidates is most likely to succeed?” so that you can make hiring decisions with confidence.  

  • From traditional assessments like the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test to engaging game-based assessments like Criteria’s Cognify, aptitude testing helps you identify which of your candidates can learn quickly, solve problems, and think critically. 

EI Assessment

Get a clearer picture of a candidate’s perception and understanding of emotions. High emotional intelligence is associated with important workplace outcomes that help your organization function at a higher level. Criteria’s EI assessment, Emotify, evaluates skills like collaboration, teamwork, motivation, and decision-making. It’s also a valuable tool for identifying which of your entry-level hires you can nurture into effective managers and leaders. 

Alignment Assessment

Evaluating a candidate’s workplace alignment can determine if a candidate will succeed in your organization overall. It’s not uncommon for young new hires to move departments during their tenure. This mobility can help new workers find roles that feel fulfilling, but it also means it’s important to choose candidates whose values align with your company’s work environment. So alongside identifying people who will excel in their role, you need people who will be committed to your organization for the long term.  

  • Criteria’s Workplace Alignment Assessment helps you to identify candidates whose most valued and important workplace needs will be met by your organization. When there’s a strong alignment between what your employees require from their employer and the environment your organization provides, employees are more likely to stay committed to your organization, support your business objectives, speak positively about your organization, help their coworkers, and experience less overall stress at work. 

Personality Assessment

While not as strongly predictive as aptitude testing, measuring personality traits tied to job performance can help you determine how well a candidate will perform in a given role. Personality assessments like Criteria’s Employee Personality Profile evaluate core traits relevant to virtually all jobs, such as work ethic, integrity, drive, and how they interact with others.  

In addition to its predictive power, personality can help you determine if a candidate will feel comfortable in the role – if the job itself is a good match for their personality. This is particularly important when looking to hire entry-level candidates, as they often lack the experience to know exactly what job types will mesh with (or grind against) how they work best.  

Whether or not someone can do the job well is only half the battle – will they enjoy doing it too? Candidates whose job duties align with their personality traits are more likely to stay longer, be more engaged with their work, and feel more satisfied with their job. 


Reduce Unconscious Bias in Your Hiring Process 

Unconscious bias is prevalent in hiring. It’s human nature to make quick judgements when gauging something new. This certainly was helpful thousands of years ago when trying to assess new situations and was critical to survival. But that’s not the case when it comes to hiring in the modern era.  

If you really want to improve both the diversity and the success of new hires, stop depending on your gut instincts. Relying on your intuition during the hiring process can lead to unintended consequences, like a lack of workplace diversity and unfair hiring practices.  

Giving every candidate the same opportunity to prove themselves is critical to reducing bias in your decision making. Doing so increases both the quality of candidates and the size of your candidate pool. It also improves your ability to find and consider candidates who would normally be ruled out for reasons that have no predictive basis, like where they went to school or what opportunities were available to them. 


There are simple ways to standardize the steps in your candidate pipeline: 

  • First and foremost, objectivity is critical to reducing hiring bias. By introducing more objective data into your hiring criteria, you’re less likely to unintentionally make biased hiring decisions. Assessments are a key player in instituting hiring practices that reduce bias so you can fairly and efficiently compare candidates.  

  • Second, implement structured interviews to allow every candidate to answer the same questions, so you can accurately compare interview performance between two candidates. By creating a set of questions to ask potential new hires and sticking to it, you’ll give every candidate equal opportunity to impress you. Using a rubric to rate their responses can also help you compare candidates directly, resulting in less bias.  

  • Third, standardize your hiring process such that each candidate gets treated the same. For example, every candidate should have to take the same assessments, answer the same interview questions, go through the same number of interviews, and be evaluated on the same criteria.  

  • Finally, make efforts to de-emphasize hiring criteria that can have an adverse impact on people from non-traditional backgrounds. Focusing on internships, depth of work history, or a particular pedigree as the sole grounds for who you ultimately hire can create a less diverse, less innovative workforce. It can also steer you away from candidates who have incredible potential – those coveted diamonds in the rough. By reducing unconscious bias, you’ll be able to make objective and fair hiring decisions, allowing you to find the best person for the job - not just the person you think is best for the job. You’ll be able to focus on the true potential of a candidate and their likelihood to succeed. 


Create a Positive Candidate Experience 

After adding critical infrastructure to your hiring process to evaluate candidates effectively and fairly, the next step is to create an excellent experience for each applicant in your pipeline. Creating a positive candidate experience from start to finish for all your candidates is crucial to establishing a strong employer brand and hiring your strongest applicants.  

Creating a great candidate experience depends on four key things: 


  1. Clear Expectations. Do candidates know what to expect from your hiring process before they begin? By being upfront about your process, you increase trust with your applicants. 76% of job seekers want to know the length of an application process before they start. And following up with candidates after each stage of the process about what to expect next increases the number of reported positive candidate experiences by 52%.  

  1. Open Communication. Above all else, candidates just want to know where they stand. After submitting their application, more than 75% of applicants never hear anything back. Fixing this can be as simple as sending an automated email – one to confirm receipt of their application, and another that they are moving on to the next stage or were rejected. Recent graduates don’t have much experience with the hiring process. By simply communicating with these entry-level candidates, you set yourself apart from competition that often ghosts them.  

  1. Fairness. It’s important to work towards creating a hiring landscape that is more inclusive and equitable for all. How candidates perceive your hiring process is largely based on how fair they feel your hiring metrics are. To achieve this, candidates need to feel they were given appropriate ability to showcase their skills for evaluation. By adding unbiased hiring practices like assessments and structured interviews, you’re able to increase objectivity in the process.  

  1. Actionable Feedback. The final component of a positive candidate experience is feedback. And this feedback goes both ways: from employer to candidate and candidate to employer. When candidates were given feedback on an assessment they took, reported positive candidate experience increased by 20%. Including a report like Criteria’s Workplace Insights report can help these freshly-minted professionals better understand their strengths, weaknesses, and the notable traits that set them apart from other candidates. 

Even more valuable than giving candidates feedback is getting feedback from candidates about your hiring process. When candidates were asked for their feedback after an interview, there was a 93% increase in the number of candidates who reported having great candidate experience and it boosted a candidate’s willingness to build a future professional relationship with a potential employer – even if they didn’t get the job.  

And if you’re looking for innovative ways to include pre-employment assessments that appeal to early-career job seekers, consider using game-based assessments over traditional ones.  

These tests are rigorously validated like traditional assessments to be predictive of future job success, but are shorter and more engaging. 

Criteria’s GAME assessment uses 3 mini-games to evaluate critical thinking, problem-solving, attention to detail, and information processing in under 6 minutes – and the test results are highly predictive of job performance. Game-based assessments are a great way to improve candidate experience while also gaining insight into a candidate’s abilities. 


What are the benefits of a positive candidate experience? 

  • Increased acceptance rate. A positive candidate experience makes candidates 38% more likely to accept your job offer.  

  • Boosted employer brand. A better brand means increased interest from top candidates. Gen Z job seekers are more likely to do research on a company before they apply, and positive reviews not only increases applicant comfort, but help you connect with new and stronger candidates. By cultivating a solid employer brand, you’ll build a reputation on campus as the place to work after graduation. 

  • Improved productivity. Candidates who feel valued and appreciated by a potential employer are more likely to feel more invested in their new job. This creates a cycle of happier, more engaged employees who tend to stay with companies longer. This in turn leads to increased productivity: Organizations with happy and engaged employees are 40% more productive than comparable companies, leading to higher profits in the long term. 

Increase the Accessibility of Your Positions 

Relying on traditional or standard recruiting strategies alone could yield a smaller talent pool and constrain your ability to find top talent. There are a few things you can do to make your job openings more accessible to a range of potential candidates to help you find the best person for the job, as well as increase applicant diversity.  

One way to accomplish this is by making your job application process device-agnostic. In other words, it should be just as easy to apply for your job on mobile as it is on desktop. And this includes every stage of the process, from submitting a resume to taking assessments to conducting an interview. Using mobile-friendly applications and assessments allows more applicants to enter your candidate pipeline. It’ll also help you stand out from the competition – only 36% of organizations are optimizing their application process for mobile devices, limiting their reach. 


Not everyone has the technical or financial ability to access everything modern technology has to offer, from reduced desktop computer access to high-speed internet availability. Many already under-served communities are put at a greater disadvantage by having job applications behind a technological wall. Mobile-friendly apply options increase accessibility and create more opportunities for candidates from diverse backgrounds to apply. 

But making your positions accessible matters more than just the application process. The pandemic has brought remote work to the forefront. Take into consideration whether an opening can be effectively filled from anywhere. In essence, if a role requires a worker to be on their computer most of the time, that job can likely be done remotely. Remote jobs make your opportunity more widely accessible. It encourages those who require more flexibility, those that live outside of city centers, and those with neurodiverse needs to apply to your positions. 

According to Glassdoor, the number of job seekers searching for remote jobs increased 360% between June 2019 and June 2021. While the pandemic was the definitive catalyst of the Remote Revolution, working from home (at least some of the time) has become an expectation for many white-collar workers. Remote work lets you tap into a network of job seekers across the globe. Similarly, you can expand your campus recruitment efforts far and wide to court students from local and far-flung universities alike. 

By making your positions more accessible to people from any background, you’ll cast a wider net and be able to find candidates with the highest potential to succeed at your organization. 

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