GradStaff appears to know about professional matchmaking.

The Minneapolis-based college recruiting service last year placed more than 200 graduates and expects to top that total this year. It works with more than 900 colleges and employers, small, medium and large, in more than 75 cities across the country.

More than 80 percent of its candidates are still in their jobs two years after placement, according to client studies, which GradStaff attributes to its proprietary skills-matching and on-boarding programs.

It all adds up to growth for GradStaff, with revenue rising 26 percent in each of the preceding three years to top $10 million in 2012. The company, which has 35 employees, has nine large-city locations in addition to its Minneapolis headquarters and is opening one or two offices a year.

Behind GradStaff’s expansion is yet another of the company’s productive matches, that of principal and Chief Financial Officer David Weyer­haeuser, who founded GradStaff in 1998, and Bob LaBombard, who joined in 2002 as CEO and an owner.

LaBombard, whose 30 years of business experience includes launching and building a national environmental services staffing company, credited Weyerhaeuser for coming up with a strong model for assessing, interviewing and placing candidates.

Weyerhaeuser, in turn, credited LaBombard with helping GradStaff realize its ambitions of operating on a national level, opening its second location in Chicago in 2002 and its latest in May in Southern California.

While GradStaff focused from the start on placing new college graduates, Weyerhaeuser said the key to the ­company’s growth has been ­LaBombard’s move to market GradStaff as an outsourced college recruiting services company that he said brings “executive-level recruiting to entry-level positions.”

‘A very strong position’

“What Bob brought to the table was his industry expertise, a process and an operational mind-set,” Weyerhaeuser said. “We have a very strong position, with the demographics, the baby boomers retiring.’’

LaBombard said client feedback helped shape the new direction.

“In talking to clients about why they used us, we started hearing a common refrain: ‘The reason we use you is you make hiring at the entry level very easy,’ ” LaBombard said. “ ‘We don’t have to do it for ourselves.’ ’’

GradStaff typically works with liberal arts and general business graduates, concentrating on industries, including insurance, health care, banking and financial services, logistics and business services, that are likely to face growing recruiting needs as boomers retire. GradStaff analyzes the responsibilities of each position and assesses each candidate’s skills.

Evaluation-to-hire

Most candidates begin work under GradStaff’s evaluation-to-hire model, spending four months on the job before they or the company make a final decision, LaBombard said. GradStaff does not charge students for its services, instead generating revenue from fees charged to client companies.

In addition to a high retention rate, GradStaff’s advantages for employers include making on-campus recruiting more efficient, LaBombard said.

Candidates, meanwhile, get career counseling from GradStaff that they typically haven’t received in school.

Julie Neville, vice president of finance for the Greater Twin Cities United Way, said her department has hired an average of 10 GradStaff candidates a year since 2002.

“They do a good job of identifying the ones that are going to be good performers,” Neville said.

GradStaff candidate Mark Lewis, who graduated from the University of Minnesota in May, turned down other offers to instead work on an evaluation-to-hire basis at SFM Mutual Insurance, a Bloomington-based workers’ compensation carrier.

“GradStaff found a position that I could be really excited for,’’ Lewis said. “I was able to find something that was really good for me.”

The expert says: John Stavig, director of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, said GradStaff has developed a strong source of candidates by focusing on recent graduates and incorporating behavioral-research-based interviews.

Recruiting effectively on campus is difficult for companies that don’t have a dedicated hiring staff, Stavig said. “Making this be a variable cost with a professionally screened process and structured trial period provides a lot of value to smaller and early-stage companies.”

 

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail address is todd_nelson@mac.com.