1:1 College Recruiting Why Developing Long-Term Personal Relationships Is Vital

Have you started your college recruiting yet? You may be too late! By this time of the year, you should have your college recruiting campaign all mapped out and you should be starting to reap the benefits of the efforts you have expended over the past several years to educate, entice, and convince the students you want to join your firm. To do this you need to know which college hires have succeeded in your company and why. You need to measure and analyze success and failure and then craft a plan that locates and entices those who have succeeded. You can only do this when you have a strong 1:1 relationship with a student. I hope that by now you all have a college recruiting program that starts in the freshman year (or even better starts in selected high schools) and continues on until graduation. Successful college recruiting programs will have helped cement these relationships will have helped pay for the education, will have provided summer jobs and will have tailored a recruitment strategy to the individual student you are after. That’s what I mean by 1:1 recruiting. Recruiting statistical aggregate groups is useless. There will be no success going after students because of zip code sectors, college major, or life style segments. You will only succeed when you go after individual people. The web makes marketing to these individuals as easy as marketing to many. And the firms that realize how powerful this is will prosper. For example, when you make a salary and benefit offer to a new college grad, the grad looks at that offer from his or her self-perspective. They don’t care that all electrical engineers are getting the same offer. They ask: will this give me the money I need to live? Will it provide the time I want for my hobby? Will this give me the opportunity for more education? Will it allow me to visit my parents or girlfriend or boyfriend? The closer the offer is to answering these questions positively, the likelier you are to get a positive answer. But, to make these kinds of offers you have to have three things:

  1. Knowledge of what the candidate really wants;
  2. Freedom to customize and tailor offers to meet those wants;
  3. And, a keen understanding of what that candidate can do for your firm.

You have to make sure your offers mirror the needs the candidate has with the values your firm places on those skills. This means you have to really know what you are doing! You have to understand the business, where it’s going, and how this 20-something college hire can contribute to that strategy. Demographic evidence is brutal: there will be a decline in young people and a huge rise in people over 55 as we enter the 21st century. The number of college students has remained relatively constant over the past 20 years and there isn’t going to be any increase in the future that we care about. The number of students getting those high demand degrees in computer science, electrical engineering and programming are declining. And, the need and desire to work full-time for years and years is also rapidly dissipating. The students today are in command: they can dictate terms and they can and will decide from a wide variety of offers and choices. This means that the successful college recruiter will also be the proactive recruiter. It means that really successful recruiters will enter into a very personalized and responsive, long-term relationship with several candidates. This recruiter will be able to act as coach, counselor, champion and teacher. The college recruiters of the 21st century will:

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  1. Know every potential candidate before they enter their second year of college;
  2. Will have the ability to pay for tuition, buy supplies, or offer services that will be valuable to the student;
  3. Keep in close contact with the candidate and provide summer employment or part-time work during the school year;
  4. Keep an open mind about developing relationships with virtual students attending on-line universities;
  5. And, educate the hiring managers about the needs and requirements of each of these students.

The focus of college recruiting will move away from recruiting colleges and institutions because they have a type of student, to recruiting individual students because they meet your needs no matter what school they attend. If you are still simply going to campuses in the autumn, holding a few job fairs and info sessions, and then hoping to hire a few great students; you will be sadly disappointed. Get yourself and your company to adopt a long term, proactive approach or make the decision to not hire new college grads. I will write a column later on how poaching the lightly experienced employee of another firm may be a cheaper and faster solution! Hope you are having a restful summer in anticipation of a challenging Fall.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

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