College Recruiting Is Alive and Well

Despite the recession and the widespread layoffs, many organizations are continuing to pursue new college graduates. NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, reports that overall, companies expect to hire just 3.6% fewer new grads this year than last year. While the number of students that are actually getting offers is down slightly, many companies are making a strong effort to be on campus and assure students that they will be hiring again soon. For perhaps the first time in my memory (and I’m pretty old), firms see value in maintaining their relationship with the students?? especially the freshman and sophomores who will be graduating when, we all hope, the economy is doing much better. We will soon be back into competitive hiring and talent shortages. If you don’t believe me, read the recent article by John Sumser, a well-known strategist, analyst, and thinker on human capital, and founder of Interbiznet. His article, entitled “The Problem” outlines the looming issues in stark terms. Or take a look at an article called “Impending Labor Crisis,” by noted futurist Roger Herman, whose new book is also called “Impending Crisis.” College recruiting will become one of several methods of getting the talent and skills you need for success into your organization. But in order to recruit college students well, you will have to get to know them, build a relationship with them, and entice them with more than just money and stock. Here are three ways to rejuvenate and modernize your college function to get it ready for what’s coming. Even if you are just starting a college recruiting function, read on. Move to the Internet I know you have heard this over and over again. But all I can say is, why don’t you have a world-class college recruiting web site? It will be the primary way for you to meet, market to, and build relationships with potential candidates. Most of the successful Fortune 500 firms have now earnestly begun to use the Internet as a major way recruit students. Most of them have college recruiting websites?? some even have very good ones. Take a look at Federated Department Stores recently re-launched Retailology website, for example. This site is carefully researched and designed to attract the kinds of students Federated hopes will join them. Microsoft, AT&T, Texas Instruments, British Petroleum (BP), Fidelity, and others all have invested in building websites that do more than simply inform college candidates. These sites provide all the basic information, but they also give profiles of what it’s like to work in these organizations, offering chat rooms, profile builders, culture fit tests, and a host of other features that will keep a student coming back. Working in partnership with your college website and your recruiters comes Campus Career Center. Founded in 1998 by Matt Casey, Campus Career Center works as a permanent, on-campus recruiting center. Organizations pay a small monthly fee to list jobs on CCC and also create a profile of their company and create links to their own recruiting website. Organizations like General Motors, Intel, Nokia, Electronic Arts, and many more have already discovered how effective it is. Through a network of campus agents, students are recruiters to CCC?? informed about its advantages for them and invited to log on and register for free. Their profiles and resumes, which they only have to enter once to gain access to hundreds of potential employers, are then accessible to all member companies. Matt’s firm does much more than just list jobs and candidates, though. He offers guidance and career help to students as well as hints on interviewing. With partnerships with firms like Wetfeet he can offer students premium material to augment their job hunt. He has just recently added the capability for students at selected schools to prepare a video interview which can then be reviewed at any time by the corporate recruiting team. In short, through this service, firms can limit their need to go on campus and still attract and pre-screen a wide variety of students. NACE also has just recently joined the Internet recruiting ranks with its own job board, called NACElink. NACElink is an alliance between the National Association of Colleges and Employers and the E-Recruiting Association. Forget Key Schools, Spread Your Net Historically, firms select a few schools that they are particularly interested in recruiting from. They call these “key schools” and focus most of their budget and time on recruiting students from these institutions. Nice idea. Too bad everyone picks the same key schools. I imagine that MIT is on every key school list for engineering and that Wharton is on the ones for MBAs. Innovative organizations know that state and regional schools also turn out superb students. The performance on the job of college grads from the so-called second- and third-tier schools is virtually indistinguishable from that of first-tier grads. Most of us did not go to a first-tier school ourselves, and yet we are productive contributors who would have been good choices right out of school. Not recruiting from these schools is self-limiting and keeps you chasing a limited resource. With the Internet, a good website, and a partner like NACE or CCC, you can reach further than before and have no need to limit yourself to the top schools. As shortages grow, those organizations who have forged relationships at these smaller and less prestigious schools will have an automatic advantage over the firms who have not. There are many advantages of working with smaller schools. They are more flexible and open to experiments; they know their student better and can help you assess them; and they often will allow and even encourage an email/web relationship between students and potential employers. This practice is often frowned upon at the larger schools. Move Away From Reliance on Career Centers Career centers were useful?? once. When access to employers was difficult and there was no Internet, the career center was a place to filter and exchange information. They served as a physical refuge for corporate recruiters and as a center for students to learn about companies and interview. Today most of these functions can be done via your website or the Internet more effectively. Career centers may offer the student useful training in interviewing or help them discuss choices, but it is really not necessary for corporate recruiters. Use your time and energy to create a powerful, campus-focused website and join up with a company like CCC. Let them be your campus connection. Once you have established a relationship, then you can visit the campus, do a few select interviews, and make your decisions. Or even better, just invite the short-listed students back to your organization for an interview day. You may not even need to go on campus at all. Like all recruiting, college recruiting is about building relationships. Let the Internet help you do this. Students today are Internet-savvy, electronic-relationship-focused, and ready to chat and interview online. Are you?

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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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