Let’s Do These 5 Things Differently During College Recruiting Season

The competition for strong collegiate talent — especially technical talent — has intensified greatly in recent years. Here are five ways to adapt your recruiting techniques to help you compete for top technical talent in this hyper-competitive marketplace.

  1. Start recruiting now. Just a few years ago companies could begin recruiting in December or even Spring for new college grads. Among computer science and quantitative majors attending elite programs at schools like MIT and Stanford, the recruiting window is often closed by November, as many candidates will have accepted offers from companies that engaged with them in August, September, or even earlier.
  1. Start building your pipeline for future years (meaning 2017 and beyond). Recruiting-savvy companies establish relationships with candidates well before those candidates are ready for employment. If you’re hosting campus events, invite students from all graduation classes. You may meet a rockstar junior, sophomore, or even freshman. Stay engaged with strong candidates, inviting them to future events and sending them significant news about your company, such as funding announcements or major partnerships. By the time they’re ready for internships or full-time offers, you’ll enjoy a well-deserved competitive advantage over the many other companies vying for their attention.
  1. Invest time in candidate sourcing before setting foot on campus. Rather than using career fairs and campus events as opportunities to identify strong candidates, find those candidates ahead of time and spend your precious time on campus building relationships with those candidates. You can locate promising candidates by reaching out to relevant professors and asking for recommendations, searching for winners of campus hackathons and coding competitions, locating student chapter leaders of relevant groups like the ACM and Women in Computing, and finding student teaching assistants for relevant classes. Look for people engaged in their technical classes, who have relevant side projects, and who are student athletes or leaders.
  1. Deliver an extra dose of love and attention to top students. Companies used to be able to recruit top students just by visiting campus career fairs once or twice a year. Today many highly recruited students only stop by career fair booths of companies they’re already interested in — and a good portion of those students are too busy coding in their dorm rooms to attend career fairs at all. If you want to earn students’ attention, show up on high priority campuses more than twice a year. Consider sponsoring and judging hackathons and technical competitions, and make sure any judging is conducted by strong engineers. All outreach to top students should be highly personalized; avoid all mass messaging. Consider inviting the most promising students to exclusive coffees and dinners, possibly with a company founder or executive. If you impress the very top students, word will travel, and interest in your firm will grow on campus.
  1. Remember that engineers enjoy speaking with other engineers. Technical students want to know what skills they can develop and what sorts of projects they can work on if they join your firm. They will want to discuss their technical accomplishments and development goals with people who truly grasp them. Therefore, when attending career fairs, hackathons, or even dinners or coffees with technical candidates, bring some all-star engineers with you or even a technical executive like a CTO or head of engineering who can discuss both technical projects and company strategy.


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Jessica Gilmartin is chief operating officer of social learning and recruiting platform Piazza, which connects over 100 of the world's hottest technical employers with over a million of the world's top college students hailing from all major academic institutions, including all 50 of the top 50 science, technology, engineering, and math programs in the U.S. Learn more at https://recruiting.piazza.com 

Gilmartin is a former investment banker for Lehman Brothers in London and New York and an accomplished entrepreneur. She created and sold Fraiche Yogurt, a chain of gourmet yogurt stores that are now a Bay Area institution, before going on to lead product marketing at Wildfire, a social media marketing startup acquired by Google for $350 million. She holds an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business.


4 Comments on “Let’s Do These 5 Things Differently During College Recruiting Season

  1. Excellent suggestions but let me add another: don’t be stuck in the 1950’s model of university relations where everything you do is driven by a campus-by-campus approach.

    It used to be that organizations needed to physically visit every campus from which they hired students and recent graduates because there wasn’t an effective way of finding and engaging with highly qualified students and recent grads from other campuses. But then this thing called the Internet came along. Most of the Fortune 1,000 and federal government agencies which dominate college recruiting still visit the campuses, network with the professors, attend job fairs, and conduct on-campus interviews but they also engage with students and grads from those core schools as well as others through interactive media such as targeted mobile banner ads, targeted display ads, virtual career fairs, job postings, and more.

  2. Great article Jessica and couldn’t agree with you more Steven! I’ve spent the last 10 years in the campus recruiting space for large organizations and they dominate in the on-campus space. With startups and smaller companies coming into the space and recruiting students through social media and more creative ways – this industry will continue to evolve and definitely change the way companies recruit students from schools and universities. I’ve recently launched BYLT Consulting for this very reason and can’t wait to change the way we look at campus recruiting going forward!

  3. Great suggestions, Jessica. I think that on-campus recruiting activities are still very crucial for employers who want to hire college graduates. However, as Alina said, companies who can employ creative ways to recruit will be able to appeal to the millennials better. So in addition to all the 5 things employers can do differently in college recruiting, they need to reflect on how they carry out recruiting process to appeal to millennials as well. I’ve recently discussed different way employers can reflect on their university recruiting process to evaluate if their process is too traditional for millennials here: https://www.rakuna.co/blog/posts/are-university-recruiters-too-traditional-for-millennials-score-yourself

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