Your University Recruiting Program: Now’s the Time to Take Stock

Corporate recruiters could take note from the way university recruiting programs are often reassessed and fine-tuned. Each year, university recruiters take advantage of the cyclical nature of the university recruiting process to ramp up and evaluate processes and procedures. (I was going to call it “downtime” but the university recruiter inside of me screamed…) But no matter what you call it, it’s a good opportunity for reflection… Never Walk Away From Your Schools Now that the economy has slowed a little bit, you might even be reevaluating whether or not you should spend time, effort, and money on your university recruiting program. If you are thinking this – stop! The worst thing you can ever do, especially in times of economic uncertainty, is to walk away from your schools. Relationships with your universities, their deans, professors, and students, are the lifeblood of your future recruitment supply. Despite all of the people laid off so far in 2001, you will still have problems finding the right person for the right job. Shortages of certain skills will always exist, but you can help to alleviate this problem for your company as long as you keep tight relationships with your schools. It is also a place to augment and nurture your diversity recruitment efforts. If you are tempted to put your relationships on hold due to lack of time or money (or perceived need), don’t be assured that those relationships will be waiting for you when you decide to come back. You may find that someone else has filled your preferred position, or that the faculty has changed and no one remembers the long and glorious history you used to have with them. Have a Targeted Approach One thing that can help you to save time, resources and money is to create a targeted approach to your university recruiting by focusing on only a few universities, and develop deep relationships with them. (That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have electronic relationships with all of the others.) Be sure to ask yourself why you are choosing those particular universities. Is it because of past successes? The right curriculum for your desired skill base currently needs in the future? Geographic location? Remember not to confuse university status with results – make sure you partner with the right universities for your company. If your executive management team asks you why you are not going to their alma mater, smile and say, “Only one smart person came out of that school.” Treat Students Differently Because students are different. The things that motivate and appeal to students are worlds apart from the things that appeal to people already immersed in the working world (most are not too tainted yet). Don’t go to the trouble of working with select universities if you can’t find common ground to appeal to their students. Your website is the perfect place to do this – create a section just for them that lists entry-level jobs. Speak to students in their own language. Set Your Students Up for Success Each new student you hire should have a clearly mapped out career path at your company. Part of the reason that the turnover rate can get high with new grads is because they become disillusioned with the lack of career growth opportunities. They are ready to take on the world – help them to set a plan of attack. It’s also important to help them understand the business your company is in. Form a mentor program or a training program that can get them excited about your company and they’ll be more likely to stay longer. Don’t Forget Workforce Planning… Often, university recruiting is done somewhat backwards. We go out and find the best students we can find, and then have nowhere to place them. Sometimes companies pass down an edict that a certain percentage of new hires must be filled with new grads. Or, certain requisitions are deemed as college reqs. Don’t put the cart before the horse – identify the jobs first. Look at the positions in your organization that are entry level or require limited experience. Then, aim to fill these positions with 90% new grads (the other 10% with temp-to-regular for example). Matching and Selection University recruiting is extremely administrative. Resume books, college job fairs, interview scheduling – it’s all about volume. The problem is that during all of this, we still end up with data just on experience. What experience? What we really want to find out about students are their skills. They may have taken a Unix course or have three years of Unix development internships. I want to know. There are exceptions to the rule, but a student’s skills, values, and competencies are usually more important than the limited work experience they may have. Students are getting pressure from professors to change the world, and pressure from their parents to get a return on their investment. They are motivated to tell us about themselves, and more importantly they have the time to do it. Give them a place to leave the information, update it, and expand it. This way you can identify them as sophomores and track their growth in your system. Ask them for as much information about themselves as you can and store it. Conclusion Take the time to understand where you can make improvements in your university recruiting program. Ask yourself if you’re getting the most out of your relationships with learning institutions, or if you’re getting the most information you can from students. Take the time to really address the needs and concerns of students on your employment website, or even better yet – create a section just for them. My favorite college site of all time was one by a high-tech company that offered steps on how to tie-dye, and also all the answers to the Microsoft college questionnaire on their own university site. Give them the information they need, and have fun with it too. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

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Michael McNeal (michael@purecarbon.com) is the Chief Industry Evangelist and co-founder of PureCarbon. Michael McNeal has been involved in fast-paced, high-volume staffing within the high-tech industry for the past 16 years. He became senior director of corporate employment worldwide for Cisco Systems in June 1996, where he developed a recruitment strategy modeled after successful business and marketing strategies. McNeal often speaks at national conferences about non-traditional recruitment methods and how the Internet can be used to remain competitive, and was recognized with Fast Company magazine?s "Who?s Fast ?99" award (issue 20). PureCarbon is the creator of JobPlanet, which was recognized as a "Top Ten Human Resource Product" of 2000 by Human Resource Executive magazine. More information about PureCarbon and JobPlanet can be found at www.purecarbon.com.

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