Back to School: Students Tell Us How to Recruit Better on Campus

With college students across the country about to return to campus, college recruiters aren’t far behind. But does putting company letterhead down on tables work today? Furthermore, do students really believe meeting with recruiters will lead to the jobs they want?
Research released from Bersin by Deloitte last year found that a consistent campus presence from hiring brands, which builds awareness and connections, versus simply pushing current openings, is necessary to implement successful campus recruiting efforts today. That may be for good reason. Door of Clubs recently examined how students plan to secure a job in their field of study upon graduation. 
Specifically, we commissioned Google to ask 500 18-24 college students the following: What do you believe will provide you the best opportunity to secure a job in your field of study upon graduation?
Surprisingly, 52 percent listed Personal Networking as the best method for securing a job in their field upon graduation. Yes, students were more than five-times more likely to say their own personal networking will provide them the best opportunity for a job after graduation than say career fairs filled with campus recruiters, job websites or even career services.
Why is that? One reason could simply be that job fairs are unable to sort through hoards of students to connect them with the right recruiters and companies. More importantly, many companies attending job fairs do not have any intention of doing serious recruiting work there, making it a waste of an opportunity for both the company and the interested applicant. Therefore, students are now seeking other alternatives besides career fairs (i.e. Personal Networking).
Searching for employment as a student is a tedious assignment that can be quite time consuming outside of college curriculum. While students may have underestimated the power of their personal networks in the past and how useful their respective contacts can be; the rapid development of online social networks such as LinkedIn has harnessed and illuminated the value.
Of course there are also offline and more contemporary methods for obtaining professional contacts as you start your career, which can also prove more useful to students than fighting through the hustle and bustle of career fairs. They can join student clubs that are related to their career interests, seek out internships to build connections in industries they’re interested in or even begin dialogue with thought leaders in certain markets on social networks like Twitter. 
So how do recruiters enter that mix?
Build Better Connections with Key Influencers and Groups on Campus: Building connections on campus doesn’t end with career services. On-campus recruiting today means building connections with key faculty and student stakeholders. Info sessions, affiliate programs and campus sponsorships can be some ways to get your hiring brand known around campus. 
Hiring for technical or STEM positions? Why not skip the career fair and do something that will create some real connections - a hackathon. Hackathons can take on many shapes and sizes, but the opportunity they give recruiters and hiring managers to evaluate technical student talent in a natural environment is unparalleled. Don’t think you can pull off your own hackathon? One organization that can help you with managing a hackathon is HackerRank.
The company offers CodeSprints, online coding competitions, which your company can simply sponsor or host on your own. This way, the event can be about the challenge itself and not overly salesy of your hiring brand. You’ll be surprised the hiring brand recall you can establish by bringing this type of enjoyable challenge to a worthy group of engineering students. 
You also can’t overlook building connections with key influencers within faculty on campus. Close relationships with faculty members can assist with obtaining insight into top students and prospective talent on campus, give you a trusted channel to engage students with and help you with finding prospective interns. 
Target Schools and Groups that Align with Your Hiring Brand: We all know the bad rap the “spray and pray” technique gives recruiters. It doesn’t work off-campus and it certainly doesn’t work on-campus with recruiting. Furthermore, a lot of recruiters will take shortcuts and let lists like this dictate what schools they are targeting. Not only will that put you right next to Google and Facebook in trying to attract the most prestigious talent, but it will miss all the undervalued talent residing in lesser known schools across the country. 
Many companies today are simply looking for talent that will love coming to work each day and engaging in the workplace. What better place to look and align your brand with on campus than student clubs where students get together in their free time to focus on their passions, such as marketing, engineering or business.
Over 82 percent of companies today use campus clubs as a recruiting resource to find top college talent (Source: 2014 Recruiting Benchmarks Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers). This is because clubs offer inherent recruitment advantages. Not only are they a shortcut to finding this self-motivated talent, but they act as natural campus filters so that companies can get to exactly the students they want. Furthermore, it’s an authentic way for companies to endear themselves to students. Because students spend so much of their energy building these organizations, they truly appreciate when you choose to engage with them.
Measure Student Interest on the Fly: Once you start your engagement and connections with students on campus you need to make sure you’re tracking so you can adjust efforts on the fly. The number of hires from a school is just a starting point. Early on in your campus recruiting efforts it’s important to track how many students are engaging with your messages and responding. 
Data may suggest that interest or a lack of interest not only differs school-to-school, but also by majors or graduation years. Therefore, don’t stretch yourself too thin, overspend or create negative perceptions of your brand with those on campus who aren’t interested. Become more targeted and drill down into specific majors, classes and even diversity groups where your message is being well received. 
Champion Hiring Managers to Make the Trip to Campus:
Having a hiring manager join you in your campus recruiting efforts isn’t mandatory, but it can go long way in building real personal connections with potential hires on campus. After all, who are students going to be interacting with daily once they join your organization? Recruiters may feel like it will be impossible to get executives involved, but studies show that hiring managers often jump at the opportunity to uncover promising new talent on campus. 
Furthermore, if hiring managers aren’t available, don’t just opt for a warm body. Alumni from a certain school can also be a good option. A recent graduate who has excelled within your workplace in the first few years on the job can be a great asset on campus to network and build a hiring brand presence. 
Whether it’s you, someone else on your university relations team, or one of these other parties, don’t forget that this first connection on campus will influence how students view your organization going forward. Take a positive first step and build a personal connection that lasts.
The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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