Fall is sneaking up on us. Halloween decorations are hitting the grocery store shelves. And before we know it, sweaters and boots will be the daily uniform. As always, this time of year gets many people—parents, students, teachers and recruiters—thinking about back-to-school. At exaqueo, we are passionate about helping clients tackle tough talent challenges by using smart strategies. Often, we are asked to offer our expertise in the area of university recruitment.
It’s in this back-to-school spirit that two members of #teamexaqueo join forces to bring you fresh perspectives on your university recruitment efforts. Shannon Smedstad is one of our principal employer brand strategists and a veteran college recruiter; Elizabeth Meyer is our marketing and communications associate, and a current senior at the University of Richmond.
Here are their five things that university recruiting teams need to do now:
Stop What You’re Doing
It's hard not to do the same things every year when on campus: the recruiters in branded logo wear, the corporate PowerPoint deck, and the promise of free food. Let’s hit pause for a moment, and objectively and holistically look at your university recruitment strategy, resources, execution, and creative. Ask yourself and your team:
What’s working well? Why?
What’s sort of working? Why?
What’s not working? Why?
What’s never worked? Why?
Who are our top and lowest performing recruiters? Why?
What are our top and lowest yielding schools? Why?
Does this sound familiar: Your campus recruiters have been recruiting at a target school for years. During this time, they’ve been spending hand over fist on a career fair booths, travel, lodging, and free food, but have yet to hire anyone. If this is the case for one (or more) of your target school(s), maybe it’s time to reevaluate the school, your recruiter or your process.
Key Takeaway: You can’t keep doing the same things and expect different results. (← Click to tweet!)
Collaborate with Employees
Recently, we hosted a call with the Employer Brand Community Group* (EBCG). The EBCG is a passionate community of employer brand professionals who meet monthly to talk about topics important to them. This particular topic was about social media and university recruitment. One member asked, “How do we get in front of students before we are ever on campus?”
One of the best ways to get in front of students is to understand their behaviors, on and offline. Armed with this insight, you can begin to develop smart talent attraction strategies based on research. In addition to the broad-strokes research readily available online about university recruitment, we recommend talking with your former interns or hosting focus groups with your early career hires.
Doing so, allows you to learn first-hand about the job search behaviors of your best-fit talent. Ask them to help you understand:
WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO THEM
What information are they looking for when searching for opportunities?
What information is most important to them?
What information is least important?
WHERE DO THEY LOOK FOR INFORMATION
Which social channels they consume content on?
Which channels they look for job and career-related content on?
Whether they review corporate career social profiles?
How important the organization’s career site is?
WHO IS INVOLVED IN THEIR JOB SEARCH PROCESS
Who influences their job search?
Who most influences their career/offer decisions?
Key Takeaway: Taking the time upfront to collaborate with employees will help you develop more informed content, channel, social media, and university recruitment strategies. (← Click to tweet!)
Listen to Career Services
As talent acquisition professionals, you may be trying to figure out the special sauce when it comes to attracting early career talent. And, you’re not alone. Quite simply, many employers want to know how to best stand out on campus and how to connect with top students.
A couple of years ago, Patricia Rose, the director of career services at the University of Pennsylvania, shared that, “Employers who are successful are the ones that are committed to establishing a presence and make the effort.” Additionally, she added that it would be ideal if employers were more “open to students beyond the obvious majors … there are great students across all majors.”
Think about your own degree and current career path? How aligned are they? If a Communications major can become CEO of Starbucks and a Political Science major can run Nike, then organizations should widen the aperture of their ideal majors list.
Key Takeaway: Spend quality time on your target campuses meeting with students from across majors and disciplines. (← Click to tweet!)
Connect with College Students
As a college senior, Elizabeth and her peers are in a frenzy to network and make decisions about what they want to be when they grow up. They express a need for employers to be straightforward about the roles and to help connect them with people who they can relate to. “I actually put more pressure on myself, as a junior, to find the right industry for me so that I could first test the waters with an internship,” said Annie Gagis, a business student at the University of Richmond. “I also found it really helpful to talk to alumni because I could relate to them and felt like they were open to answering my questions.”
Dr. Bill Bergman is a marketing professor at the Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond and founder of The Bergman Group, a diversified communications company located in Richmond, Virginia. He states that, “Students respond best to employees they can immediately identify with and who may have shared similar experiences. This doesn’t necessarily have to be school related.” He goes on to share this piece of advice on the importance of finding a common ground. “The connection can also be growing up in the same hometown, similar hobbies and interests, or friends in common. When interviewing for a job, meeting with people, who have shared experiences, always makes the process less daunting.”
Key Takeaway: Students want to talk with someone in a similar career stage or who they can otherwise relate to. Create opportunities for these conversations to happen, whether on campus, online or over the phone. (← Click to tweet!)
Learn from College Professors
As Dr. Bergman spoke with Elizabeth, he voiced his opinion that, “Recruiters should slow down the hiring process and stop worrying about losing the best and the brightest to other companies.” This contrarian opinion is grounded in his perspective that, “They (recruiters) are more likely to find better, long-term employees by giving students the opportunity to be students while they are in college. Let them grow and mature in school before stressing them with premature job offers.”
“I think the recruiting process is beginning way too early. Accounting majors these days are being wooed by recruiters their sophomore year for internships that can lead to jobs after graduation. College is an important time in a student’s life to explore a range of subjects and potential career paths. It is unfair to lock them into a particular career while they are still teenagers.”
“Companies and their recruiters need to pull back and give students the chance to explore a wider range of career options -- before locking them in with offers. Maybe if students have multiple internships at various organizations and companies, they will be able to make more mature decisions about their first job commitments. Give students more room to explore and companies may find they can reduce job dissatisfaction and high turnover with their newly graduated employees.”
Key Takeaway: Don’t start recruiting students for full-time roles before their senior year just because your competitors are. Let your prospective employees get the most out of college before you lock them. It will pay off for both of you in the long run.
There you have it: fresh perspective and actionable insight directly from people who have and are still living the campus recruitment experience. And it all seems to boil down to having a well-thought out strategy, creating connections, and listening to the people around you. Successful university recruitment doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
It takes a team and sometimes those team members play outside of your organization. (← Click to tweet!)
If you liked this post, check out this one: Are you only hiring rich kids?
Shannon Smedstad (@shannonsmedstad) is a Principal Employer Brand Strategist and Elizabeth Meyer is a Marketing and Communications Associate for exaqueo, an employer brand experience firm building employer brands and the talent strategies that drive them through research, consulting and creative and digital execution. Contact exaqueo to learn more about our employer brand innovation, workforce research and recruiting strategy offerings.
* If you are an in-house employer brand practitioner and want to be a part of the EBCG, contact us and we’ll add you to the member list. There is no cost to join, and we have calls scheduled October 12 and November 9.
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Meyer