Developing A World Class College Recruiting Program

Have a shortage of talent? Why not reinvent college recruiting and make it a prime recruiting source? Unfortunately most college recruiting programs were developed in the 1950′s – long before the age of technology. Universities and students have changed dramatically in the last few years, but most college recruiting programs still focus on “going to career centers and career fairs.” Firms like Trilogy, Collegehire.com and UPS have reinvented college recruiting. Here are some things you can do to make your college recruiting world-class.

It’s All About Sales:

Many professionals develop their brand loyalties during their college years. Brand awareness that is developed during college will build sales for years. A great place to work image built during their college years will continue to attract the college students (you didn’t get “right out of school”) for up to 10 years later. Paradoxically, campuses generally restrict traditional advertising but they encourage college recruiting. Smart firms can use recruiting as a multifaceted tool to help you simultaneously build brand image and to recruit new talent. Begin to increase the impact of college recruiting by adding sales, marketing and PR strategies (and budgets) to your campus recruiting strategy.

Are College Recruits Worth the Trouble?

Begin with finding out if college hires have a higher value than regular hires. If you are going to make great college hires THE corporate advantage at your firm, you must have proof that college hires bring more of what we need to the firm than “experienced” hires do. Some firms have found that college hires bring to a firm:

  • New ideas
  • A willingness to ask “why not” of others
  • Agility
  • A willingness to change
  • Energy and enthusiasm
  • Knowledge of technology

Check to see if your most productive ideas come from recent college hires. Track the performance of college hires to see if their performance appraisal scores on average exceed those of regular hires. Do they give you a competitive advantage over your competitors?

Building Relationships:

The most common reason college recruiting fails is that the firm fails to build a long-term relationship with the faculty and the student groups. Don’t be a “Seagull” (a firm that flies in once a year, drops a load of crap, and then flies away). Build a long-term relationship with student groups, the bookstore, alumni association, influential students and faculty.

  • Establishing relationships with faculty that teach the best (honor) students is a crucial factor in success. Be careful in selecting faculty. The most published professors might have little student contact. Ask your college hires and everyone you interview who is the best. Track professor referrals over time to see which faculty refer the top performers.
  • Professors are relatively easy to involve. Some possibilities include:
    1. Pay for a plant trip or equipment
    2. Give them a summer faculty internship or fund a summer research project
    3. Let them go through your corporate technical training or give them access to data for their research
    4. Give them access to your corporate Intranet so they can learn more about you. The more they know about you the more likely that they will use you as an in class example or assign your company to students as a case study for its best practices
    5. Consider funding teaching assistants for the best professors
    6. Give faculty feedback on the curriculum (and what students need “more of and less of”)
    7. Guarantee interviews or internships to a faculty members’ top 5 students
    8. Assign junior faculty a mentor from your company to help them develop contacts in the industry
    9. Donate money to help sponsor academic meetings and for sponsoring a faculty seminar series
  • Hire recently retired faculty, regular faculty during semester breaks or while they are on sabbatical to help your company build relationships with this and other universities. Involve them in the design of your recruiting program and in the selection of “target” faculty and universities. Ask them for advice on how to increase your presence and image among faculty.
  • Sponsor student groups in your targeted departments and speak at their meetings to get exposure. Get them to refer the best students to your firm. Hire the top officers as interns or on campus representatives for your firm. Give members product discounts, on-site trips or product samples.
  • Build a relationship with the alumni association at the specific college you are targeting. Sponsor events and publications to get exposure to grads that you didn’t get right out of school. Involve your employees that have sons/ daughters enrolled in your targeted programs. Get them involved in selling the firm to their sons/daughters on your firm.
  • Build a relationship with the college bookstore so that they will carry and display your product (assuming it can be sold at retail). Seeing the product on campus will help you build brand and company image.
  • Identify other key players and groups that might help you build your image and find the best students. Consider the faculty union, student government, student newspaper/radio, athletic department, fraternity/ sorority system, the student union, the grad student association, honor societies, etc.

Getting the Students’ Attention/Build Your Image:

  • If you want to get the best students from colleges you must realize it’s “all about image.” Students want to work at the “talked about firms.” Get mentioned in the national and local press and especially get on the different “Best Places To Work” lists. Programs that get mentioned in the student press also have a good impact.
  • Use market research and on-campus reps to tell you what is “in and out” on campus. You need to recruit with “an attitude” if you want to get the best. Identify “early adopters and opinion leaders” and get their advice on what it takes to build your image on this campus. Trends change rapidly and are not the same on different campuses. Constant market research is an absolute requirement if you want to be perceived as something other than “your father’s Oldsmobile.”
  • Survey the students and faculty to gauge your image. Use your marketing staff to improve it. Involve PR faculty in projects to build your firms image on campus. Benchmark other firms that have successfully build a great image. Utilize the campus marketing/PR club to build your on-campus image as an employer of choice. Use marketing clubs to identify the “right” media to use on campus.
  • Use market research, focus groups, and interviews to identify what “triggers” the best students to: (1) Consider a firm and (2)To say “yes” to an offer.
  • Technology is a key factor in winning the recruiting battle. Most student are technology savvy and they judge firms on their use (or non-use) of technology in recruiting. WOW them with Internet video interviews, WOW web pages and E-mail-newsletters to targeted students. Sponsor listservers and chat rooms and give free software and screen savers to the very best. Get your employees to post answers in chat rooms and on listservers that the best students frequent. If students find your firm has the best “answers” they will want to know more about you.
  • Use your web site to share real business/technology problems and opportunities with students. Offer exciting simulations on your web page to allow students to test their real world skills.
  • Inform students about their future career on your web site. Help them see future industry needs, pay potential, and essential skills that they will need to succeed after graduation. Get them to answer the “My dream job after graduation” question and get that information to your recruiters so that any offer we might make can better fit their needs.
  • Develop a campus-specific web page that draws even the non-job seeker. Consider features like upcoming social events, rate your professor, up coming professional scholarships, lists of cool (and educational) web sites to visit, etc.
  • Give your products to top candidates, student groups, and professors to increase their “ownership” of the firm. Get your products in the professors’ offices, labs, copy centers, in the bookstore, and the student union so students and faculty will be familiar with your firm’s products.
  • Develop an E-mentoring program where employees mentor students over e-mail. Target employees that are recent alumni as mentors. Develop a “friends” program where students can become “friends” of your firm and get discounts, E-newsletters, and win prizes (concert tickets).
  • Join university and departmental advisory boards to gain exposure and to build relationships with the administration (who can introduce you to key faculty).
  • Offer company employees as visiting evaluators for class projects as well as for team teaching (offering both academic and professional viewpoints). This gives us exposure to the students as “the firm with the great answers.”
  • Build a web page that allows the candidate to see a profile of other recent grads from their university and how well they have done at our firm. Allow the database to be searched by major, home town, position, grad date, club/ Fraternity/Sorority affiliation, etc. Build an e-mail link to the employee and their personal web page.
  • Consider non-traditional image builders like billboards close to campus, pizza carton ads, 10k runs, sponsoring entertainment and sporting events, etc.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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