Innovative Strategies for Closing the Deal and Getting College Students to Say “Yes” To an Offer

The Final part of a III part series Once you have found the best, you have to close the deal. College students these days have lots of options and you need to have a superior strategy if you are going to beat your competitors. Here are some tips to help you to get them to say “yes” to your offers:

    1. WOWing them is essential in order to win the recruiting battle in this era of “free agents.” Identify (or develop) your firm?s WOW’s so that you become “talked about.” If events (like information sessions) are not unique, you will end up attracting only free food seekers. Often these events are carbon copies of each other and they can actually hurt your image as a unique place to work. WOW them so that they are the most talked about event of their type.


  1. Take along “recent hires” that have graduated in the last year (preferably from the same college/program) on campus visits. Students are able to quickly identify and communicate easily with these recent grads. They can give believable answers to those “what is it like to work there” type questions. Show the candidates that “people just like them” work at your firm.
  2. Put “recent hires” on your college recruiting advisory committee. Let them tell you what is cool and what labels the firm as “out of it.”
  3. Develop a profile of the possible offers that candidates are likely to get from competitors. Train managers on how to show how that your offer is superior to the others.
  4. Interview all that accepted/rejected your previous offers. Find out what they liked and what were the “deal makers/deal breakers. Increase the non-monetary elements of your offers (flexibility, choice of projects, etc.) to increase your acceptance rates.
  5. Prioritize your targets. Put more time and resources into the best candidates even if it means losing some of the average ones. Vary your offers between top performers and average performers because they typically want different things in offers.
  6. Redistribute your resources (time and money) closer to the student. Reduce donations and time spent with academic administrators (Deans, Presidents, Career Center Directors) and increase it with students and faculty that know the best students. Decrease time spent at campus career centers and increase it at career centers located at individual schools and programs.
  7. Ask candidates for the phone numbers of their references, close friends, parents, and mentors. Contact them and sell them on your firm. Students seldom accept offers without the OK of their references and friends.
  8. Redo your job descriptions (both paper and web versions). Transform them into exciting “sales pieces” that emphasize great projects, tools and opportunities.
  9. Teach managers and recruiters that it’s OK to have “professional conversations” with candidates rather than formal interviews. Students dislike interviews and are excited when they get to talk about the projects and opportunities they might be involved in. Being different gets you talked about. Tell them what to expect and what you are looking for in your interviews in order to alleviate the “fear factor.” Decrease the emphasis on assessment and increase the focus on selling the company and the job (you can de-emphasize assessment if you get your target students from faculty and student referrals, as opposed to career center “walk-ins”).
  10. Speed is everything. Develop one day interviews/visits for the finalists. Make the decision and the offer on that day. Consider a bonus if they accept the offer that day.
  11. Get customer service consultants to help you make the recruiting process more “user friendly.? Assess each student’s “satisfaction” with the process several times during the recruiting cycle to ensure they are happy. Remember, even if you don’t hire them, they can “bad mouth” you and they might also be future customers.
  12. Decrease the use of recruiters and increase the use of star employees and managers as your primary recruiters. Students distrust recruiters and really want to talk to people that are close to the action. Use recruiters to coach and train managers on how to sell the job to candidates.
  13. Have your CEO (or other notable employees) call them and tell them how much you want them on your team.
  14. Show that alumni (from the targeted university) succeed at your firm and develop an alumni mentor/e-mail “friends” network between your “alums” and targeted candidates.
  15. Ask candidates “what is your dream job” and “what have you always wanted to do?” Then design great “non-money” dream job offers for them.
  16. Find out what you “really” have to offer and design your offers around those features. Don’t “over offer,” students can sense the stretch. Look for candidates that want what you actually have.
  17. Offer an exciting but realistic “job-preview.” Tells candidates what they really want to know about. (their future team, challenge, growth, projects and the job as well as providing and overview of the corporate culture and mission).
  18. Offer to hire the best students and their “best friend? as a “duo” to improve your chances of getting the best. Consider the same for students with spouses.
  19. Consider hiring students before they graduate (i.e. Bill Gates). Financial hardship or frustration with boring classes can force some to look for early opportunities. Make sure they finish their degree at night or during summers.
  20. Develop a “friends of your firm” program to students. Send them E-mail newsletters, free products and events to build loyalty.
  21. Use market research tools (focus groups, surveys, and interviews) to identify what students think is “cool,” to identify whether your firm is known/admired and what criteria students use to pick their ideal firm/job.
  22. Hire GenX consultants to help you understand their unique expectations.
  23. Donate money to popular campus causes (environmental, social) in order to get “written up” in the student/local newspaper to build your image.
  24. Donate vehicles, equipment, and other items that carry your logo and are likely to be easily visible on campus. Give away cheap but highly visible items that carry your logo (floppy disks, highlighters, pens and blue books). Give away free coffee/donuts and pizza during fall finals when students are likely to be appreciative.
  25. Develop mechanisms to continually communicate (and give feedback) with candidates so they maintain their interest and you reduce the likelihood that they will actively pursue other opportunities. Even after an offer is accepted you need to keep on selling (because current era students will often still keep looking after accepting an offer).
  26. Offer internships/jobs at your “tropical” or fun locations to draw more students. Because many students want to stay with their friends in their “College Town” consider opening a facility in their (and other) college towns where grads can work for a year or two until transferring to another site. Hires can also pursue grad school on a part-time basis if they can stay and work in a college town.
  27. Make the screening and offer process “fun and quick” so we don’t lose “easily bored” candidates. The best are decisive and are also in high demand so a fast decision is essential.
  28. Develop the capability to hire a “superstar student” instantly, even when we don’t have any available headcount. Don’t miss the best because of an administrative rule.

Other Miscellaneous Strategies for College Recruiting:

  • Don’t assume all students are “active” job seekers. Build strategies to attract the “passives? (ex., those students that are planning to continue on in grad school) because they are often the best students.
  • nvolve, measure and heavily reward managers who are successful in hiring and retaining the best college students.
  • Continually track the success of the best and worst students, departments, and universities. Drop the worst and reward/reuse the best.
  • Fire your old style “visit the campus career center/job fair recruiters” and hire recruiters that know marketing and how to build “relationships” with students and key faculty.
  • Keep metrics on what sources bring in the highest performing candidates. Drop the sources, professors, and tools that result in low performing hires.
  • After you hire them there are still challenges. Make sure you have world class orientation and transition systems to eliminate frustration and to speed the “time to productivity” for new hires.
  • Track the competitors, improve on their best practices, and hire away their top recruiters.
  • Assume that college recruiting strategies must continually change as others copy what you do.
  • During economic downturns consider actually increasing your college hiring (when others reduce their college hiring) because more of the best might be available and the competition for them will be much lower.
  • College hire programs need to have international capabilities (multi-lingual and multi-cultural) and be able to recruit at universities all around the world.
  • It must use multiple approaches and it must customize its strategies to the particular job or situation. It monitors the external environment and adjusts to meet the changing (job) market. It must integrate college recruiting systems (people, paper and computer) with other HR and “corporate” systems to ensure cooperation and the smooth flow of information to managers. Be sure to coordinate recruiting with any college based R&D programs the firm might have.
  • Forecast changes in colleges (like virtual universities and distance learning) and be the first to realign your strategies and tools.

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.

Check Also

The “No Application Required” Recruiting Strategy (Providing employed top talent with “job search deniability”)

Top employees are reluctant to apply for external jobs because it makes them appear disloyal. …