by Mimi Collins
The successful college recruiting program looks at the long haul, not just short-term results, and is built on strong relationships.
Most college recruiting professionals identify the career center as their “base.” These typically offer career fairs, job-posting services, on-campus recruiting, and other options for connecting with students. Plus, career center staff can provide you with intelligence about their campus—its culture and traditions, specifics about their students’ attitudes and behaviors, and such—which you can use to tailor your strategy. Career center staff also can help you develop relationships with other key campus contacts, including faculty and administrators.
The reality is, no college recruiting program can guarantee job openings for new college grads every year, but organizations achieving the greatest success don’t abandon campus when they aren’t hiring. Instead, they find ways to maintain their ties, such as continuing their internship program, taking part in mock interviews, or performing resume critiques. This is where career center staff can be especially helpful: They can tell you what options are open, and what will and won’t work for their campus.
True story: At a meeting, a group of recruiting professionals toted up their respective hiring goals for a specific major, and found that their collective goal exceeded the number of candidates available. Consider that they represented just a portion of the employers seeking this major, and you’ll see the problem with setting goals that aren’t fact-based. Base your goals on supply, demand, and related factors. How large is the potential pool? Where are the candidates? Who are your competitors? What are they offering? Do this work up front, and you’ll be better able to set reachable goals.
Most college recruiting professionals say they build their target school list around majors available, quality of programs, experience recruiting at the school, and school location. This requires research and careful tracking, so you can see which schools are working best for your organization.
In researching which schools offer the majors you seek, be wary of “best schools for” rankings; it’s tempting to use these as a shortcut around real research, but be aware that rankings are based on criteria that may not match up with your organization’s needs.
Would you approach a career fair booth if the booth staff looked bored? Would you be impressed by a representative who told you to check the company website to get answers to your questions? How comfortable would you feel in an interview if the recruiter asked you for a date? Unfortunately, this is how some company reps have behaved on campus.
Don’t take great pains to build a brand only to negate it by sending a “warm body” to campus. Research shows that who you send to campus is critical: Your reps have the most influence on how students view your organization. Send well-trained professionals who are equipped to answer questions, address concerns, represent your brand, and sell your organization.
Students need to know what the steps are in the selection and hiring process. Keep them apprised of what’s happening, what they can expect, and when they can expect it. Follow up with students you have talked to at a career fair. Keep in touch with interns after they have returned to campus. Let students know promptly about their status.
Track how many hires you make, yes, but also track your interview to offer, offer to acceptance, and retention rates. These can help you identify where you’re having the most trouble, so you can adjust.
For example, a high number of interviews but few offers can tip you off to a problem with screening in candidates for interviews. Is your job description too vague, meaning candidates can’t screen themselves out? Are you unclear about what you want in a candidate? Similarly, if you are extending many offers but getting few acceptances, you can zero in on what’s going on in this part of the process. Where are the snags? Are your salaries competitive? Are you taking too long to extend the offer—and losing candidates to other organizations? (In this case, you will want to gather information from students who have turned you down to identify what went wrong, but you should also find out what prompted acceptance among those who agreed to come work for your organization. Both can be illuminating!) Once you have identified where you are having trouble, you can take steps to adjust your process.
You also want to benchmark against others involved in college recruiting, to compare “apples to apples.” (For current benchmarks, see the highlights from the 2013 Recruiting Benchmarks Survey.
An internship program is one of the most effective recruiting techniques, helping you build a relationship with potential hires early in their college career (before they are “on the job market”) and gauge their fit for your organization. An internship program can also help you achieve better retention: Research shows new college hires who have served an internship are more likely to stay with the employer. (For more on internships, see “15 Best Practices for Internship Programs”).
Mimi Collins is director of communications for the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
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