Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
While employers view the University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) and the Auraria campus—which the university shares with Metropolitan State University of Denver and Community College of Denver—as a key recruiting destination, a troubling trend of a lack of employer follow-through is emerging, says Sarah Trzeciak.
A typical scenario she’s seeing play out more frequently during the past year is that an employer will reach out to with CU Denver and is excited about building a relationship.
“We will schedule one or two meetings to discuss their hiring needs and connect with members of their team,” says Trzeciak, senior director of CU Denver’s Career Center.
“We put together a package of services, send them the information, and then wait. We follow up several times before finally moving on. The employer typically reaches back out when its hiring cycle picks up, but it’s often rushed and not as strategic or effective as any of us would like. We prefer to have a long-term, well-thought-out plan, but that can take time to build and many employers do not have the time or resources.”
Carrie Johnson, employer and alumni associate with University at Buffalo Career Services, says employers that are looking to build long-term relationships with her office are also more apt to “drop out.”
“These employers often require an initial discovery call, brainstorming of ideas, connecting across campus, and laying out the groundwork for an on-campus recruitment strategy,” Johnson explains.
“It is unfortunate when connections across campus have been made with student organizations or faculty and the employer doesn’t follow through. The more people involved, the more effort is used.”
Trzeciak believes one factor fueling this trend is that CU Denver has a nontraditional, commuter student population, and events held on its campus likely yield lower student turnout than a school with a more traditional student population.
“Employers want to get in front of as many students as possible, and that isn’t always possible through the traditional recruiting methods that one might see on another campus,” Trzeciak explains.
“It takes time to assess what will be effective and how we market that to students in order to maximize turnout. If an employer has an immediate need, our timeframe could be prohibitive.”
Additionally, she says, employer hiring cycles do not always match the academic cycle of universities.
“When employers reach out, they may or may not be ready to act, but we’ve being working from the assumption that they are ready to go when they reach out,” Trzeciak notes.
Johnson adds that the reason for the lack of follow-through also depends on the employer as each one has a different recruitment operation. Some reasons she cited include recruiters or the contact person at the employer having too much on their plate or undergoing a change of duties, the employer’s recruitment goals changing, and the employer removing a school from its list of target schools.
“There are higher turnover rates today, so we may lose the contact we had established,” she says. “I also think that people are busy—which we totally understand. Whether they are recruiters or alumni of our institution who act as university champions, it is difficult for them to follow through with us due to the demands of their jobs.”
Furthermore, Johnson says, the tight labor market—one that has provided many students with the luxury of choice—has increased the time and effort it takes to connect and stand out on campus, which could be discouraging or overwhelming to employers.
Still, at a large school like University at Buffalo, which has more than 30,000 students spread across three campuses, it may not be a case of an employer dropping out at all; instead, it simply may be following a different path.
“There are many avenues in which to enter the university and make contact with students, not only through our department,” Johnson notes. “In some cases, an employer might begin a relationship with us, but it might evolve elsewhere, such as within specific academic units or perhaps with sponsorship and corporate relations. If this occurs, we often lose the insight and the ability to track the details surrounding the relationship.”
When an employer that does want a deeper relationship begins the process, but neglects to follow through, what are the consequences for career services? Trzeciak says it throws off scheduling and—because of staff time and resources allocated to them—can prevent other meetings and programs from occurring.
“When we plan our semester, we typically plan what we have capacity for and, oftentimes, these specific employer events are tentatively plugged into the schedule,” she says.
“We have a limited number of employers and recruitment events that we can support each semester, which means we decline other events and employer requests, and ultimately have less opportunities for our students. The lack of employer response means that we are not finding out with enough time to accommodate another request.”
To prevent the lack of follow-through, University at Buffalo Career Services staff members listen to employer needs and tailor the options available to them on campus.
“We understand if employers have more immediate needs and we work with them accordingly, which oftentimes does not take much time or resources from our end,” Johnson says.
“For employers looking to explore and create a longer-term relationship with our institution, we try to list all of the options available and encourage them to start with a couple as a starting point. We don’t want to overwhelm them with opportunities.”
Career services staff then follow up with a phone call or e-mail to the original contact to encourage action.
“Sometimes we present new ideas or initiatives that may not have existed at the time of the initial meeting that we know would work for them,” Johnson says. “We hope to spark the conversation again and sometimes this helps.”
Staff at the CU Denver Career Center also give employers a specific timeline of follow-up and provide details regarding how much time needed to successfully host an event. Staff members then follow up multiple times and try to connect when there are specific events that would be a good fit for employers.
Johnson and Trzeciak have several recommendations for career centers to consider preventing a lack of employer follow-through, including:
- Being up front about partnership expectations and the timeline needed for confirmation to move forward;
- Providing realistic expectations for student participation;
- Starting small and building from there once follow-through is established;
- If an employer is only looking for a direct connection to a department, being okay with making the connection and letting it foster the relationship while still providing information regarding career services’ preferred method for hiring students;
- Leveraging technology for follow up. Develop creative communications to increase open and click rates of e-mail communications; and
- Personalizing communications and phone calls, which can be very effective.
Trzeciak says that this experience has made the CU Denver’s Career Center look at how it handles employer recruiting requests. Moving forward, staff is hoping to improve on gauging employer expectations by asking questions from the start such as: Do you want something immediate? Are you calling to get information on what your options are? Do you want to build a long-term recruiting relationship? Responses can be tailored from there.
“We see employers as our partner in this process,” Trzeciak says. “We want employers to know that career services wants to support them and we want to go above and beyond and help them hire our students. If we have proactive communication and follow-through, we can do just that.”
Adds Johnson: “To be as mutually beneficial as possible, the career services and employer relationship requires communication, action, and follow up on both ends.”
For more about employer follow-through, see a recent discussion in the NACE Community.