Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
In fall 2016, the career center at St. Cloud State University piloted “LinkedIn Thursdays,” a program in which the career center enlists recruiters to conduct one-on-one LinkedIn profile reviews with students and alumni.
“We wanted to see how it went because it was all an experiment,” says Andy Ditlevson, associate director of the career center at St. Cloud State University. “But we had a faculty member who—as soon as he heard about it—asked if he could have all of his students take part. That meant that half of all the sophomore students in the business school would be participating.”
Based on employer enthusiasm and student demand for the program, Ditlevson was confident the “LinkedIn Thursdays” program could be scaled to accommodate the proposed rapid growth of approximately 245 additional students and he greenlighted it.
“We had 275 students and alumni, and 39 recruiters from 35 companies participate in ‘LinkedIn Thursdays’ this past fall,” Ditlevson says. “Given the program’s success, it looks like we may expand to about 400 student and 50 employer participants for the spring.”
The “LinkedIn Thursdays” program fills a gap that the St. Cloud State career center had been looking to fill. It had been doing LinkedIn workshops for years, but didn’t have the staffing power to review individual student profiles.
“The data show that the percentage of employers that use LinkedIn as a recruiting tool is increasing each year,” Ditlevson says. “We knew we needed to be doing something more with it; the problem was that our office was already doing more than 1,000 one-on-one resume reviews each year and we didn’t have the staffing to add in hundreds of potential LinkedIn reviews.”
At a Minnesota Association of Colleges and Employers meeting last summer, Ditlevson gauged employer interest in providing feedback to students about their LinkedIn profiles. The response was strong, and since the career center had been having employers conduct mock interviews since 1992 and review resumes for almost a decade, the pathway to employer participation had already been paved.
“Employers are looking to get more involved on campus to raise their visibility,” Ditlevson adds. “Career centers can take advantage of this desire to engage students. We all offer on-campus interviewing, we all have a job-posting system, and we all hold job fairs, but employers are eager to participate in opportunities beyond these.”
The St. Cloud State career center uses its scheduling system so it can track who does and doesn’t participate in “LinkedIn Thursdays.” Students and alumni who are taking part upload copies of their resumes, which typically include the URLs to their LinkedIn profiles that recruiters can use to access them.
Ditlevson says the “LinkedIn Thursday” program offers participants a measure of flexibility. Employers, students, and alumni can participate either on campus or remotely.
“Most recruiters still come to campus for ‘LinkedIn Thursdays’ because both sides still prefer that face-to-face engagement,” Ditlevson explains. “As a recruiting tool, there is no substitute for engaging candidates face-to-face.”
For recruiters who choose to participate remotely, the career center sends them their review schedule, student/alumni resumes, and LinkedIn profile URLs the day before their “LinkedIn Thursday” session. Recruiters then call students/alumni at the designated times to conduct the reviews.
Each review—whether in person or remote—lasts 30 minutes, during which recruiters offer feedback, and highlight strengths and weaknesses of the profiles. To provide a measure of consistency among program participants, Ditlevson created a LinkedIn profile checklist/rubric for recruiters to use when evaluating profiles.
Overall, students and alumni appreciate hearing from recruiters firsthand what employers are looking for in a LinkedIn profile.
“[Students and alumni] are able to take that information and make updates to their profiles based on the perspective of the recruiter,” Ditlevson notes. “Through this program, students and alumni are better able to represent themselves to recruiters on LinkedIn.”
He adds that an added benefit for recruiters participating in “LinkedIn Thursdays” is the ability to connect with students earlier in their academic careers, since at this point, the bulk of students seeking profile reviews are sophomores due to our partnerships with some key faculty.
“This is a coaching program, but in the future, we hope to be able to be able to track if these interactions eventually lead to internship or job opportunities,” Ditlevson points out.
He offers the following suggestions for career centers interested in launching a similar program:
- Enlist key faculty partners—Enlist the help of faculty members who might, for instance, have a resume, mock interview, and/or LinkedIn profile requirement. These faculty members tend to already be champions for career services and have the ability to carry your message directly to their students.
- Promote the program to everyone, everywhere—Since the program involves various groups—students, alumni, employers, faculty, and more—promote the program widely. Do so through your campus recruiting system and listserv; on your own social media accounts, and through student/alumni and employer LinkedIn groups; through faculty partners; during meetings or conferences, and more.
- Leverage technology—Make participation easier for employers, students, and alumni by using technology to allow for remote participation. Beyond the obvious benefits, there are added ones. For example, because the reviews can be done by phone, the pressure on the career center to ensure the schedule is full isn’t as great because recruiters who choose to conduct the reviews from their office or home can work during gaps in their review schedule.