Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals
To boost a stagnant college recruiting program, organizations should consider shifting their approach to think like marketers. The key to this approach is using data to make decisions, Maureen Joseph and John Beck of PEAK6 say.
“From a marketing point of view, we use data to drive better decisions,” says Beck, marketing director at PEAK6, a trading firm headquartered in the Chicago Board of Trade. “The data eliminates subjectivity. For us, people all had an opinion about how we should be doing things. The data helped guide our tactics and how we executed them.”
To reinvigorate their own program, the PEAK6 team started looking at recruiting like a marketing challenge, which Beck notes meant team members began applying a great deal of data and rigor along with traditional marketing practices.
“We looked at this process as a marketing funnel,” says Joseph, senior talent acquisition manager, noting the following levels from top to bottom:
- Candidate acquisition
- Round 1
- Round 2
“We try to drive all of our decisions with data and measure to see where things are working and where things aren’t working, and where we needed to make refinements and improvements,” she says.
PEAK6 also crystallized its brand and developed a campaign that would stand out. However, communicating its employer brand was more difficult because PEAK6 wasn’t allocating big dollars to its on-campus presence. Plus, based on the data, PEAK6 opted out of some of the traditional recruiting activities, such as career fairs and information sessions.
“We were thinking differently about how we went to campus and, once there, what our presence was like,” Beck explains. “As we look to attract candidates at the top of the funnel, we had to really know what we stood for as an employer brand and then say that consistently throughout all the different points in the funnel as we take a candidate from receiving their resume all the way to working with PEAK6.”
By taking this approach, PEAK6 could avoid some of the traps it had fallen into in past years. For example, Joseph said that in the past the firm didn’t see much return from holding information sessions or attending career fairs. Instead, the firm opts to connect with candidates after they apply, through virtual outreach, or via direct outreach through schools, organizations, and other targeted marketing efforts. (Its recruiters still go to campus to interview candidates in person.)
“Also,” she adds, “we were choosing schools based on our alumni and didn’t have data to back up those decisions. We also weren’t great about measuring what we’re doing to know if it was or wasn’t working. We weren’t standing out in the things that we were doing.”
Bringing the data focus to light, PEAK6 began collecting applicant numbers and the number of candidate interviews in each round. It looked at candidate quality and where drop-off rates occurred, which allowed it to identify problems with its process. The firm also collected data on the schools at which it was recruiting and developed an algorithm for target schools based on factors such as what types of classes they have, their student organizations, the numbers of applicants from each school the past five years, and more.
“We also began looking at how successful our candidates are after we hire them,” Joseph says. “By looking at the soft skills we interview for—collaboration, adaptability, and other qualities that make employees successful at PEAK6—and more concrete measures like profits and losses and how much risk they take, we have a consistent rating process. From this, we can assess our successes or where we missed so we can refine our process.”
The result, Beck says, is a culture of buy-in for the recruiting program throughout the organization that is consistent across recruiting years. He and Joseph offer several key considerations for approaching college recruiting from a marketer’s perspective:
- Put data behind your decisions—If you do this right, you’re able to identify and fix what’s broken. You’ll also be able to take the subjectivity make it objective.
- Develop your employer brand—Know what you stand for and make it truly unique to you. If your recruiting materials sound the same as your competitor’s, you haven’t done a good job. Effectively developing your employer brand requires deep-level soul searching.
- Make it sustainable—Continue to measure, refine, train, and evolve the campaign. Doing so will carry your culture across years and galvanize buy-in for your college recruiting program throughout your organization.