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Building Deeper Relationships on Campus

by Jul 9, 2008, 7:30 am ET

Part 2 of a 2-part series

In my last article, I talked about the value of relationship-based recruitment in the college arena, and how deepening the bonds with campus contacts and candidates can help any organization be more successful in recruiting. In this piece, I’ll provide specifics as to how you can be more successful at building relationships in the college space.

Capitalize on referrals. We often talk about building a candidate pipeline on campus, referring to branding and attending career fairs, and forgetting that the best method of all is word of mouth. Students consistently cite friends and classmates as the single most influential source when it comes to their job search. So remind your candidates throughout your hiring process that you’re looking for others like them. You’ll be amazed at how many of them begin to refer their friends.

Turn candidates into recruiters. Building relationships with our campus candidates allows us to gain access to a whole network of upcoming grads. Any candidate who has come through a good interview process can speak about the work environment, company culture, management team and philosophy, training, and compensation potential. As a recruiter, it makes my job a lot easier when a candidate has heard about my opportunity from a former recruit, and it adds credibility when I have a small army on campus talking about a great interview process.

Involve new hires. Do a trend analysis of your new hires to see whether they tended to belong to any particular student organizations or clubs. These groups always appreciate knowing that you’ve hired quite a few of their members in the past, and often your new hires can help you gain an audience with a club more quickly than you would be able to on your own without this information.

Identify the influential. When trying to build deeper connections on a college campus, talk to your newest college hires and learn from them which professors and career advisors they would seek advice from again. At some schools, students are actively engaged with career services, and at other schools most of the student population isn’t even aware that there is such a thing. By talking to your new hires, you can determine where to best focus your efforts. Sites like ratemyprofessors.com also give a good indication of which professors students admire and which ones you might wish to avoid when it comes to recruiting. When you reach out to these folks, let them know that your new hires recommended them as people of influence.

Bring out the big guns. Understandably, professors are often inundated by companies that want to recruit their best and brightest, and as a result, some of them choose to steer clear of recruiters altogether. To get the school’s attention, some companies have found success by working with department heads to arrange special breakfast or lunch meetings for faculty senior company executives. Involve only those individuals from your company who can speak to the history, mission, culture, and diverse career opportunities within your organization. Too often, junior recruiters or those less tenured with a company are unable to answer the types of questions posed by faculty, and you want the school to see that you take the relationship seriously enough to involve senior management in recruiting efforts.

Have fun. Not missing a beat, high-tech companies are taking their plight directly to the students, generating buzz by running puzzle, engineering, and programming competitions complete with cool prizes and bragging rights for the winners. But even smaller companies can use this type of tactic if they partner with the right student groups and have a strong marketing message. Companies have an easier time recruiting if their brand exudes an air of energy and fun.

Stay in touch. Once you’ve moved through the hiring process and you have a group of candidates set to start with your company upon graduation (in four to six months), how do you make sure these career explorers stop looking and actually come to work for you. Some companies create an immediate sense of community with their future starts by inviting them to sales rallies, networking events, and conferences or trade shows. For smaller organizations, this can be as simple as personal phone calls or hand-written notes from hiring managers or senior executives to your new hires. These efforts are scalable based on time investment involved, costs, and size of candidate pool.

Employ technology. Most recruiters would admit that we could do a better job of keeping in touch with clients and candidates. Unfortunately, technology still has a long way to go toward making this easier. While the unwieldy process of managing relationships with large groups of candidates has not been perfected yet, some clever ad agencies are certainly helping companies to stay more connected to their candidate pools through formalized marketing campaigns. Many large companies send small gifts, graduation presents, or company giveaways to reinforce a sense of company pride in candidates and their families. One major ad agency created a fun campaign for a large auto manufacturer where e-cards were sent to candidates at regular intervals prior to their start date to keep them warm and get them excited about their upcoming start dates. Another option is to build a password-only microsite for future starts to login and get the latest company information, news on events, and information about contests or profiles of successful hires.

The most successful companies recruiting on campus are evaluating and addressing every phase in the recruiting process, from initial contact to onboarding, making it clear that competition continues to be fierce in hiring the best college graduates.

The companies that come out on top will be those that continue to evolve and adapt their hiring methods utilizing relationship-based best practices.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Duncan Macintyre

    Dear La Donna
    Many thanks for such a comprehensive article. I have been working in the UK & European campus careers marketing arena for the last nine years as a GTI publisher and latterly for GTI Online Solutions. What you say has a lot of resonance in our market here “across the pond”. Developing relationships in some EU countries can be difficult because of the inconsistency of Careers Service coverage however in the UK and Ireland the Careers Services are an excellent starting point for your campus relationship building.

    Where employers sometimes fall down in the relationship with campus students is once they become applicants. Many wait a long time for any news of their application’s progress, having a poor application and post application experience. It is all too easy to damage your recruiting brand at the final hurdle.
    Under Technology recruiters should also ask the question:

    “Are we using a genuine graduate application system?”

    Do you have a candidate interface with interview bookers and the ability for recruiters to process volume whilst still keeping the contact with students and graduates personal?

    I am from a supplier so of course I am biased but I felt it worth while contributing to this useful article by adding that in the campus space you have to review all your processes to ensure a positive candidate experience to win “the war for talent”.

    Duncan