The 8 (Data-driven) Secrets of Great University Recruiting in the U.S.

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Sep 3, 2019

Recruiters will tell you that theirs is a tough job: lots of plates to spin, low resources, timeline crunches, and a lack of appreciation for a job well done. And they are mostly right. 

But there is one job that faces the same challenges as a recruiter, but with fewer resources, more travel, and the flightiest clientele in the game: University and campus recruiters. 

In a way, university recruiters are the recruiter’s recruiter: doing more with less while traveling from school to school and meeting an unending stream of 21-year-olds who have functionally the same skills, experiences, and abilities. The fact that your company is able to recruit anyone of talent from a university is almost a magic trick.

So as a way of tipping our hat to these elite recruiters, I dipped into Universum’s massive stockpile of student data covering 53,000 students at more than 200 universities to come up with eight secrets of great university recruiters. (For this article, I only pulled data from our U.S. student survey, but you can see the results.)

Make the Campus Event Count

We know this generation were raised on social media, but they still expect (and use) the connections they make at campus events. Seventy-seven percent of students use campus events to learn about hiring opportunities, making it the No. 1 channel for reaching students. Fourth on the list of most effective means of reaching students is employer presentations to classrooms. 

Yes, there are plenty of opportunities to deliver virtual career events, but as of this moment, students aren’t looking to engage that way. That’s not to say that they can’t be successful, just that you’ll need to work harder to attract students to them. Remember, the like “if you build it, they will come” was a line from a movie, not a strategic model.

A Message That Matters (to Them) 

How long have we been told that Generation Z is the generation that is motivated by an opportunity to make a difference and an impact? But it’s not true. This generation is no more or less driven by the desire to make an impact than any previous generation at this age. And when you get past the anecdotal stuff, it turns out that this generation is motivated by other factors primarily, depending on the field of study.

Humanities students still list purpose as their N0. 1 driver, and business students are motivated by the ability to generate future earnings and leadership who supports the employee’s development. And on the technical and STEM side, the primary driver is likely to be motivation. 

Keep It Real

Find the overlap between who you are and what motivates students. For example, if you’re talking to computer science students, talking about the kinds of innovation you offer will attract more students. But if your business focus is changing the world, those students will see through your pitch in a hurry. Instead, if you focus your message on your true business brand, you’ll see fewer students at your table, but they will be the kind you are more likely interested in hiring.

Get Social (LI, IG and yes, even FB)

I know a lot of recruiters who look at social media as a fad. Not because they couldn’t figure out how to log in, but because they have seen lots of companies treat social media as a silver bullet, here to fix every recruiting problem like it was fairy pixie dust or something. Those projects result in little, so I can see why some recruiters think of it as an empty idea.

Social media’s bad rap comes from how it was sold. Remember “You need to recruit on Facebook because everyone is on Facebook?” But Facebook isn’t a great recruiting channel. Rather it, like its brethren Instagram and LinkedIn, is a validation channel. Students use social media to get a “peak behind the curtains” at a company (even they know what they see is staged). In fact, while only 1 percent said a lack of social content would cause them to not want to work at a given company, 60 percent look to those channels to learn about the culture inside the walls.

The Forgotten Social Networks

While everyone focused on the big three, don’t forget the other networks. Content networks like Glassdoor, reddit, and even Quora are used by a meaningful segment of students to learn more about you as an employer. Search those networks today and see what’s being said about your company. And don’t be shy to post content that supports your employer brand.

Get Your Career Site Right

For typical recruiting, the data shows that the job posting is the most common doorway into the employer brand, but for students, that’s not so. Sixty-five percent of students surveyed said that they went to a company’s career site to learn more about the employer brand, making it the No.2 most-used content channel for inbound conversations. 

Your career site is your chance to validate a student’s interest in your brand, regardless of where that interest started. That means that having alignment and clarity across all your channels (recruiting, social, event, and web) is crucial. If a student is told by a recruiter that you are a company focused on developing students, but the career site focuses primarily on customer focus or market success, they are going to feel like they were sold something that wasn’t real, and you’ll never hear from them again.

School Targeting Strategy

According to the Washington Post, there are more than 5,000 universities and colleges in the U.S. So if students are looking for face-to-face interactions at career fairs and classroom presentations, does that mean you need to hire an army of part-time recruiters to cover them all? Of course not. But how do you choose?

There are two directions to take. First, you could focus on schools who already know and like you, either because of proximity, alumni bonds, or because you’ve made a long-term investment in that school. Alternatively, you could look for schools with the most students who have a lot of the same attributes you’re looking to hire. For example, if you want to hire entrepreneurially minded students, you might skip smaller liberal arts colleges. 

Having the right data on schools helps, and once you’ve chosen a strategy, ensure that your content and messaging is aligned to it. The presentation you make to people who know your brand well because they have friends who work for you is very different from the ones you put forth to people hearing about you for the first time.

In the End, It’s the Relationship That Counts

The hiring cycle for students is long, and fraught with any number of obstacles. Poaching isn’t just a fact of life, but it’s to be expected. So successful university recruiters focus less on putting the butt in the seat and more on building relationships.

Granted, it’s a lot to ask to build relationships with students in multiple schools taking various jobs at different times, so invest in tools that support that relationship cultivation. Send regular messages over social media, text, and email to keep the lines of communication open. Students will be less worries about breaking your heart and ghosting if they haven’t heard from you in a month.

Data about your targets can be the difference between a successful campus recruiting season and a less-successful one. Your goal is to truly understand the students you want to talk to, what motivates them, and what will make them see you and an interesting and attractive employer who stands out from the others.
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