College Recruiting 2010, Part 2

In Part 1 of this article series, I discussed how Generation Y (or the “Millenniums”) views the world differently than do Generation Xers or the Baby Boomers. In particular, they are more comfortable with technology and with using it to build and carry on relationships and communicate.

Technology Pervades Their Lives

Professors use the Internet to conduct classes, carry on discussions, collect homework, and assign research. Tools such as Friendster and LinkedIn offer ways to find friends, get dates, and meet like-minded people. Websites such as MySpace offer this generation a place to express their creativity and build friendships. Virtually 100 percent of this generation has a cell phone, and a majority has an iPod or other MP3 player. They are the most technically capable and technically empowered generation to have ever lived. Their primary source of entertainment and information comes from the Internet.

How They Want To Be Recruited

I know that recent surveys by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, as well as other institutions, have indicated that current college students want face-to-face recruiting and to meet recruiters and hiring managers on campus. The implication is that they do not want to be recruited by technology. My belief is that the students who answered the survey may have been giving the answers they think recruiters want. Many of my own students have told me that they know recruiters are not comfortable using technology, and many believe they will lower their chances of finding a job if they don’t go to information sessions and sign up for interviews at the career placement center.

On the other hand, many students also are hungry for the depth of information and the interaction that a well-designed website can offer. Retailology, the Federated Department Store recruiting website, is an example. It attracts thousands of interested students and is a major source of candidates. Likewise, the websites at Deloitte and Enterprise are powerful tools for recruiting college students and recent graduates. In fact, every company that I have talked to that has a good recruiting website says that it attracts excellent students in significant numbers. The problem is that most of us are more comfortable doing what we’ve always done and we delude ourselves that this is also what the students want. Students are coached by well-meaning but out-of-date parents, and obviously will embrace whatever they see is going to get them a job. One of the students I spoke with said, “If they want me to come to an interview, I’ll go. I just want a job. But if they offered me an opportunity to interview virtually, I would do it. My biggest fear is that if I don’t actually get to talk face to face, I may not really be considered.”

Develop 4G Websites

Most recruiting websites, whether aimed at college students or others, are simple and one-dimensional. They present information and, in the best cases, provide some broad information about careers, work experiences, and corporate culture. They may also collect information about candidates so that a recruiter can follow up. Among the best of these are those of Deloitte and Federated, as well as Boston Consulting Group. These sites provide a wealth of information, but they don’t actively attract college students. They rely on a student coming to them. They also do not offer interactivity that helps engage and lead a candidate through the process, and they do not provide any incentive to stay or return to the site. The emerging fourth-generation websites do all of this. These sites are built more like an onion, with layers of information, rather than like an organizational chart with boxes and branches. There is an excellent white paper called “4G Web Strategy” available for free. This paper describes the concept of a fourth-generation website for a marketing firm. I believe it can be entirely adapted to recruiting. By adding interactive processes, inviting candidates to give you permission to market to them, and when they meet basic qualifications inviting them into an “inner circle” or “tribe” of select candidates, you create an affiliation with your organization that can be expanded and grown over time. By getting a student into this inner circle early in her college career, you have the opportunity to use technology to inform and recruit her over several semesters. After that experience, it should be much easier to recruit them to a regular position.

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Focus on Opportunities, not Careers

This is a generation that responds to variety and multitasking. These are young people who routinely (for good or bad) watch television, talk on their cell phones, do their homework, and chat with friends at the same time. One of the skills they have acquired over the years is the ability to process more than one channel at a time. They have also been occupied all the time with sports, school, hobbies, and other events. They expect to be stimulated and kept busy all the time. The biggest fear many of them have is that they will be bored. When it comes to the workplace, they expect to be just as busy. A Starbucks barista is a good example. In one day they may work the cash register, make special drinks, arrange products in the shelves, help sell a customer a coffee maker, entertain customers, invite people to apply for jobs, and even do on-the-spot job interviews. Gen Y is attracted by this kind of diverse work experience. Even if the positions you have are more traditional, these young people respond to the possibility of transfers internally or the ability to acquire new skills through internal or external training programs. These is much less focus on having a career — meaning a linear progression up the ranks — and instead a focus on developing a breadth of experience and a basket of skills.

Make Recruiting a Process, not an Event

Almost always, organizations approach recruiting as a one-time or “few-time” event. Recruiters advertise that they are coming to a particular campus, arrive, and hold a few info sessions (often dragging alumni along), set up short campus interviews, and then invite a handful for more extensive assessment. This has been the way it’s done for the past 50 years. The newer and more successful approach will be to establish an online relationship early in the student’s studies. This might be done by offering professors opportunities to assign students to virtual projects or to gather information from a website you have prepared. Once they come to your website, you can ask for permission to send them information and, over several months, establish a relationship. The ideas discussed above for a 4G website are embodied in this process-approach to recruiting. The info sessions become online, interactive learning modules that can be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can add blogs and chat rooms and create a place where students want to return often. The campus interviews can still happen, but they’ll be scheduled in advance by the students and can be preceded by a dinner or other more meaningful event, rather than an info session with free cheese. Tomorrow’s college recruiting is here today for those with the foresight and courage to be pioneers. Sure, it may take a while to convince students that you are serious and that this will really result in a job offer. But once you have convinced and hired a few, the doors will be open and you will beat anyone who is wasting time and energy on the old approaches.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

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