College Recruiting: It’s Time To Revamp Your Program and Strategy

With the War for Talent II looming just around the corner, it’s safe to assume that the college recruiting battleground is going to be one of the bloodiest. As leading firms gear up to compete for the few candidates graduating each year who have the potential to rapidly grow into the entry and mid-level management roles left vacant by the baby boom retirement vacuum, originality, planning, and execution will set the winners and losers miles apart. I am sure that most of you buy into the notion that college recruiting is going to be a battleground, so I am not going to elaborate on establishing that fact. But you may be asking yourself, why is August the time to revisit college recruiting? For the answer to that question, we once again turn to the sales function. Leading sales professionals have for years relied on a staple of tools and strategies that have been proven to help them acquire loyal customers, much like your need to acquire loyal college recruits. At the core of those strategies are four foundational rules which set the leaders apart from the pack. These rules include:

  • Start long before the rest of the pack, when your target customer base least expects you to approach them.
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  • Be persistent and consistent about building a relationship with the target, without being pushy.
  • Don’t attempt to build your own channel to the target, but rather rely on trusted channels that already exist.
  • Offer value to the target with every contact. Right now is the time college students and faculty (a trusted channel), least expect to be courted by corporate recruiters. Faculty preparing for the fall term are realizing what resources they don’t have, and looking for ways to get what they need. Meanwhile students are meeting with advisors, and more importantly looking for internships and special project opportunities. As a corporate recruiter, now is the time to become a trusted resource, a friend, a mentor, and a provider of value. Outlined below are what I consider to be the top 20 characteristics of a world-class college recruiting program. If you do nothing else this fall with regards to your program, make sure your program exhibits at least half of these. The Top 20 Characteristics of a World-Class College Recruiting Program A world-class college recruiting program:
  1. Does not rely solely on the candidates coming to your firm. It uses a variety of sourcing tools to pre-identify target students.
  2. Identifies what triggers a particular student to say yes to an offer.
  3. Utilizes friends, family, and acquaintances to assist in getting college recruits to say yes.
  4. Hires on-campus representatives (students in HR or the key major) to help you gather information and interest students in available opportunities.
  5. Involves key faculty in the identification and screening process.
  6. Involves key student groups, their officers, and opinion leaders in the identification and screening process.
  7. Has programs to assess faculty referrals in order to allow you to focus your resources on the faculty that refer successful hires.
  8. Offers programs to build faculty relationships including faculty discounts, allowing faculty to sit in on company training, funding teaching assistants for the best professors, giving faculty feedback on the curriculum and what students need more of and less of, guaranteeing interviews to a faculty member’s top students, getting junior faculty mentors at your company, and donating money to sponsor academic meetings.
  9. Offers junior faculty access to company data (and the opportunity to co-author articles) to assist them in meeting research quotas.
  10. Offers to pay for a plant trip or equipment, or gives them a summer faculty internship or a research project. The visits and projects will give them stories to tell in class. Offer money and trips to student groups as well in order to get them to talk about your firm and to refer the best to you.
  11. Offers company employees as visiting evaluators for class projects as well as for lectures and out of class activities.
  12. Provides an online chat room or list server to allow recent hires at your company to build a rapport with current college students.
  13. Minimizes the use of career centers and career fairs unless data shows that they are effective.
  14. Uses multiple sourcing tools (paper, people, and electronic) to ensure all superstars are identified.
  15. Utilizes technology (including the web, teleconferencing, multimedia, on-line simulations and games, telephone interviews, and virtual reality) to attract and excite high quality applicants.
  16. Offers an exciting but realistic job preview. This preview tells applicants what they really want to know about: their future team, projects, and job, as well the corporate culture and mission.
  17. Utilizes subtle recruiting tools like sponsoring professional seminars, web pages, scholarship contests, speaking at seminars and classes, which are designed to identify those who are afraid to be seen in the active job market.
  18. Continually recruits and develops applicant pools and identifies soon-to-be-qualified (not quite yet graduated) applicants to allow you to do emergency instant hires.
  19. Continually communicates with applicants so they maintain their interest and are less likely to actively pursue other opportunities. Possibilities include monthly e-newsletters, discounts on products, periodic emails, and calls).
  20. Shares real company problems and opportunities with students through the Internet. It also offers exciting simulations and projects to allow students to test their real-world skills.

Conclusion Waiting until all of your competitors are on campus and recruiting is like asking that your opportunities be buried in the sand box. To be successful at college recruiting you need to understand what students want and need, and develop a relationship as a trusted resource capable of providing that. In short, you need to follow the rules that guide professional sales and establish yourself as more than just a campus representative handing out brochures and paying for the pizza and beer. Get started now, retool the list of target colleges and universities, find out how the faculty has changed, look for opportunities to insinuate yourself into their programs, and snag all of the best talent once you’re there.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ere.net. He lives in Pacifica, California.

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