The college career services office is an underrated resource in the recruiting field. Not only does it serve the student population all the way through school-to-work transition preparation, but it acts as a conduit through which companies can identify the talent they hope to hire. So, what do career services professionals see companies doing wrong (and right) when recruiting at colleges and universities? John P. Nykolaiszyn, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, interim director of career management services at the Florida International University College of Business, and Mary Ellen Olson, director of career and professional development at St. Norbert College, were kind enough to provide their insight and experience in answering this very question.
The 5 Things Companies Must Heed in College Recruiting:
1. The Number of Visits is Crucial.
According to Nykolaiszyn, “The most common mistake is only planning to make one visit, trying to find the best possible talent, and then never coming back to campus. A one-and-done visit. The secret to doing this right is to schedule two visits, one in the fall recruiting season and one in the spring season. Visiting more than once keeps the company name in the students’ minds and shows they care about them.”
2. Culture Matters More Than You Think.
According to Olson, “Companies talk about their culture when recruiting students and use this as a lead into the discussion about the job or internship they have available.” She adds, “Students today are not just looking for a job — they are looking for an employment situation that aligns with their personal values. Discussing culture goes beyond simply saying ‘it’s a nice place to work.'”
Instead, she suggests companies ask themselves, “What does this mean about behaviors and competencies required to be successful in the workplace? Students want to know.”
3. Job Descriptions are Essential.
Olson says “having clear job descriptions and expectations and hiring to the job description is critical.” Just because you are recruiting students doesn’t mean skimping on the effort. Rather, recruiting students should be similar to bringing on full-time employees. Nykolaiszyn says, “Write a good job description and put some marketing muscle behind it. When you write a two-sentence job description for a ‘social media internship’ because you’re convinced that only a young student can tell you how the Snapchats work, it shows that you’re not fully invested in the process.” Students can quickly identify when companies aren’t authentic, and will not pursue working for your organization.
4. Timing is Everything.
The time frame for students may not align with your company’s calendar. As Nykolaiszyn says, “Some colleges and universities have different fiscal and academic calendars. In some cases, recruiting the top undergraduate and graduate students in particular programs may officially start with the fall semester in September — a full eight months before summer starts. By the time the spring semester starts in January, the top students are all set, and firms are playing catch-up. Start early!”
5. It’s Not All About the Job.
Students are looking for a company that allows them to make a larger impact in the world. Olson makes two crucial points: “Many students are not interested in devoting their ‘whole life’ to their job.’ Also, students want companies that give back to the community and provide time off for employees to be involved in community efforts.”
Navigating the academic bureaucracy can be difficult, but the career services office can be your best guide to landing top tier talent. As Nykolaiszyn suggests, “You want to engage the dedicated career offices and have them help you navigate the landscape. Career offices can be the bridge to particular departments, student groups, and even individual students.”