College Recruiting Ideas: Q&A With GM’s Brittany Palubiski

Deanna Hartley


Nearly 3 in 4 U.S. employers (74 percent) say they plan to hire recent college graduates this year, up from 67 percent last year and the highest campus recruiting forecast since 2007, according to a recent CareerBuilder study. How are you going about recruiting the next generation of talent into your workforce?

We sat down with Brittany Palubiski — manager, global university relations at General Motors — to talk about campus recruiting best practices and on-campus recruiting tips to make you look tech savvy and attract rock star talent on college campuses across the country.

CB: What’s your strategy at General Motors to attract and recruit top talent on campus?

BP: It's critical for us to try and get the “cool kids” while often fighting the stereotype of being a dinosaur manufacturing organization. The truth is, we’re not — we have transformed into a technology and innovation company, and it’s more exciting than ever to join GM. We're literally changing the transportation industry as we know it, so how do we help the campus talent we need to help drive that change understand that this isn’t your father's GM? There's something innovative going on in this company that people need to know about and get excited about. How can we showcase that?

When I first started with the company in 2012, we went to a school out west to hold focus groups. We asked students, "When you think of General Motors, what comes to mind?" They said, “Trucks and Chrysler.” Yikes. Then we asked, “When we say Cadillac, what do you think of?” They said, “Quality, prestige.” We asked, “What do you know about the Chevrolet Volt?” They said, “Cool car, electric vehicle, environmentally conscious.” Many didn’t realize that those were GM cars and brands. So they associated our consumer brands with quality — how could we help drive our employer brand in the same way?

CB: It's interesting that you're looking at the big picture and trying to change the perception and look tech savvy and cool. But doing that must be a lot easier said than done.

BP: It’s true. Our first hurdle was overcoming the typical stereotypes, but we wanted to go beyond that.  How do we help campus talent understand the stamp they can make on the industry and company coming in at a time like this? There are ways to showcase this on campus that not every company can do.   

We make Corvettes, without question an insanely cool car — I can put a Corvette on a college campus, but that’s not enough. We need the right people and the right presence that helps people understand who GM really is.  

So we reset how we showed up on campus to help tell our story. We started with technology integration and showcasing our people. There are a lot of cool stories and amazing people here at GM — not just leaders, but new hires, too — that candidates should hear from, whether or not those people could physically be on campus. We held real employee photo shoots and captured their stories. Then we shared those stories on social media, and flat screens in our booths at campus events. We needed the stories out but also wanted to infuse technology into our presence. This was a way to hit both. We're leading our presence with imagery and videos of real stories versus “Here's my 800 PowerPoint slides that you can find on a website.”

Students care about: “What's in it for me? Can I put my fingerprint on something that’s meaningful? What's the cool stuff you're working on?” And we can make that real that by integrating real people and real stories.

We also integrated technology in how we interact with candidates. It’s so important to get in front of talent early and often. How are you tracking rock stars that might have internships already? How are you keeping track of a talent pool outside of an Excel spreadsheet or file folders? Are you talking to those people? Are you keeping the conversation warm? There’s a buyer’s market for college grads and we have to work very hard to get talent despite having a very good employee value proposition.

Technology allows us to capture candidate information [easily so] we can spend more value-add time talking with candidates, rather than fumbling around with a stack of paper and clipboards. And the backend allows us consolidated access to candidates we met last year — the perfect place to start when going into the new season.

CB: You made a good point about how you can’t identify and track these rock stars on campus using just a clipboard and spreadsheet. Step one is identifying them and step two is keeping them “warm leads” over time until they’re ready to join the company. How do you go about doing that at GM — and what role does technology play?

BP: Any company will tell you it makes more sense to hire an intern as they’re ending their college career because they’re more likely to be aligned with you. But there are times when you meet a freshman and you’re like, “Wow, we need to look out for her because she’s a rock star” and how do you track that? In the past it’s been hanging on to her resume, giving her your business card and saying, “Reach out to me whenever you want; let’s stay connected,” but that’s only as good as the person who’s doing it.

For us, not all the people who are going to campus are professional recruiters — there are a lot of volunteers with full-time jobs — so the tool we use has a backend CRM which gives us the ability to tag and flag things, making it easier when it’s time to put their “recruiter hat” back on for the season. 

CB: So technology and data is helping to drive the decisions you make.

BP: Absolutely. In fact, data has also been a huge help in driving where we find our talent as our needs as profiles shift. Think autonomous and cybersecurity, for example. There isn’t a line of this talent standing around waiting to be recruited. We have leveraged demographic data sources to identify where this talent is to help drive our sourcing plans.

In addition, we have a core group of schools and organizations that we partner to source most of our hiring needs. These schools are reviewed every year to ensure it remains aligned with our needs, and so we can continue to partner with the right professors, students and universities. When we go on campus every semester, we have a team; we have roles and responsibilities for that team; we have executives that are engaged with that team; and we have an investment strategy for that team, so we have constant relationship building. We do our best to be top of mind at those schools.

But that’s only part of it. It takes a lot to have a strong employer brand on campus, so making sure we’re at the right universities ensures that investment is a solid one.

Our new tool that collects candidate information allows our campus teams to go back into a database and identify top talent we met with last semester in advance of the following on-campus recruiting season. We send personal emails to touch base, invites to meet for coffee, send a spring break or finals cram kit or a note just to give an advanced heads up on our upcoming campus visits. We also send batch emails to targeted students to say, “Hey, we’re coming to your campus; we’d love to meet with you; we want to give you first pick at our interview schedule.” They’ll start reaching out in April/May/June to schedule interviews on campus in September. We can track how engaged students have been with us to help measure their level of interest in GM, as well as our interest in them. I think this ultimately helps us make more informed decisions on who we hire since we have so many additional touch points. 

With so many employers competing for this in-demand segment of the workforce, what are you doing to stand out? Download CareerBuilder’s new guide “Hire Education: Create a Best-In-Class Campus Recruiting Strategy” to learn how you can build an A+ campus recruiting strategy.

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