Today's college students are the future of your business, but finding the right new talent on a college campus isn't always easy. We asked two career services professionals what they see companies doing wrong — and right — when recruiting at colleges and universities. John Nykolaiszyn, director for business career management at the Florida International University College of Business, and MaryEllen Olson, director office of career and professional development at St. Norbert College, provided some helpful campus recruiting techniques to help you attract the new talent your business needs.
Evaluate your organization's current college recruiting strategy
Before you tweak your college recruiting strategy, consider the tactics your organization currently uses to recruit university students. Determine ways to evaluate your strategy's effectiveness and the return on your actions. Here are some questions to help you analyze what's working in your recruiting process and where there's room for improvement:
- What steps does your company currently take to recruit college students?
- How many students attend your recruitment events?
- Are your recruitment materials current and engaging?
- What is the application rate for your recruitment visits?
- Which recruitment strategies have worked best for your organization?
- Does your company offer summer jobs or internships for college students?
Consider the importance of timing
The time frame for finding top student talent may not align with your company 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!"
"Students today are not just looking for a job — they are looking for an employment situation that aligns with their personal values."
Visit the campus multiple times a year
In addition to starting early, your company will benefit from making a second campus visit during the school year. According to Nykolaiszyn, "The most common mistake is making only 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."
Create an email list or online group during the first campus visit and keep in touch with interested students throughout the school year. Before the spring visit, follow up personally with highly engaged students to build their interest in applying to your organization after graduation.
Fine-tune your office culture
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."
Your company might offer a mentor program to guide students through job applications and interviews. Allow current employees to volunteer as student mentors, who can reconnect interested students to the organization. Mentoring can also strengthen the company culture by sharing corporate values with potential candidates throughout the hiring and onboarding processes.
Make job descriptions crystal clear
"Having clear job descriptions and hiring to that description is critical," says Olson. Even though you are recruiting students, you should still write engaging descriptions. Recruiting students should be similar to bringing on full-time employees, even if they are coming in as interns.
Nykolaiszyn explains, "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 Snapchat works, it shows that you're not fully invested in the process."
Acknowledge that it's not all about the job
It's no secret that students are looking for companies that allow them to make a significant 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."
Use your secret weapon: The career services office
Navigating academic bureaucracy may be difficult at times, but the career services office can be your best guide to landing top-tier talent. It serves the student population through school-to-work transition preparation and acts as a conduit through which companies can identify the talent they hope to hire. 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." Also seek ways to use AI to simplify and automate the recruiting process.
After analyzing your current campus recruitment process, use these tactics to build a robust talent pipeline to ensure your organization has a solid supply of skilled candidates.
Learn more about the best college recruiting techniques:
Check out this comprehensive guide to building a superior campus recruiting strategy.
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