The 7 Biggest Mistakes College Recruiters Make

January 11, 2016 Matthew Stollak

The long-expected retirement of baby boomers means tremendous opportunities for graduating college students looking for work, as well as companies looking to find top talent. So, where can companies go wrong when recruiting college students or recent grads?

Here are seven missteps college recruiters often make both on and off campus:

Misunderstanding the college recruiting lifecycle.

If you are just beginning to rev up your recruiting efforts, I have some bad news: It is probably too late. The top tier of college seniors were wooed and selected in the early fall (which means, sadly, they will not be as highly motivated in my spring semester classes).

Ignoring faculty when building, developing, and maintaining campus relationships.

It is understandable that the starting point for most college recruiting programs is the campus career center. They will be the point people for job posting, on-campus recruiting, and other typical hiring efforts. However, don’t ignore the many faculty who have developed advising relationships with students since they have arrived on campus. Through my active involvement with SHRM at the local and state level, it is not uncommon for companies to contact me directly regarding internship and job opportunities before they reach out to the career services office.

Asking for letters of recommendation from faculty.

I understand the desire to do one’s appropriate due diligence, and it may seem counterintuitive to the point above, but more faculty letters of recommendation are worthless. For larger colleges and universities, many classes are taught and graded by teacher’s assistants and not the professor of record. As a result, the professor may only know the best of the best, and will not have the ability to reflect on the quality of the student without accurately observing him or her.

Sending a novice young recruiter to the college job fair.

Makes sense. Organizations want to take advantage of the similar-to-me effect, hoping that college students will see that the company hires people just like them. More often than not, unless well-trained, the young recruiter may not know full details of the job, the culture of the organization, and be unable to answer detailed questions. Is that who you want on the front line as the face of your organization?

Treating seniors as a monolithic group.

Recruiters may easily grab on to the generational hype and take a broad brush approach in their efforts. However, it would be wise for them to keep in mind that 40 percent of undergraduates are 25 years or older. Also, many undergraduates may be married. Some are parents or are responsible for legal dependents. Others are already employed full time. Even at a more traditional liberal arts college where a significant number of the students are 18-22 years old, needs, wants and desires can be diverse across a classroom of 30 students.

Failing to do their research.

It is easy to rely on the “best schools for” rankings as a shortcut when selecting where to recruit. However, there may be a mismatch between the criteria used to create the rankings and your organizational needs. Furthermore, many companies do not conduct simple yield ratios to see if the same schools are providing the same quality results.

Lack of communication throughout the process.

Students are no different than any other applicant when it comes to candidate experience. They want appropriate feedback and details about where they currently stand in the hiring process.

What, then, can companies do to improve their efforts? Here are two ideas:

  1. Pair a young recruiter with a more experienced member of the organization at college job fairs. Not only does it provide a mentoring opportunity for the younger employee, but college students are also going to get a more well-rounded picture of the organization.
  2. Use CareerBuilder's College Recruiting Analytics for college and campus recruiting research. I had the opportunity at CareerBuilder’s Empower event to demo their software, and it looked like one of the rare occurrences where big data is done right. For example, the EMSI tool provided research on diversity changes in majors, both within a university and across the nation. Similarly, a problem for northeastern Wisconsin is brain drain – i.e., highly educated individuals leaving the state, or not returning, after completing their undergraduate work. Through the College Analyst program, I could identify how likely it was that students would leave a state for their education and then return to their home state.

College recruiting is only going to intensify over the next few years, and doing it correctly will become ever more critical. Avoiding these mistakes should be at the top of your college recruiting agenda.

Learn more about how tools like CareerBuilder's College Recruiting Analytics can help you avoid the classic pitfalls of college recruiting, and find — and hire — more of the college graduates you need.


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