Here is a helpful introduction and guide to campus recruiting strategy

Does your company have a campus recruiting strategy? If so, is it effective in getting you the results you want? This guide will lay out the basics of campus recruiting, common mistakes to avoid, and strategies to effectively attract talent to your company from college campuses.

What is Campus Recruiting?

Campus recruiting is a specialization in talent acquisition that involves identifying, attracting, and hiring college students and recent graduates for internships and entry-level jobs. Companies often partner with college career centers, participate in career fairs, and host information sessions to reach out to prospective candidates.

Recruiting efforts are not only expended on campuses. Nowadays, campus recruitment extends online as our society immerses itself in the digital world. Online recruiting provides a way to connect with members of Gen Z, young digital natives who are now entering the workforce.

Not only is campus recruiting a method to fill entry-level positions, but it is also a way for companies to search and hire college graduates for long-term benefits. In essence, campus recruiting is an investment in potential and talent that could be used to foster company growth.

Benefits of Campus Recruiting

The biggest benefit of campus recruiting is in acquiring talent that can learn, grow and develop as a professional with your organization. Even before joining the workforce, college graduates often have a foundation of technical and core skills that businesses rely on. Additional benefits include:

  • Expose your brand to a young adult demographic
  • Attract diverse talent
  • Hire employees that can grow into leadership roles
  • Higher quality of talent
  • Outperform competition with a highly motivated team
  • Succession planning through leadership development
  • Cost savings hiring for potential over credentials
  • Higher employee retention as a result of training and development

What types of companies should have a campus recruiting strategy?

Some industries are more involved in campus recruiting than others, such as finance, technology, and business consulting sectors. Large corporations, like Bank of America, Microsoft, and Deloitte, have the advantage of resources and budgets to develop extensive early-career recruitment programs. However, small and medium businesses can also benefit from having a campus recruiting strategy.

Janet Smith, President of Ivy Planning Group, tells Monster about the advantages small and medium-sized businesses hold in campus recruiting. “Fewer layers to access senior executives, an opportunity to take on more responsibility sooner, and perhaps some cynicism about ‘big business’ often represents the right combination for top talent graduates.”

In other words, college students may prefer working for smaller companies precisely because of their size. While large companies have brand awareness, smaller companies offer the incentive for students to take on responsibilities and projects faster.

Overall, developing a campus recruiting strategy will benefit all types of companies.

Why should a company have a campus recruiting strategy?

Diverse Talent

With a campus recruiting strategy, companies can diversify their hiring pool with candidates from a wide array of backgrounds, taking advantage of the representation available on college campuses.

Currently, members of Gen Z (those born after 1996) enter the workforce as one of the most educated and diverse generations in history. Not only are they racially and ethnically diverse, but Gen Z is composed of digital natives with a childhood surrounded by technological advancements, such as the internet, social media, and smartphones.

According to a study done by the Pew Research Center, 22% of Gen Z come from immigrant backgrounds, which is an increase compared to the previous generation at 14%. With more children from immigrant backgrounds attending college as first-generation college students, a company's campus recruiting strategy is one crucial initiative to attract talent that is underrepresented in the workforce.

Companies should also keep in mind non-traditional students, including older adults who returned to school to get a degree, as part of their recruiting program. While many career development programs target traditional students, ERE describes how companies benefit from seeking non-traditional students, who often have professional and life experiences beyond the classroom setting.

According to Inside Higher Ed, although 28% of non-traditional students said they were less likely to pursue higher education (in contrast to the 36% of traditional students), 65% said that, as a result of the pandemic, a degree is extremely valuable. Overall, non-traditional students are more goal-oriented and bring new points of view to the workplace.

While building a more diverse workforce with campus recruitment comes with many challenges, such as tailoring your strategy around age and experience diversity, it is time and effort well-spent as it adds value to your company.

To Combat Talent Shortage

According to a 2019 survey by Gartner, global talent shortage is a rising concern for many organizations. One solution to talent shortage is to engage and hire candidates from diverse backgrounds to inject new ideas and creativity into a company. What is a better place to find potential than college campuses? While college students and graduates may not have a lot of experience, their potential can be cultivated through experiential learning.

NACE defines how college graduates are well-suited to learn new skills by eight key characteristics of career readiness:

  • critical thinking and problem solving
  • oral and written communications
  • teamwork and collaboration
  • digital technology
  • leadership
  • professionalism and work ethic
  • career management
  • global and intercultural fluency

With their career readiness competency, college graduates are prepared to learn new skills on the job. Rather than looking for candidates with the exact skills needed for the job, companies with a campus recruiting program should be willing to invest in people who are ready to learn.

Improve Retention Rate

Furthermore, campus recruitment creates a talent pipeline that can assist company growth. By offering internships and entry-level jobs, companies also improve their employee retention rates. TD Business Banking is one successful example that boasts a retention rate of 98.6% for their hires made between 2009 and 2013 from effective campus recruiting strategies.

Having a high retention rate matters when 55.3% of recent graduates leave their first jobs within a year. While job turnover is a normal phenomenon for young professionals, companies could boost their retention and save money through successful campus recruiting initiatives that provide opportunities for college students to explore careers, learn new skills, and utilize their education.

Brand Awareness

You should have a campus recruiting strategy because it is a long, continuous effort that yields employer brand awareness. By maintaining a consistent campus presence, companies attract a larger hiring pool, which means more potential talent that could aid company growth.

An increase in brand awareness leads to familiarity and interest in your company's work culture. A 2015 report from Bersin by Deloitte illustrates the opportunity that campus recruitment offers and the importance of working closely with college campuses.

Robin Erikson, former vice president of talent acquisition research for Bersin by Deloitte cautions, "But companies also need to understand that a successful campus recruiting program will require a different approach to talent acquisition. Besides the obvious differences in logistics, an effective campus recruiting program also requires a strong relationship with the colleges and universities involved."

Fostering Leadership

One major benefit of campus recruiting is the ability to cultivate employees' leadership skills and foster professional growth. It is an early investment that companies can do by hiring for potential over credentials.

As young professionals grow with your company, it becomes a low-cost talent strategy to promote internally rather than hire externally. Companies can save on time, money, and other resources due to less training needed and less effort spent on the recruiting process.

Employer branding specialist Universum shares an analysis on college graduates and what they want most in their job search to Business Insider. From 2010 to 2019, four job attributes increased, including "professional training and development" and "clear path to advancement." Just as graduates desire to find companies they can grow with, campus recruiting programs are an affirmation that companies are there to help support their professional development. 

More-Info_iconCheck out our webinar archive for more data from Universum and Parker Dewey on what college graduates want: Reinventing University Recruiting

It is a win-win situation as it strengthens employee loyalty to the company.

What are common campus recruiting mistakes?

Not Having a Campus Recruiting Strategy

While this is an obvious mistake, medium to small-sized companies might consider the cost of campus recruitment as a deterrent, especially with large companies as competitors. However, do not count yourself out. Having a campus recruiting strategy is the first step to reaching out to college graduates.

NACE lists identifying early talent, branding on college campuses, and focusing on diversity as the top three most important factors that employers consider in campus recruiting. By excluding campus recruitment from your talent acquisition strategies, you potentially lose out on those benefits, which could cost your company more in the long run.

If you do not have a campus recruiting strategy, the solution is to identify target schools that you want to reach out to and build a relationship with their career center, staff, and faculty. Even without a travel budget or dedicated early-career talent professional, you can utilize Parker Dewey to connect with college students and recent graduates nationwide.

Excluding Potential Candidates for Their Lack of Experience

When you search for potential talent to work for your company, you want the best fit from the cream of the crop, right? But what if the best talent is rejected due to stringent requirements like a resumé full of experience or high GPA requirements? Cookie-cutter applications tell little about the applicants and exclude those from low-income and underrepresented backgrounds.

Fabian Reynoso-Ramirez discusses how diversity initiatives fail minority candidates on ERE. “I was always working in restaurants and couldn’t afford to dedicate more time to look for a job or to work as an unpaid intern and gain some experience...I was overlooked by so many recruiters because my set of experiences, education path, and lack of a traditional internship held more weight than my degree and work ethic," Fabian says.

Instead of looking for applicants who would perfectly fit the requirements, try giving hands-on opportunities, such as Micro-Internships, or short-term projects, to observe their abilities and career readiness competencies, which may lead you to the candidate you want to hire.

Not Going Digital

With the rise of social media, a company's digital presence becomes more and more important. Social media platforms have become channels in which companies build their brand. Not only do companies have to reach out to college graduates on campus, but also through digital means.

Not going digital is one of the biggest mistakes a company can make, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic as students adapted to remote learning. As companies shift to attending virtual career fairs, which has seen a sharp climb in fall 2020, it would help interested graduates learn more about companies if they have a digital presence, such as a website or social media account that help potential candidates understand what it is like to work there, and to gauge their work culture and branding.

As we look towards a post-COVID future, campus recruiting strategies must include digital recruitment.

What are some basic campus recruiting strategies?

  • Identify your target schools that would best fit your company needs: There are three methods that you can use: a) polling your employees on their alma mater since they can advocate for your company as an alum; b) reaching out to local colleges near your office; c) identifying target schools based on finding talent that will complement or boost your team's existing skillset.
  • Understand your audience and their needs: Who could be your potential candidate? Consider the racial, cultural, and age demographics of your target schools. Your search for diverse talent on college campuses must be tailored accordingly, especially for those who come from underrepresented or non-traditional backgrounds.
  • Reach out and partner with the colleges' career centers, as well as staff and faculty: When you are ready, reach out to the career center and share what your company has to offer. In return, the career center can help extend your contact to relevant campus programs and departments, including staff and faculty members. Together, these people can share information, such as details about specific programs and student demographics, and help you match with students who are interested in your company.
  • Attend career fairs, especially virtual ones during COVID-19: Career fairs are one of the most convenient ways for companies to meet and interact with students. During the pandemic, virtual career fairs offer a safe alternative for companies to continue their recruiting process.
  • Attract and engage your audience through digital methods, such as social media and virtual information sessions: As companies make a digital shift in light of the pandemic, it is important for you to shift your campus recruiting strategy into the digital space, too, in order to maintain connections and create new ones with your potential candidates.

As the largest network of highly motivated college students and recent graduates who are excited to complete short-term, professional assignments, we know campus recruiting!

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