While it may seem like most high schoolers are only interested in being social media stars, college enrollment rates are up, and there are more bright minds graduating than ever before. But many employers struggle to find the right people to fill job vacancies, and many students graduate from college and find that they have no job waiting for them. Plus, some jobs are in such high demand that there simply aren’t enough graduates to fill them.
The right recruiting strategy helps bridge the gap between graduates and empty positions. Recruiters should be attracting the best of the best and that requires a targeted approach to recruiting that’s more than just setting up a table at a campus job fair and giving away doughnuts (though, let’s be honest, free doughnuts never hurt).
What is college recruiting?
Before we dive into how to recruit college students, we need to discuss what campus recruiting is and why you should invest in a campus recruiting program.
Campus recruiting is the act of attracting and hiring students directly from college. Essentially, they’d graduate and begin working for your company. Highly technical jobs are the most difficult to fill, so if you snag a talented college student directly after graduation, you’ll be able to benefit from their talent without having to pay the higher wages of more experienced workers. These new young workers often have fresh insights, and they can prove vital to organizations wanting to stay on the cutting edge.
For instance, there aren’t enough software engineers to go around. There are so many companies competing for talent that it can be difficult to fill open positions. This is when campus recruiting is invaluable. It allows you to develop relationships with graduating software engineers and to then recruit them before they even have to deal with the job market. Using this strategy, you’ll have a greater chance of not losing out to the competition and keeping valuable roles filled with bright young minds.
By developing a campus recruiting program, you can tap into the “source” of talent and decrease the amount spent on other types of recruiting. You’ll also have a chance to foster loyalty and that can significantly reduce turnover over the years.
Strategies and tips for improving college campus recruiting
Think of the types of fairs you’ve been to. If you’ve ever gone to a farmer’s market, you’ve no doubt seen your share of booths hoping to attract visitors with free keychains and candy. When you’re hoping to attract college students, keychains and candy won’t cut it. Swag may be part of your recruiting strategy, but you’ll need to up your game. Here are some valuable student recruitment ideas:
1. Go digital
If you visit a campus, you’ll see how plugged in students are. Everything is done electronically. So if you’re hoping to meet them where they are, you’ll need to become more high tech. At the very least, build out a landing page on your website that’s exclusively for campus recruiting. Use this page to spotlight how great it is to work with your company. You can even add testimonial videos of current employees.
2. Start with move-in day
If you’re new to campus recruiting, you may think it’s something that happens once during senior year. Guess again. Established companies are realizing that recruiting starts the moment top talent sets foot on campus.
Companies like General Electric are showing up on move-in day volunteering to haul boxes into dorms. This strategy shows students that there are real, amiable faces behind the company logos. It also allows employees to develop relationships and loyalty with students. Students are much more likely to accept a job offer from a company that they’ve become familiar with than from a company that still feels distant.
Consider incorporating move-in day activities into your recruiting strategy. Maybe it’s providing breakfast, lending a helping hand, or offering branded room decor like blankets. Either way, this is a great opportunity to make a fantastic first impression that could lead to a lasting relationship.
3. Build touchpoints
Marketers know that a shopper needs to hear about a product at least seven times before they convert to a buyer. In a similar vein, students will need to be reminded of your organization continually throughout their college career. It’s not even enough to show up on move-in day. You’ll need to develop touchpoints throughout the student’s time at college to increase the likelihood of them converting to an employee.
Sit down with your HR team and turn these touchpoints into a strategy. Look at each year of college and determine unique opportunities to interact with students and leave favorable lasting impressions. It could be holding a free mixer during junior year or organizing a service project to help the local animal shelter. Get creative: Free T-shirts have been done.
4. Get social
If your campus recruiting strategy doesn’t involve social media, it’s dead in the water. Use Facebook to organize events and invite specific students to them. Use Instagram to showcase your great workplace environment and to highlight specific perks that come with the job. Use Twitter to interact directly with students and show how personable and approachable your company is. Get your social team on board with developing entire campus recruiting campaigns.
5. Take full advantage of career fairs
We're not saying that you should eliminate career fairs from your campus recruiting strategy. These events are another great touchpoint with students, especially when you coordinate a plan to maximize your time on campus. Set a goal for the number of students you need to connect with, prepare questions for on-the-spot interviews, consider holding an info session, and gather contact information from interested students to follow up with email campaigns or a more formal application process.
Click and use the template below to compile all necessary information before a career fair, coordinate travel arrangements, and track the supplies you need.
Campus recruitment best practices
It’s not all fun and games. The biggest challenge for recruiters is how competitive the job landscape is. You may have an ideal candidate in mind for an internship and suddenly find they’ve accepted a position from a competitor. To combat this, consider implementing a student referral program that awards current employees and other students for referring interested candidates to your organization. Offering monetary rewards will increase the number of referrals.
The next challenge is attracting student attention. Sometimes students are only interested in a big-name company. In fact, 92% of companies feel like they have a “brand problem.” Even if your brand isn’t necessarily buzzworthy, you can still use the power of your perks to attract students. Lean into your work environment and culture and recruit former interns to act as brand ambassadors.
Finally, if your recruiting tactics feel outdated, students are going to think that the entire company is out of the loop. But when you actively integrate digital touchpoints and create a positive recruitment experience, students are much more likely to view you favorably. Consider using tactics like QR codes, a dedicated app, text messaging, and other digital forms of communication.
Don't worry—you don't have to revamp your campus recruiting strategy all at once. Click and use the template below to build out a nine-month plan.
Why campus recruitment is important
Yes, all these suggestions take significant time and financial investment. But campus recruitment remains one of the best ways to find top talent. In 2016, 78% percent of college seniors had a job lined up after graduation. It’s vital to deploy resources to recruit college students. If you don’t, you’ll quickly find you have a talent gap that can have disastrous consequences on your overall business.
Campus recruiting gives you access to unemployed talent and allows you to develop relationships with that talent before they’re unleashed into a larger hiring pool. For your business to remain competitive, it needs to develop a campus recruitment strategy that resonates with student minds and elevates the perception of your brand.
Build out your full recruitment process and create a shared understanding among your People Ops team.