Effective campus recruiting is a critical success factor for many organizations. Some companies have highly refined and structured long-term campus strategies while others find themselves changing their campus plans each year to meet their available budgets and their priority hiring needs. Regardless of the situation in which you find yourself, the basic elements of a smart campus program remain the same.
A successful campus recruiting strategy creates a funnel that is filled at the top with the entire student population. This may sound counter-intuitive to many, as it would seem to fill the funnel with unqualified students. This is in fact true, however, done properly the funnel will force the "wrong" students to self-select out and will allow you to focus on more of the "right" students while gaining the benefit of broader awareness of, and conversation about, your brand.
TMP Worldwide's Campus Recruiting Group builds client solutions based upon a funnel framework that encompasses four phases that are layered upon each other according to client needs. Let's take a look at the phases and the elements within.
Phase One — The Basics
The first phase is about ensuring that the basic tools and functions are available to succeed. You must focus on school selection first. Are you on the right campuses? Many organizations find themselves recruiting on campuses that are not good targets but are what I like to refer to as "ego schools." You are recruiting on these campuses because your CEO, CFO, or SVP HR is an alum and they want to see their school included. You don't get good hires from these schools, the ROI is minimal, and you could deploy your resources more effectively. Don't get caught in this trap. Identify those schools that are fertile recruiting grounds for you and focus on building long-term, sustainable relationships with them.
Once you have identified the right campuses for you, you next need to determine how your brand will be delivered and what the creative executions will look like. Are you going to craft a campus-specific extension of your employer brand (I recommend that you do). Will you use print collateral, digital collateral, a combination? What messaging points will you emphasize for this market? How will you get students to engage with you? What will you do at career fairs? How will you distinguish your company?
Once you have these basics in place, it is time to move on to the next phase.
Phase Two — Media
Media — online, offline — is an important part of any traffic driving and/or awareness strategy that you may have. It is easy to discount the impact of media in campus recruiting, as many organizations cannot accurately track their media. They depend on the individual media vendors to provide ROI metrics and these — quite often — are not reliable as they are self-reported. If possible, you should be tracking your media using an independent third-party system.
More importantly, social media is the key element in an engagement strategy. Social media allows companies to create authentic and transparent experiences that showcase the company culture, day-in-the-life experiences, and what it is really like to be a part of the organization. Done properly, these social media efforts allow interested students to share the information with friends and family.
Selecting the appropriate media to support your campus efforts will not only drive the right audience to you, but it can also save you money. The next phase addresses the question, "where do we send them?"
Phase Three — Digital Tools and Real World Events
Students today are less influenced by — or interested in — what I like to call "manufactured messaging." They don't believe claims made by companies and they tend to rely more heavily on their social graph (their friends) and their own experiences when making life event decisions. They want to know what your culture is like, what the work involves, who the people are like with whom they will work, and they want to know that your brand is cool. They want to be able to tell their friends that they are considering Company X and they want their friends to respect Company X.
Since it is not possible to bring every student to your headquarters so they can see how you operate firsthand, it is more important than ever that you create digital experiences that allow them to see for themselves. Perhaps you might consider building a game or a business simulation that requires students to invest time and energy in not only getting to know your company, thus further qualifying interest. Of course, you can use these tools to screen out unqualified students. Perhaps you could build out a social portal that is populated with experiential videos of the working environment and the staff at your company.
Whatever you choose to do, it should be focused on engaging students and moving them further down the funnel so they no longer just consider working for you, but now they choose to work for you. Then, when it comes to live events, you won't have to fight to get them to attend.
Outside of the digital arena, most companies find themselves (as in Phase One above) attending career fairs. In recent conversations I had with many people at the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) conference, people described career fairs as "necessary evils." Companies go because they feel they have to show the company colors but they don't feel they are great ROI vehicles. Surprised? I'm not. I understand the need to be there, but I encourage our clients to Zig when everyone else is Zagging. Rather than being one of four hundred companies at a career fair, find a way to do something different. Stand out. Be creative. Be extraordinary. Be talkable.
Phase Four — Relationships
No matter how media-savvy you are, nor how socially-enabled you are, nor how hip and cool you are, there is no substitute for solid human relationships. Particularly on campus.
Think of it this way: every year there is a new crop of students with whom you need to begin to build relationships. This requires a committed, long-term, systemic effort that is self-sustaining and that builds upon itself year after year.
To succeed on campus and to improve your odds of identifying and reaching the best talent, you need to develop a portion of your strategy focused on the Career Center Directors, Faculty Chairs, and Alumni who do not turn over every four years. Educate them, enlist them, and empower them to be brand ambassadors for you. They will reinforce your brand everyday — even on days when you cannot be on campus.
With a little planning, you too can embrace a four-phased approach over time. To find out how to build out each of these phases or to discuss specific ideas for your on-campus strategy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org