College Recruiting: You’re Probably Doing it Wrong

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stressed buisnessman or teacher having headache at officeA new study shows you have probably been doing it wrong when it comes to recruiting college graduates. It turns out Millennials find jobs just like the rest of us: via friends.

Sanjeev Agrawal, CEO and co-founder of Collegefeed, writing in the Harvard Business Review, says his site’s poll of 15,000 Millennials – 60 percent still in college and 40 percent recent graduates – found that more than 70 percent of them found out about companies through friends. Job boards and on-campus recruiting round out the Top 3 methods.

“These results blew us away. Most companies (almost 100% of the large ones we spoke to) say that they have an on-campus recruiting plan and that is where they focus their sourcing and branding efforts. Many also have dedicated organizations to build relationships on campus. According to a 2013 NACE study, 98.1% of companies they polled believe that on-campus fairs are the number one avenue for them to brand themselves with students,” writes Agrawal. Collegefeed had interviewed more than 300 companies over the past year to understand their college hiring strategies and tactics.

Agrawal said there are four things recruiters can do to attract Millennials to their business:

  • Get Your Best People to Engage With Students
  • Go Where Students Are (and They’re Often Not at College Fairs)
  • Make the Application Process Easy and Engaging
  • Prioritize Meaning Over Swag

When it comes to engagement, according to Agrawal, “show off your employees and organizational culture to send a simple but powerful message to students: ‘If you come work for us, you will get to work with awesome people like these.'” He adds, “So if you go to campus, bring your best recent college hires along. Showcase the work interns, young alums, and others have done, and highlight the responsibilities they have been given.”

As Willie Sutton once said, “I rob banks because that’s where the money is.” The same is true with college recruiting – go where the students are and it’s not always college fairs. “Students are online all the time. Invest in a visually appealing, content rich site where students can go to and learn about your company. If you can, personalize the site to showcase the right alums, intern experiences, and the basic messages you want to deliver to potential hires,” Agrawal writes.

He also emphasizes – as do most recruitment experts – to develop a strong social media presence. He runs through the standard outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and Quora but adds an interesting suggestion about humor. “If targeting a broader audience, you can go far by using humor to engage students in entertainment properties like Reddit, BuzzFeed, and CollegeHumor — people share what they find funny.” Just make sure your humor is appropriate. Have a Millennial vet the material before it goes out.

College-age job hunters, well frankly all applicants, hate complicated, multiple-page application forms. This is probably the weakest point in Agrawal’s advice because he doesn’t suggest what the alternative should be. Regardless of your application process, he adds, companies should have systems in place to follow up after interacting with a college student to encourage him or her to apply when ready.

Finally, Agrawal advises, don’t try to co-opt a Millennial’s attention with free T-shirts and other goodies at college fairs. He says the message a company projects on these key points is vital: Are you securing people’s futures? Are you making the world green? Are you making life simpler for small and medium businesses? “If you want their mind share you have to go beyond swag, and that concept should extend beyond career fairs to everything they read and hear about you,” he says.

By Keith Griffin