To Improve Your Recruiting Efforts on College Campuses, Ask Yourself These 4 Questions

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GirlWalk into any job fair on any college campus in the U.S., and you’ll likely find throngs of eager students searching for the careers of their dreams. (You’ll probably also meet a number of gloomy undergrads shuffling through the crowd, burned-out on the “real world” already — but that’s a story for another time).

The question, however, is whether the students at this particular job fair, at this particular school, are the kind of students your company should be recruiting.

When it comes to hiring candidates in the wider professional world, a lot of companies have learned to approach hiring like a careful and precise science: they know what kind of candidates they want, how much experience they should have, what kind of personalities fit the culture best, and where some of the best places to find these people are. But when companies recruit from college campuses, they aren’t always as precise, says Tom Borgerding, CEO of college-marketing agency Campus Media Group and creator and founder of college-recruiting database Mytasca.

In fact, many recruiters seem to choose the schools at which they recruit based on gut feelings, reputations, and whether or not they or their recruiting teammates are graduates of a school — all very subjective metrics that don’t necessarily produce the best recruiting results.

In order to implement more objective, effective recruiting efforts, Borgerding says that companies need to carefully choose the schools at which they recruit. To do just that, recruiting teams should ask themselves the following questions:

1. Does This School Have Enough Students to Give Us Options?

“I talk to a lot of different recruiters, and part of their challenge is that they’re recruiting at schools [because someone on the team went there],” Borgerding explains. “[They think,] ‘Because I went to the University of Minnesota, everybody at the university must be as good as me. The decisions that are being made on where to recruit are only based — in some cases — [on the fact that] the stakeholder went to that school, or they think it’s a good school, but they don’t have the number or statistics [to prove that].”

One of the most important numbers a recruiter should know before recruiting at a school is the number of students enrolled in industry-relevant degree programs.

“You should have a clear understanding of the students who are in that program or at that school before you even go there,” Borgerding says. Otherwise, recruiters are missing out on “key elements” of the hiring process. They may end up wasting their time at schools with minuscule talent pools, schools that don’t offer many options, in terms of potential employees.

When considering whether or not to recruit at any school, recruiters should ask themselves questions like:

  • How many students are at the school?
  • What’s the diversity look like?
  • What’s the gender makeup?
  • What degree programs or schools are students enrolled in? How many people are in the programs or schools relevant to the recruiter’s industry?
  • Is the size of the degree program growing, shrinking, staying the same?

Understanding demographic points such as these will help recruiters zero in on schools that offer populations that suit their needs.

2. Does This School Have the Degree Programs That Fit Our Experience and Training Needs?

“You find a lot of employers out there that are like, ‘Hey, these students just are not coming out with what we need. We need them trained in this type of thing, this type of technical aspect, and [the curriculum is] too theoretical or research-based,'” Borgerding says. “Or it’s the other way around.”

Before deciding where to scope out talent, recruiting teams should make sure that the schools they’re considering give students the kind of training and experience they want employees to have. If the company needs employees with hands-on training, then recruiters shouldn’t go to schools where the curriculum is mostly theoretical. This particular piece of advice may seem like a no-brainer, but plenty of recruiters neglect to really look at school curricula, assuming instead that all degree programs will instruct students in the same way. That’s not the case, and recruiters should be sure that the degree programs from which they are recruiting do train students in ways that are relevant to what the company needs.

3.  Are the Students at This School Likely to Relocate or Move to Where Our Offices Are?

If recruiters are looking to fill a role that requires an employee to work on-site (rather than remotely), they need to take geography into consideration and answer questions like:

  • Are the students originally from the state the school is in?
  • Are they willing to relocate?
  • How far are they willing to commute?
  • Is the school near our office(s)?
  • Will the students be willing to stay in the are if they are not originally from here?

Borgerding has seen employers who decided to ignore geographical criteria in their school recruiting efforts, choosing instead to recruit at “bigger-name schools,” regardless of their proximity to the company. The result? Not pleasant:

“One of the employers we talked to was like, ‘Hey, we’ve got a list of schools that are in our region, and we do a decent job of being able to recruit from there, but we want to step up a level and see if we can get bigger-name schools.’ Now, their challenge is [that] 90 percent of those students are just completely unwilling to relocate. So they went from a pool of maybe 200 graduating kids [at regional schools] down to 20 [at bigger-name schools], and the competition for those 20 is really high, because big-name employers are competing for those 20 that are willing to relocate.”

4. Historically Speaking, Who Have We Hired in the Past and How Well Have They Worked Out?

Recruiters must also consider whether or not students from some schools tend to be better situated for work at their companies. To illustrate this point, Borgerding shares a story of an employer with whom he has worked:

“I was talking to an employer, a company here in Minnesota. They’re hiring engineering students, and when they’re hiring from the University of Minnesota, these are kids that are likely to want to have desk jobs. They want to be inside, but these guys are a construction company. They’re actually physically building buildings. They need kids that are willing to put steel-toe boots on, go on-site, and get their hands dirty. They’re not finding that from the big-name school in town. They’re going to more rural schools. These are kids that are maybe coming from more rural areas. They want to get their hands dirty. They don’t need to be sitting in the big town or big city. They’re pretty happy being out in the country. They’re okay getting out in the mud and dirt. They enjoy that kind of work.”

To decide whether or not a school’s student body tends to meet a company’s needs, recruiters should ask themselves questions like:

  • How long have the students we have hired stayed with us?
  • Are students from some schools staying longer with us than others?
  • Do students from some schools seem to fit better with the culture, based on past performances?

This historical data can help recruiters pinpoint the schools that produce students who, generally speaking, fit better and perform better at their companies.

Resources for Answering These Questions

It’s only four questions, but they’re not necessarily easy to answer: after all, many of them are broken down into smaller questions that must be answered as well, and the data needed to answer these questions may be hard to track down. With this in mind, we offer a few suggested resources to help recruiters conduct their research and choose the best schools for their recruiting efforts:

  • Mytasca: Borgerding’s Mytasca is a college-recruiting database with information on degree programs, diversity, and career centers at every college in the U.S. The database should be useful for recruiters who want to answer question No. 1 (“Does this school have enough students to give us options?”).
  • The Schools Themselves: Finding detailed information about degree programs to answer question No. 2 (“Does this school have the degree programs that fit our experience and training needs?”) is a little more labor intensive, but it’s doable. Recruiters must simply go to the schools themselves. “Once you’ve identified which schools may possibly fit [your recruiting criteria], it’s really going to those schools and having conversations with the deans within the departments that you’re interested in,” Borgerding says.
  • ATSs and Company Records: For information on which schools’ students tend to stay longer and perform better — as well as information on which schools’ students seem to be more willing to relocate, if necessary — recruiters should check their own records. “If an employer has an ATS, they should be able to find some of that data directly in there,” Borgerding says. “If they don’t have that, maybe [they can] look at [their] hires for the past five years. See where [employees] are coming from. See what kind of success they’ve had. Look at their resumes. They should still have all that stuff on file.”

Selecting the right schools from which to recruit may seem like a daunting task, but it’s absolutely worthwhile.

“Identifying these things will help you opt out of recruiting at certain schools and spend time recruiting in the schools that will give you the talent you need, the talent who fits at your company and performs well,” Borgerding says.

By Matthew Kosinski