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Tips for Recruiting on College Campuses

image for Shironosov/Shutterstock
Shironosov/Shutterstock
  • Using social media increases your business's chances of attracting younger candidates.
  • Focusing less on the candidate's GPA and emphasizing character can help you find the top talent.
  • Knowing your audience is one of the key steps to a successful job fair. 

When it comes to filling new, entry-level positions, many employers recruit on college campuses. College recruiting helps you identify talent for current and future opportunities at your business. Establishing this type of talent pipeline enables you to close any skill gaps and build your brand reputation as a top employer. 

Successful recruiting efforts entail paying close attention to detail and creating a positive impression of your business. To stand out from the competition, stay away from traditional recruiting methods and use a fresh recruiting strategy. 

One of the first steps to attract college graduates is making sure your business appeals to younger employees. Millennials (those between the ages 21 and 36) are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, according to Pew Research Center's analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. As of 2017, 56 million millennials were seeking employment or already employed. 

"When we help companies get the most of campus recruiting, it starts with leveling the playing field," said Trong Dong, CEO of the campus recruiting solution Rakuna. "Companies should be collecting and evaluating the same base information, and then empowering their team to build a relationship on that information." 

The best businesses engage with millennials and adapt to the newly shifted landscape of young, prospective job candidates. They aren't just talking about attracting, hiring and retaining millennials – they do it. 

Social media is one of the most effective ways to reach a younger demographic. Professional online networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter offer recruiters functionality to identify potential candidates. 

Recruitment via social media is growing, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, with 84% of organizations using it currently and another 9% that plan to use it. Overall, 43% of organizations said they use social media or online research engines to screen job candidates. 

As for Generation Z – those born between 1995 and 2010 – you might be surprised how traditional their approach is for finding employment. According to a survey from the National Society of High School Scholars, the top three ways Generation Z finds jobs are through Indeed, LinkedIn and Google. Additionally, 85% of Generation Z prefers that employers communicate info about their job openings by email, compared to less than 25% who prefer to learn about job opportunities through social media. 

Think of recruiting as a long-term endeavor. "The key to college recruiting is building a multiyear pipeline," said Alexander Lowry, director of Gordon College's Master of Science in Financial Analysis program. 

Ideally, the campus career services department is your initial contact point, but make sure it isn't the only one. After you're on the school's network site and LinkedIn, try to meet with professors and staff in the career placement center. The possibility of scoring time in a classroom is higher if you've built a friendship with the school's faculty and staff. 

You should also foster relationships with student organizations, specifically any clubs or honor societies related to your industry. Many students have joined these groups for networking opportunities. You can speak to student club members and get recommendations from leadership about specific candidates who may be a good fit for your company. By partaking in more interactive recruiting methods, employers can gauge students' interest levels, initiative and skills without sorting through pages of resumes. 

It's also important during your recruiting efforts that you take note of younger students who will graduate in the next few years and encourage them. Planting a seed early may lead to a future recruit for your organization. 

Speaking to college students in the classroom or at club meetings provides an additional benefit: reaching a select group of applicants who may not use the university's career center for help finding a job. 

"Yes, we attend career fairs and post jobs on campus job boards, but we often connect with the most outstanding students by speaking in classes, conducting mock interviews on campus, or hosting student groups at our headquarters for presentations, tours, and job shadows," said Shayna Royal, senior recruiter at Paycor

If you attend an on-campus job fair, ask several key players from your company to staff your booth. While recruiters and HR professionals are great at selling your organization, students may be more receptive if they can speak with an employee who was recruited last year or perhaps the director or manager who oversees the department where the candidate would work. Tap team members from different departments, levels and backgrounds to speak with college students. 

One thing that students aren't used to hearing about during the recruitment process is work-life balance. If you highlight office perks, company hours and paid time off opportunities, applicants may find your company more appealing than other businesses at the career fair. 

"Looking at campus recruiting as a transactional function does not serve organizations well in the long run, as students completely turn over every four to five years, and you're back at square one," said Royal. 

Most professionals regard a strong GPA as an indicator that a potential employee can handle pressure, learn quickly and succeed. But as Google told The New York Times, GPA and test scores don't mean much when it comes to workplace performance. 

"One of the things we've seen from our data crunching is that GPAs are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless; [there is] no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there's a slight correlation," said Laszlo Bock, chief executive officer and co-founder of Humu and former senior vice president of people operations at Google

In your recruiting efforts, open your company's doors to applicants outside of your target schools. While it is important to foster relationships with the schools and majors that fit the skill sets you're looking for, you may be surprised by what you've been missing. Be innovative in how your company recruits on college campuses, but also expand the pool from which you recruit. 

One traditional recruitment method that can still be useful is hosting a job fair. Recruiting college students in person allows you to connect with them and pinpoint how they can help your business. 

Bryan Zawikowski, vice president and general manager of the military transition division for Lucas Group, offered four tips for hosting a successful job fair: 

  1. Get the word out on all of your social media channels that you are hosting a job fair and advertise the available jobs. 
  2. Ensure that your signage is professional and broadcasts the jobs you are seeking to fill. 
  3. Have more than one person work in the booth. This is true even for smaller companies. You never want your booth to be unattended. 
  4. If you have a giveaway, make it something useful (USB drives, pens, portable charging devices, etc.) so the candidate will have your brand in front of them. Don't bother with things like stress balls or hats – they end up in the trash. 

If you need to broaden your recruitment efforts even further, consider recruiting young international talent. The number of talented workers from outside the U.S. is increasing. If you plan to recruit candidates internationally, make sure your job description meets International Labor Organization standards.­ 

Doug Coffey, an assistant teaching professor at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, believes employers should use social media, universities and professional organizations to recruit international candidates.

"Time spent researching and comparing domestic degree programs, job titles, and job requirements with those outside of the U.S. will help you assess international candidates' education and transferable experience," said Coffey. 

Recruiting college students requires a lot of effort and direct communication. Invest in developing long-term relationships with career placement center personnel, professors and campus clubs. Be consistent with your recruiting process and look for opportunities to connect with students beyond attending job fairs. If you connect with students, they will connect with your business.

Joshua Stowers

Joshua is a staff writer based in New York City. He is a former entrepreneur who started a fashion and art, print and digital publication called Elusive Magazine, serving as the features editor for several issues. Previously, he worked in product development for DirecTV and for a content agency writing for Verizon and Google. He is a New Jersey native in love with the city lights and skyscrapers.