Top 5 Tips for Recruiting Top Talent on College Campuses

Excited woman pumping her fist in the air

There is stiff competition for the best candidates these days, regardless of your industry or the job description. Online tools like LinkedIn have made it possible for professionals to share their resumes, experience, and portfolios with the world, and competitive brands aren’t afraid to court top talent—even if they’re not looking to change jobs.

The steep competition has made college recruitment a key resource for hiring managers. Recruiting on campuses can help you:

  • Discover emerging talent early.
  • Gain valuable insight from career services, student unions, etc.
  • Strengthen your brands with the development of competitions, co-op placements, and internships.

College recruitment is not a new concept, but today’s graduates have different needs, plans, and demands than graduates of the past. If your company is wading into college campus recruitment, it might be time to up your game.

1. Embrace Technology

Today’s emerging professionals are not scouring the local classified section looking for employment ads, nor are they pursuing shop windows hoping to find a meticulously scrawled ‘Help Wanted’ sign.

Carl Schlotman, bestselling author of Cash in Your Diploma, believes the best chance employers have of attracting today’s leading talent is to connect with them on their level–through the technology and social platforms that they use in their daily lives.

The world of recruiting on college campuses has changed significantly in the past few years. The main change: where college students are aggregating and consuming information. Traditional methods of communication are diminishing due to the fact that the platforms are lacking audience. Employers and Career Services need to be on social media and smartphones – not traditional job boards and emails.

Today’s young talent is using their smartphones, updating professional networking sites, and turning to the latest mobile devices to engage with industry leading employers. Make sure you’re investing in mobile recruiting: making your career sites mobile friendly, and ensuring that the application process is also easy to do from any device.

2. Join the Club

College campuses are active places, and it’s easy to get lost in the hustle. Making positive connections with the right clubs, associations, and student groups can be the best way for organizations to introduce their brands, network with prospective candidates, and position their companies as an employer of choice.

Heidi Neweger
Heidi Neweger

Heidi Newiger, University and Diversity Programs Manager of AppDynamics, a Jobvite customer, recognizes the
importance of networking with the right connections in a competitive job market.

Make friends with the right organizations. For AppDynamics, the best students are the ones who love to code, and do so in their free time. See what kind of clubs the university has, such as ‘Women in Computer Science,’ ‘Hackers at [School Name],’ ‘Association for Computing Machinery,’ etc., and see if you can recruit from there.

3. Rock the Recruitment Fair

The key to any successful event is a high turnout and a recruiting fair is no different. College and university students have very hectic days (at least in their experience), and their schedules fill up quickly. Start marketing your event early and please don’t rely on posters taped up around campus.

Glen Loveland, HR Manager of China Central Television, is no stranger to campus recruitment. He regularly scours post-secondary institutions looking for the most promising soon-to-be professionals, and feels that the right event marketing tools can go a long way.

Start promoting your events several weeks/months in advance. You want to build buzz. Social media is obviously very important to get the word out. If you are looking to recruit international students, utilize social media platforms that they use. For example, Line is huge in Japan and WeChat is the market leader for China. Try to meet people on their terms so they understand that you ‘get them.’

4. Develop Top Students

The best students are always looking for ways to enhance their resumes with impressive accolades and extracurriculars like community service work or other activities. A prestigious internship or hard-earned co-op placement is a great opportunity for any student, and looks great on his resume.

Kent Darzi, Director of Engineering of ADTRAN, knows how important hands-on experience is when it comes to developing skills, and champions the values of co-op placements for creating top technology performers.

Providing students with hands-on learning throughout their college career is key in recruiting. This experience allows students to trial the company, as well as [allowing] the company to make sure the student has the skills to be successful in the organization. ADTRAN’s co-op program targets 10 schools across the country to fill 85 co-op and intern spots. When you provide students with high-quality work, they talk to their peers about your company, which helps in recruiting.

Students get great experience and your company gets to try out potential team members. Everybody wins.

5. Innovate to Attract Talent

Top, college-level talent don’t want to leave their challenging, active campus lives to mold themselves into a boring, old-fashioned workplace. They might submit a standard resume if you ask for one (or they might just move on to another employer), but it won’t increase their anticipation.

Frida Poli
Frida Polli

Frida Polli, CEO of Pymetrics, helps students apply the basics of neuroscience to determine their most suitable career paths, and she thinks traditional resumes have had their day.

Today’s students are seeking jobs that leverage their strengths to find empowerment and success. It is no longer enough to rely on traditional (subjective and biased) resume review processes to source for quality candidates. Students are looking for more diverse opportunities, and the standard application process overlooks key metrics that identify successful candidates.

One way to move beyond traditional resumes, and demonstrate your brand’s innovative nature, is to maintain a robust social media presence and nurture relationships with top candidates on their favorite platforms. Make sure your social media marketing strategy includes branding your business as a cool place to work, where young professionals can continue learning and growing. Every post communicates something about your company’s culture, so consider what you are communicating about your brand as a workplace.

You are Now King of the Campus

College campuses are the Craigslist of hiring: you can get a really great deal, but you usually have to spend a little extra time finding it. You can stay ahead of (most of) your HR competition by engaging with the best talent before they’re officially job-hunting.

Jessica Lara
Jessica Lara

In fact, Jessica Lara, National Admissions Advisor of the University of Advancing Technology, believes that employers can create dynamic shifts in the future workplace by making meaningful connections with students transitioning from high school to college.

Most 17-to-18-year-olds are just starting to look at their futures as they take the next step in their lives. Successful college recruiters are able to show each student how their school can give them the life they imagine. Students need to know what the reward is by attending that school, so allowing them to see the investment (career opportunities) in their education and other campus programs, provides them more incentive to apply and enroll.

So start planning your next recruitment fair next week. Expand your social media marketing to engage with college students who are majoring in fields that lead to your industry. Start exploring how you can get involved with campus groups in top universities, and how your organization can develop interns via co-op placements. Don’t underestimate the power of interns because If you connect with your interns long term, you can actually recruit through them in the future.

Regardless of how early you get in the game, the important things are to know your audience, carefully market your event (and your brand), network with external organizations, and create buzz and offer incentives to those applicants who are willing to put in the extra work for the rewards.