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Campus recruiting has long been a crucial component of early career recruiting—and it’s changed a lot over the past few years. The strategies your team used five years ago may no longer yield the results you expect or the outcomes your organization depends on. Like most other areas of recruiting, the most effective strategies and key best practices are something of a moving target. The newest methods aren’t replacing the previous iterations entirely but it’s clear that talent acquisition teams that do not evolve will struggle to compete.
Recently, we hosted an educational webinar for TA teams with featured speaker Cheryl Petersen, Associate Principal, Americas Region Talent Resourcing Leader at Arup, whose team uses Brazen to connect with student candidates across the country. Petersen’s insights on today’s campus recruiting challenges and solutions represent an invaluable resource for any TA team grappling with early career recruiting.
Here is some of Petersen’s best advice for campus recruiting:
Create a Personalized Post-Pandemic Student Experience
How people look for jobs has changed. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of virtual recruiting and altered expectations for the candidate experience. Alongside the reality that younger job seekers are more than comfortable communicating via their smart devices, this means campus recruiting efforts must align with students’ preferences every step of the way.
Talent acquisition teams must be prepared to offer a wide variety of options for engagement.. Think of the recruiting process as a choose-your-own-adventure story, in which student job seekers are offered options and are encouraged to select what is most comfortable, attractive, or convenient for them along the journey.
As hybrid work models have become commonplace, TA teams need to think about campus recruiting in a similar way. “We have to take the same kind of hybrid approach,” said Petersen. “Virtual events aren't going to go away. They're still obviously going to be very, very popular due to the accessibility and the efficiency that they provide. What we've heard from students is that they also want to be able to meet with recruiters and hiring managers in person as well. Some of them are starved for that. So you have to have that balance and you have to really listen to the students.”
Best practices for a personalized campus recruiting experience:
- Create customized strategies for each college and university you target, as well as each candidate persona
- Offer a variety of options for engaging with your organization at every stage of the recruiting process, e.g. text/email messaging, different types of informational events, etc.
- Provide a combination of virtual recruiting and in-person events, run at different times or concurrently, depending on the needs of your target candidates.
Find the Right Campuses for Recruiting
The best strategies for campus recruiting aren’t likely to net the results you want—a healthy pipeline of early career talent—if you’re not looking in the right places. While it typically makes good sense to recruit at colleges and universities in a given radius around your work sites, you may see better outcomes when you cast a wider net and target campuses that align with your early career recruiting goals, regardless of their location.
“You have to know what you're looking for and what your goals are,” said Petersen. “We start with defining our recruitment goals and the type of candidates we're looking to attract. And then we start looking at what are the academic disciplines, skill sets, values that align with our organization's needs and culture. And then you start looking at the institutions that actively promote diversity, and have a student population that aligns with our organization's diversity initiatives. And then we start to look at how we can narrow down the types of campuses.”
Best practices for identifying the best campus recruiting partners:
- Prioritize your top schools based on how they represent your most important recruiting goals (e.g. diversity, job type, skills, etc.)
- Build multiple relationships at your top schools by connecting with career services and faculty and using your hiring managers’ school connections.
- Remember that campus recruiting relationships work both ways. In order to benefit from the relationship, you have to offer the school something attractive, too.
Differentiate Your Student Engagement Strategy
Chances are, your candidate engagement strategy is pretty well defined. But that carefully planned strategy may not be 100% applicable or appropriate for an early career candidate pool. The challenge is to identify ways to resonate with a student audience—through your employer brand and the things that make you stand out from competing employers.
For many TA teams, this requires reevaluating or updating messaging around the employee value proposition (EVP) so that everyone job seekers engage with are on the same page. “Your EVP is so important and you need to have all of your recruiters, your hiring managers, campus ambassadors [aligned] because they're all going to bring it to life in a different way,” said Petersen. “You have to have some kind of standards around what it means. You don’t need to script it, but you should be making sure that you're talking about it in a way that's consistent.”
Best practices for creating an effective student engagement strategy:
- As with any other candidate pool, you need to understand your audience first. Use surveys of students and interns as well as student focus groups to identify what matters most.
- Tag your current interns as brand ambassadors and enlist their help with campus visits and during virtual recruiting events. Their presence and perspective are valuable assets for building a student-friendly employer brand.
- Create content that feels familiar. You don’t need to recruit on TikTok, but producing short videos in a similar style (e.g. POV or a clip montage with voice overs) that tell stories about the intern or early career employee experience can resonate well with a student audience.
Leverage Technology to Streamline and Manage Campus Recruiting
The tech tools available today to support recruiting are unprecedented. Recruiters working 10 or even just five years ago literally dreamed of the solutions today’s TA teams can deploy. Using the right technology can help you streamline your campus recruiting process (for recruiters and job seekers alike), bolster the candidate experience, and make the most of the candidate data you collect along the way.
Best practices for employing campus recruiting technology:
- Use tech tools that reduce the mental load for your human team by handling administrative work and automating repetitive processes.
- Always consider how technology can support and enhance human connection (e.g. video interviews, virtual recruiter office hours, etc.)
- Lean into data analytics through on-demand reporting to gain insights into candidate behaviors and patterns that will inform decision-making for future recruiting events (both virtual and in-person).
Managing Campus Recruiting Challenges
As with all types of recruiting strategies, there are infinite ways to implement them (although your results may vary as much as your methods). In today’s tight labor market, the most effective campus recruiting teams are taking advantage of purpose-built technology like Brazen’s Candidate Engagement Hub. CEH helps TA teams improve registration and attendance numbers and provides a centralized tool for viewing candidate profiles, event engagement, and next steps. This is exactly the type of technology today’s recruiting teams need to streamline their processes and free up time and mental energy to devote to building relationships with quality candidates.
Ready to learn how you can build an effective, strategic campus recruiting program with Brazen?
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Campus Recruiting Frequently Asked Questions
What is a campus recruiting strategy?
A campus recruiting strategy is a comprehensive plan designed by companies to identify, attract, and hire top-tier talent directly from educational institutions, such as universities and colleges. This strategy encompasses a range of targeted activities, including career fairs, workshops, information sessions, and internships. By building a presence on campuses, companies can establish strong connections with students, showcase their company culture, and present enticing career opportunities. A well-crafted campus recruiting strategy combines innovative approaches with proven methods, ensuring the company can tap into emerging talent pools and secure candidates who align with their long-term vision and goals.
What is early talent recruitment?
Early talent recruitment refers to the strategic practice of identifying and attracting promising individuals at an early stage of their academic or professional journey. It encompasses engaging with high-potential candidates, often students or recent graduates, to cultivate relationships through internships, co-op programs, mentorships, and specialized initiatives. This approach allows companies to nurture and develop prospective talent, fostering a pipeline for future leadership roles. Early talent recruitment not only aligns with a company's long-term talent needs but also offers candidates valuable experience and a clear pathway to growth within the organization.
What are the top campus recruiting strategies?
Top campus recruiting strategies encompass a multi-faceted approach to engage and secure the best talent. These strategies often include participation in career fairs, where companies showcase their culture and opportunities. Building strong campus relationships through workshops, seminars, and guest lectures fosters a direct connection with students. Internship programs provide hands-on experience, while employer branding through social media and campus events strengthens visibility. Leveraging alumni networks can yield insights and connections. Lastly, personalized outreach, involving targeted emails or messages, demonstrates genuine interest. The synergy of these strategies maximizes a company's presence, resonates with diverse talent, and establishes a robust pipeline of potential hires.