Advice for Employers and Recruiters

Fall 2017 college recruitment trends and challenges [white paper]

Anna Peters AvatarAnna Peters
July 27, 2017


As the 2017-18 school year creeps up, recruiters are looking at their plans, and wondering what to keep from last year and what to change. College Recruiter teamed up with our friends at NAS Recruitment Innovation to create a white paper chock full of insight into trends and offer advice for talent acquisition teams with a high volume of entry-level hiring needs this fall.

Download the full white paper here

At a glance: Emerging trends for fall 2017

  • Programmatic advertising is on the rise: New technology allows employers to get their job advertisements in front of the right audience.
  • Employers who have a mobile-friendly job application process will see an increase in applications.
  • Related: best practices in creating a mobile-friendly job application
  • Most organizations have a need for applied tech skills but many recruiters have a poor understanding of what they really are and how to identify them. A candidate who is able to integrate people, processes, data and devices has applied tech skills.
  • While STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) grads are in demand, smart recruiters and employers seek college grads who are willing to be trained, no matter what their background or degree. In other words, expand the majors or degrees of recent grads when recruiting. Focus on those who have soft skills and want to learn and be trained, and not just degree/program.

Read all emerging trends in the full white paper 

What students will be looking for in a potential employer

Students want to make an impact at their organizationsStudents are becoming more focused on the impact of the organization—millennials want to know their work is adding to the public good or, in some way, making the world a little better. They want to know about your company’s corporate social responsibility activities and efforts. And they remain interested in work-life balance, flexibility, and of course, salary.  

In addition, students look for these seven benefits and perks:

  1. Heath care benefits are important: Benefits have hit the student priority short list. That’s according to Sean M. Schofield, Assistant Director of Internships at Cohen Career Center at William & Mary. A recent survey of their students found that benefits made the number two spot for job seekers’ priorities (following “meaningful work”). “Perhaps it’s due to healthcare being in the national spotlight, but it’s certainly on their radar, and we didn’t expect it,” said Schofield.
  2. Meaningful work: Stephen Patchin, director of Career Services at Michigan Technological University, says today’s students are putting significantly greater effort into class projects they see as meaningful, but have shown frustration in assignments showing repetition, or requiring little effort. “Students are searching for an employer that provides a job description illustrating challenging and meaningful work, but also has the reputation of following through on this promise of meaningful assignments,” says Patchin. In addition, today’s graduate wants to make an impact from the start – especially STEM grads. “They want to be more than just part of that organization,” says Patchin. “It is not enough to just ride on the ship, they want to have a hand in navigating the ship. And they want to have assignments that provide a significant contribution toward that mission.”
  3. Professional development: College students and grads are looking for employers that have a proven track record of investing in the professional development of their employers. “Graduates know they will be required to be life-long learners,” said Patchin. “They want to stay relevant so keeping up with advances in technology and knowledge is important to them. This matches with their need to be involved in relevant work, they want to make sure they have the tools to be successful in these assignments.”
  4. Flexibility perks: According to a recent survey, an overwhelming number of employees (91%) felt that they got more done when working remotely as opposed to working in the office. Realistically, not all professions come with such a perk, says Heiler. “But we’ve seen that offering flexible work schedules, and empowering more employees from our call centers to work from home whenever possible, has had a mutual benefit — increasing employee comfort while maximizing productivity,” says Heiler. Recent college grads are seeking out employers that offer great flexibility benefits, such as work from home options, so they can work as effectively as possible while maintaining a work life balance.

Read all seven benefits and perks that students seek in the full white paper

Nine challenges for college recruiters

  1. Mobile recruiting: More employers today understand the importance of mobile recruiting, which is good for students. But they often don’t realize that they are not accurately tracking the effectiveness of their sources via mobile devices. Even when ATS vendors claim their capabilities in tracking on mobile, studies show this is extremely difficult.
  2. Failing to deliver a positive candidate experience: The candidate experience is important, and recent grads want to be engaged and feel welcomed from the minute they see the job advertisement, through the application, interviewing, negotiation and hiring process. Many employers focus on some of these areas, but not all. It takes work. But college students and recent grads notice. “Employee expectations are on the rise, but there are creative ways to motivate and engage today’s millennial workforce,” says Heiler. “It’s essential that recruiters emphasize benefits and flexibility, two factors that are priorities for today’s employees.”
  3. Proving social responsibility: Recent graduates are seeking not only a livable salary, but they want to work for a company that demonstrates social awareness that includes the environment (“green” companies are at the top of the list for many grads) as well as social justice and inclusion. “They are drawn to an open, collaborative environment where they feel that they can make an impact,” says McDonald.
  4. Reaching a large audience: Recruiters may struggle with effectively reaching and engaging enough people to fill all new hire needs, says Heiler. This can often be because recruiters are relying too much on campus recruiting, not expanding from their core schools, or putting all their eggs in one basket. “It’s key that recruiters advertise new job opportunities across multiple channels – both online and in-person,” says Heiler. As pay-for-performance marketing becomes more widely used and effective, recruiters shouldn’t ignore that trend to be able to hire at scale.

Read all nine challenges for college recruiters in the full white paper

How recruiters can attract more diverse students and grads

Have an inclusive hiring processFirst of all, recruiters still tend to think of the millennial generation as drastically different from “everyone else,” but they need to see each candidate as an individual. Any candidate may be a product of their generation, but each person brings a unique perspective and expectations that recruiters may not recognize. If your twenty-something candidates get the sense that a recruiter is labeling them, they’ll walk away.

Get Internal Buy-In: Recruiters and hiring managers whose goal is to diversify their workplaces need to understand that increasing diversity takes an investment of time and resources. HR teams need to work with leadership to develop a real diversity recruitment and retention plan. No plan will ever sink into place without true buy-in, so HR must make the business case for diversity. Simply put, study and study show that organizations with higher gender and racial diversity have increased sales, more customer numbers and higher profits. Encouragingly, even small increases in diversity has an impact on the bottom line. If the leadership isn’t convinced, HR teams should explain the psychology behind it: employees with access to a greater variety of perspectives end up processing information more deeply and constructively, and therefore make better decisions.

Related: Experts weigh in on impactful strategies and mistakes in diversity recruitment 

Address Biases in Your Process: If current efforts aren’t working, then the organization needs to dive deep and look at barriers to entry. Recruiters and interviewers should assume there is at least some bias embedded in their hiring process, not because they must be bad people but because statistically speaking, bias is there. First, recruiters can analyze their sources: do they include places where you might expect to find candidates of color, for example? The job description can also be an unknowing closed door if it uses words that turn off certain populations. (Did you know that women are less likely to apply to a job whose description uses words like “aggressive” or “rock star”?) Once candidates apply, the ATS may very well have unintentional bias written into the algorithm. Every talent acquisition team should grill their vendors on how they combat bias. Once a candidate gets to a human reviewer, then all kinds of bias comes into play, and interviewers should be fully aware of the terminology around bias.

Basic Do’s and Don’ts for college recruiters

What’s most important for your onsite presence and follow-up is candidate engagement. If a recruiter connects with job seekers and makes them feel like they are a real human being, it helps with retention. If an individual feels like they’re just lost in ATS cyberspace, they’ll become disengaged and that has a real impact on their decision to keep pursuing the company’s role. In fact, according to a Lever survey, talent is four times more likely to consider your company for a future opportunity when you offer them constructive feedback.

Recruiters and HR teams should make a list of their candidate touch points, including the job description, introductory email, follow-up communication, the interview and anything afterwards. Each of those touch points is an opportunity to build your employer brand, and cultivate a relationship that will draw the candidate in.

  • DO respect the candidate.
  • DO be aware of biases in the hiring process (in the job description, ATS algorithm, interview questions) and work with your organization to reduce bias.
  • DO stay engaged throughout the process; even if the candidate is not the right fit for this position, he or she may be the best person for a position coming up.
  • DON’T just tell them to apply online without any additional tips or connection.
  • DON’T send bland communication that doesn’t promote a positive brand or build a relationship with the candidate.

Keep informed of recruiting best practices by staying connected with College Recruiter on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and YouTube. Hiring soon? Would it make sense to have a brief conversation about your hiring needs? Consider College Recruiter’s advertising solutions, or email 

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