Redefining the role of the college and university relations recruiter

Posted March 19, 2018 by

Recruiting and advertising for open positions has changed. Before industrialization, virtually every place of employment was a solo or small operation. Without power, it was difficult to scale anything. All of a sudden with electricity, you could have factories with production lines. Employers needed to quickly go from having a couple people working in their facility to maybe even hundreds or thousands.

Advertising for jobs nowadays is mostly done through social media, networking, and employee referrals. When you only need to hire a few people, chances are you already know them. In that case, no advertising is needed. Steven Rothberg, President and Founder of College Recruiter, explains that if you now have to suddenly start hiring dozens, hundreds or thousands, it’s very unlikely that you’re going to know enough people to fill those positions. Rothberg recently presented “Redefining the Role of the College and University Relations Recruiter,” and we share his takeaways here.  

What is and isn’t working in university relations

In June 2017, Google for Jobs went live. Many thought this was a big advancement. Google rolled out three big HR related products. Google Hire was one of them. It has an applicant tracking system currently targeted at small and medium businesses. The reviews for it have been exceptionally good.

Here’s how it works: as a job seeker, you go to Google and type in “retail jobs”, and you will see a very well formatted screen and some of the jobs available. Some jobs shown will be from job boards and some will be directly from an employer’s website. While this has been working well, it is still advertising. So has it really advanced?

Career service offices look and operate not much differently than how they did in 1958. You can walk into some career services offices and see a bulletin board with tons of jobs physically posted on it. If you’re a student and you see a job that is of interest to you, you’ll take that sheet to do some further research. Now that job posting has reached one person and one person only. It’s an incredibly inefficient way of recruiting.

Career fairs are also very inefficient. Many schools are really proud of the number of university relations recruiters that they get for their career fairs. But if you look at the numbers, very few employers will leave the fair with more than a couple hires.

Rothberg elaborates, “That definitely is not very good for all of the time and expenses of getting to the career fair: a day of travel there, a whole day at the fair, and a day of travel back, plus the costs of travel, fair expense, hotel, and food”. In addition, with so many university relations professionals packed in a gym with potential candidates, you can be in some very crowded and uncomfortable spaces.

Another problem is traveling to school after school. The reality is business travel is not glamorous at all and it’s a lot of work. It’s a ton of hours and a lot of it is very unpleasant.

Even face-to-face interviews have been studied and found inefficient. Dr. John Sullivan of University of California San Francisco has published a lot in his scientific recruiting writings and research that show there is actually no correlation between how well a candidate interviews and how well they perform on the job.

Related: Recruitment methods for non-traditional students

We all like to think that we’re good judges of character. That if we look someone in the eye, we somehow can know if they’re a good person, and whether they’re going to do the job well. If you’re looking for a sales person, that makes some sense. However, if you’re an electrical engineer and you’re not good at interviewing, that doesn’t make you a bad electrical engineer.

Large organizations need to have a formalized recruiting program

The size of your organization also plays a large role in how you should strategize recruiting. If you’re not recruiting at scale, you can be much more flexible. You can tailor your recruiting program to the needs of the week. On the other hand, if a Fortune 1,000 company or federal government agency that hires hundreds or thousands, you have to think differently. The bigger the hiring need, the more formalized your program should be.

Decades ago, organizations used a siloed approach to campus recruiting, treating each school separately. Rothberg warns, “Don’t let the tail wag the dog”. Think of recruiting from the perspective of your organizations’ needs, not the needs of each of the schools.

“Don’t let the tail wag the dog”. Think of recruiting from the perspective of your organizations’ needs, not the needs of each of the schools.

Some organizations invest large amounts of money, time, and staff on career fairs and wining and dining professors. Rothberg points out, “Unfortunately, there are a lot of entrenched interests and some of them are less than ethical”. If you look at when organizations are recruiting and who’s going to recruit, you’ll see alumni of those schools going during homecoming. Coincidence? Rothberg doesn’t think so.

If a career services office or professor gives you a couple of homecoming tickets it’s pretty hard for you to say no to going to their school to do on-campus recruiting. Is it ethical, though? Is it in the best interest of your organization and of the candidate? It can be fun, but does that actually lead to the best hires and the people who stay with you the longest? At the end of the day, you really need to be looking at your cost per hire and even more importantly, your productivity.

Organizations will measure their ROI by cost per hire, and they often do not take into account the difference between an employee who stays with the organization five years, and an employee who stays for a day. We should not be treating all candidates, all hires as equal. We should be looking at their productivity.

Related: Surprising truth about cost per hire

The siloed approach–where you only chose from a certain type of school and certain majors–is bad for your organization long term. There is a very poor correlation between the productivity of employees and the schools they attended. Some organizations have even seen an inverse correlation; the better the school, the worse the productivity.

Companies with forward-thinking recruiting strategies

A few examples:

  • EY, a few years back, looked at their productivity data (not just their cost per hire), and found this inverse correlation. Their most productive employees did not come from the schools that were perceived as the best. Employees that went to elite schools tend to leave faster than others.

Related: How EY is preparing students for the future workforce

  • Goldman Sachs, roughly a year ago, announced that they are almost entirely shifting away from campus recruiting. They will no longer be sending university relations recruiters from campus to campus.
  • Amazon hires hundreds of thousands of people a year. They cannot afford to hire unproductive people. They started using a school agnostic approach. In other words, they don’t care much about what school you went to. This strategy actually leads to a more productive, more diverse employee base.
  • Lockheed Martin compared their productivity data for people hired on campus versus virtually. The virtual hires we’re a tenth of the cost of those hired on campus. This was mostly due to time saved for staff.
  • USAA also hires virtually and found that it is a less expensive and far more productive recruiting process.

What switching recruiting strategies will do for your organization

Another hugely positive outcome of switching recruitment strategies is an increase in diversity. Rothberg explains, “If your employees look and think the same, you’ll end up with a workplace with groupthink. Diversity is more than just the color of your skin, gender, military service, and disability. It’s also coming from different socio-economic backgrounds”. People born in wealthier families are disproportionately represented at the most elite schools.

Related: Big impact strategies in diversity recruitment

If you only recruit at these elite schools, you will end up with a predominantly Caucasian upper middle class and upper class workforce. In addition, if you rely heavily on employee referral programs, you’re going to end up with employees that just are pretty much all the same. You will have a less productive workforce.

So what’s the answer? Rothberg advises employers to shift more resources to virtual recruiting, whether it’s with job boards like College Recruiter or social media sites like Facebook. Move away from sending people in university relations from campus to campus. The more you engage with candidates at more schools, the better off you’ll be. You’ll save money. You’ll I have a more productive workforce. It is much easier to do that recruiting virtually. You don’t have to travel. It’s going to improve your ROI. You’re going to have less paperwork. The time to hire is another huge benefit on the virtual side.

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Posted in Advice for Employers and Recruiters, Career Advice for Job Seekers | Tagged Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,