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Posted May 22, 2020 by

How to create a virtual, campus recruitment strategy

One of the underreported fallouts of the COVID-19 crisis is the massive disruption to how most medium- and large-sized organizations have done the bulk of their hiring of college and university students and recent graduates.

A rapidly increasing minority of the largest employers of interns and new grads have shifted more and more of their budget away from on-campus and toward college job boards and other so-called virtual sourcing tools. Some of those cite productivity studies that show poor and even negative correlations between the perceived quality of the school and even major and the work performance of the employee. In other words, conventional wisdom has been that the more elite your school, the more likely you were to be an elite employee and the more competitive it was for you to be accepted into a major at that school, the more likely it was that your work performance would be exemplary. Turns out, with some exceptions, none of that is true.

Employers who have actually looked at who their most productive employees have been and then looked back at their sources of hire have often found that their most productive hires are what we at College Recruiter call scrappers, those who didn’t go to elite schools but through grit and determination made successes of themselves. They didn’t come from wealthy families, didn’t go to elite high schools, and therefore weren’t accepted into elite colleges or universities. Why are these scrappers so productive? They tend to job hop a lot less than their so-called elite colleagues. If you went to a second- or even third-tier school, you graduated with fewer options than your colleague who went to a top school. Not only did you graduate with fewer options, but you continue to have fewer options as so many employers are unfairly biased against candidates who don’t have the pedigree of those who went to elite schools.

This fall, not only will we see more employers being open to hiring non-traditional students and recent graduates, but we will also see far fewer employers taking planes, trains, and automobiles around the country so they can interview hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of students for dozens, hundreds, or thousands of internship and entry-level job openings. Why? Because many college campuses will be closed and those which will be open won’t be at all like they were before the COVID-19 crisis. Far more students will attend online and many of the schools which are open to students will, at the same time, be closed to visitors. The fewer visitors on-campus, the less likely that a visitor will spread COVID-19. Also, even if some schools are open to visitors and will welcome employers to career fairs, interviews, and information sessions, how many recruiters and hiring managers are going to want to jump on an airplane, get into a rental car, stay in a hotel, and then meet in close proximity dozens of young adults who live and attend classes in very close proximity for extended periods of time with thousands of other young adults?

It seems clear to me that on-campus recruiting in the fall of 2020 will be a shadow of what it has been in the past, yet the employers will still need to hire. So what will that look like? Essentially, they’re going to need to shift their focus and resources as they have been — to job boards like College Recruiter and other such sourcing tools — but far faster than they or anyone else had expected. But how do employers who have done little to no “virtual” campus recruiting shift their focus and resources? What do they do with their college recruiters who traveled to campuses all over the country to engage with and, hopefully, recruit top students?

Before I attempt to answer those excellent questions, let’s first define what it means to be a “top” student. A “top” student to one employer would be terrible for another. If you’re a biomedical engineering company in Boston, hiring a biomedical engineering, PhD, student from M.I.T. would be a homerun. But if you’re a car rental company with a management trainee program that starts everyone off washing cars, that same student would be terrible as there is virtually no chance that they would be interested in your role let alone accept an offer let alone stay with you for years.

Think about the most productive people in your organization. Where did they go to school? If your organization is like most that hire dozens or even hundreds of students and recent graduates, the list of school will read like a who’s who list. Lots of Big 10 and Ivy Leaguers, I bet. Did your organization actively recruit at each of those schools the past few years? Probably not. Some of the most productive people in your organization probably attended schools which are not on the list of schools that your university relations team would want to visit this fall if those on-campus visits were feasible. Why? Because it just isn’t economical for any employer to go on-campus at every school, and yet there are many great candidates at every school.

If you agree that there are many great candidates at every school but your organization has concentrated its recruitment efforts at a minority of schools (remember, there are 3,000 four-year schools in the country and another 4,400 one- and two-year schools), then you’ll likely also agree a more virtual college recruitment model can and should be more inclusive of well-qualified students at schools that didn’t make the shortlist for on-campus visits. Said another way, shifting to a more virtual college recruitment model will allow your organization to be more inclusive in its hiring efforts because it can better engage with students who, by definition, are more diverse because they’ll come from a wider variety of schools. Also, as you’re better able to hire students from more schools, inevitably you’ll start to engage with students from other geographic areas and socioeconomic backgrounds.

For decades, employers with formalized, college recruiting programs have looked a year or more ahead in their recruiting needs and created a list of core schools where these employers would make their open roles visible by going on-campus to host events, interview, and otherwise recruit talent. Engrained within these college recruiting departments was the belief — or desire — that the best and even only way to engage with and then hire this talent was to physically go on-campus. As some employers have already discovered and virtually all will this year, that’s simply not correct.

The current, school-by-school, fly around the country model of college recruiting has existed for longer than the vast majority of those involved have been alive. If you were to look at a college recruiting program from 1952, it would look remarkably similar to many of the programs implemented during the 2019-20 school year. At one time, it made sense but it really hasn’t. What changed? Technology. When I went to college and then grad school in the 1980s and 1990s, the way you applied to a job was to see the ad in a newspaper or on a corkboard outside the career service office and you’d take the resume you had printed at Kinko’s, stick it into an envelope, and mail it. The employer might receive it a few days later and you’d get a letter or phone call back. The Internet didn’t exist and so candidates couldn’t go to employer career sites and search for jobs. They couldn’t email resumes. They couldn’t use job boards. And neither could employers.

There will be resistance within your organization to a change from recruiting mostly on-campus to virtually. Why? Because the de-emphasis on or even elimination of your on-campus model will mean a lot fewer perks to some of your colleagues and, potentially, the loss of employment for those who are unable or unwilling to adapt. I’ve heard from more than one talent acquisition leader that they love on-campus recruiting because their employer pays for the travel, they get to stay in nice hotels, they wine and dine professors, and they accumulate some nice airline and hotel points that then make family vacations a lot more fun and a lot more enjoyable. I get that they like all that. I also get that they’ll sometimes push to include a school on their list to attend despite a lack of success of hiring productive employees from that school not because they expect that to change but because that school does a great job of providing the recruiter with 50-yard line tickets to the Homecoming football game. In almost any other area of your business, the provision of such personal benefits conditioned on a corporate expenditure would be grounds for termination and even prosecution, but in the world of college recruiting such quasi-kickbacks aren’t unusual and sometimes are even the norm.

For a typical Fortune 1,000 company, government agency, or other employer that hires at scale, dozens of recruiters and hiring managers spend weeks on the road each fall and winter. Each might visit half a dozen to 10 campuses repeatedly and their travel, attendance at career fairs, and hosting of information events requires a lot of coordination and logistics work. So, in addition to the folks out in the field, you likely also have three, thirty, or even over 100 university relationship managers who rarely if ever travel. If you eliminate your on-campus efforts, what do these people do? Suddenly, it becomes apparent why these people are so passionate about the need to continue to recruit on-campus in 2020 in a manner that bears great resemblance to what was being done in 1952.

The question for organizations that are coming to the realization that recruiting students during the 2020-21 school year will need to change isn’t so much whether there needs to be a change but, instead, how their programs will need to change. First, let’s acknowledge that your organization is not recruiting schools. It is recruiting individuals. Those individuals happen to attend schools. Let’s also agree that there are many highly qualified individuals who do not happen to attend the schools you’ve been most engaged with and that better engaging with these individuals will dovetail nicely with your efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

If we’re in agreement on those points, the rest flows logically. Forget about organizing your team by school and the schools are now less important than the talent. Instead, organize by your hiring needs. Do you want to hire college educated talent for your finance, logistics, information technology, human resources, and marketing departments? Then assign one or more university relationship managers to each of those functional areas. If you need to hire three in finance, two in logistics, eight in human resources, 57 in information technology, and 16 in marketing, then you can probably have one university relationship manager for finance, logistics, and human resources; three for information technology; and for marketing. Rather than those five university relationship managers overseeing 50 schools, they’ll instead oversee three hiring channels.

Next, have each of those university relationship managers build talent profiles that layout the skills they need for the roles you need to fill, just as the talent acquisition leaders outside of your university relations department do. Those profiles will soon become job descriptions and those job descriptions will become job posting ads. Those job posting ads will then take on a variety of forms. Some will be posted as is to job boards like College Recruiter and others will be converted into snazzy-looking HTML documents that College Recruiter and other media partners can email on your behalf to candidates who fit your desired profile.

If you only need to hire one or two people into a role, a typical job posting on a typical job board should deliver that candidate flow and cost you $75 or so. That’s way, way, way cheaper than even sending a recruiter to a school down the street once you take into account the real cost of paying that recruiter for even half a day at the school. But if you need to hire dozens or even hundreds into the same or similar role, then you’re going to need a solution that scales as a typical job posting ad on a typical job board is designed to deliver to you enough candidates that you should be able to hire one person because most employers only want to hire one person when they post an ad. But if you need to hire 50 or 500 people, then you’ll need 50 or 500 times the response rate and it just isn’t feasible to post 50 or 500 ads to generate that kind of traffic flow. That’s where tools like targeted email campaigns and College Recruiter’s JobsThatScale job postings come in as they’re built to deliver far more, well-targeted candidates to a specific role than a typical job posting will.

As your recruiting efforts progress, be sure to monitor the successes and challenges your team is seeing. If you set measurable objectives before they start, you’ll then be able to manage them better. Remember the adage that you can’t measure what you can’t manage. Consider your team charged with hiring 57 students for information technology internships. How many resumes would they expect to receive for that role? (hint: it is about 25 per opening for more professional roles) How many candidates would they expect to click to your ATS to generate that many applications? (hint: it is about 10-20 for more employers) Once you know the number of candidates you need to drive to your ATS to generate the applications you need to generate the hires you need, you can work with your job board and other partners to create a recruitment advertising plan to deliver that volume of quality candidate traffic…all without getting onto an airplane.

Remember also, when you’re targeting talent by groups instead of by school, you’re going to experience tremendous economies of scale. Instead of hosting 50 information sessions for information technology majors at 50 schools, you’ll host one or maybe a couple of interactive webcasts for information technology majors at all schools. Rather than encouraging those students to sign up for 50 days worth of interviewing at 50 schools, you’ll encourage them to go to our ATS to apply online for the jobs, just as you do for all of your hires who don’t flow through your university recruiting program.

Finally, let’s talk timing. Remember when I wrote about employers needing to plan out a year in advance? Throw that timeline out the window. If a hiring manager came to you today to say that she needs to hire a full-stack developer, would you need a year to hire that person? No way. You’d create a plan, start advertising, work your network, and maybe hire a third-party recruiter. You’d have some applications within days and probably a pretty good group of prospects within a month or so. You’d conduct two or three rounds of interviews, extend an offer, and get an acceptance within another month or so. Your new hire would start within a couple of weeks of that. So, within a few months, you’d go from requisition to start date, and perhaps faster. With your new, virtual college recruiting program, expect the same kind of timeline.

Why am I pointing this out when it might seem obvious? Because what isn’t obvious to many employers right now is that their competition for talent might not wait until after Labor Day to start marketing their internships to juniors and entry-level jobs to seniors. That timing was driven by the calendars of the schools. If students didn’t start classes until after Labor Day, it wouldn’t make much sense for you to visit the campus in August. But if you’re no longer recruiting by school and instead by talent, why would it matter if you reached a student on August 15th? In fact, why wouldn’t you want to? If your competition for that talent isn’t going to reach out to that student until September 10th, wouldn’t it provide you with a huge advantage to reach out on August 15th? Expect many employers to begin marketing their opportunities earlier than ever this year, and expect the others to struggle more than they anticipated.

Posted May 21, 2020 by

How do employers plan to recruit students this fall?

We’ve had pretty detailed conversations with dozens of employers about how they’re approaching fall recruiting. It seems likely to me that there will be a number of approaches by the 3,000 four-year colleges and universities plus the 4,400 one- and two-year schools. At a high level, we expect to see:

  • Small percentage of schools resuming business as usual with all classes offered in-person. Some of these like NYU and Notre Dame plan to shift the dates so students arrive earlier or later than normal.
  • Small percentage going completely online. The entire California State University system with 500,000 students seem to be heading in this direction. 
  • Plurality taking a hybrid approach. My youngest child attends a school taking this approach. They seem likely to close the residence halls as physical distancing is almost impossible in that kind of environment and they’ve been talking about holding the large classes with hundreds of students only online and moving small classes to rooms that previously held medium-sized classes and moving the medium-sized classes to the largest rooms. In addition, they seem to be inclined to allowing students to attend classes in-person, online, or some combination of the two. 

For employers, it seems that only that first, “business as usual” approach makes it feasible for employers to recruit on-campus as they have in the past, but I question how many recruiters and hiring managers are going to be anxious to jump on an airplane or even spend a day in a small interview room meeting with dozens of students. Even if they’re willing to do so, will employers be willing to send their employees on the road and potentially incur the liability of those people getting sick?

Planning for both scenarios is what we’re seeing from the most sophisticated of employers and seems quite prudent to me. Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Regarding using job boards like College Recruiter: keep in-mind that there are many ways to do so. Traditionally, employers have either searched resumes (quality of engagement is high but very difficult to scale) or posted jobs (lower quality of engagement but easier to scale).

Some job boards also offer products such as targeted email campaigns which offer the ability to reach tens or even hundreds of thousands of highly targeted candidates by school, geography, major, year of graduation, grade point average, languages, diversity (military veterans, people with disabilities, people of color, gender), and more. For most medium- and large-sized employers, candidates responding to postings or emails go to the ATS to apply so they follow the employer’s preferred process for applying.

The questions about to recruit students if campuses are closed or travel isn’t feasible are shared by many, many employers. Fortunately, we were able to gather a panel of some of the country’s foremost experts on recruiting students and recent graduates to pick their brains about what their organizations plan to do and what they recommend. Panelists were:

  • Ralph Brigham, Global Director of Campus Relations for Southwestern Advantage
  • Chris Carlson, Senior Manager University Recruiting and Relations for Northrop Grumman
  • Stephanie Pallante, University Recruitment and Relations Senior Manager for Cigna
  • Bruce Soltys, Head of Talent Sourcing for Travelers Companies
  • Sean Treccia, Director of Global Campus Recruiting Programs for KPMG LLP
  • Kara Yarnot, Vice President Strategic Consulting Services for Hireclix

You can watch the webcast at

Posted May 19, 2020 by

How to coach and mentor your interns and other employees when they work remotely

In this seventh of seven short videos for employers who are adapting their internship and new grad hiring programs to this Covid-19 world, College Recruiter’s owners, Faith and Steven Rothberg, discuss how best to coach and mentor your part-time, seasonal, internship, and entry-level employees when they work remotely.

Posted May 19, 2020 by

Benefits and drawbacks of interns and new grad hires working virtually

In this sixth of seven short videos for employers who are adapting their internship and recent grad hiring programs to this Covid-19 world, College Recruiter’s owners, Faith and Steven Rothberg, discuss the benefits and drawbacks of interns and other employees working remotely.

More employers will allow more employees to work remotely even after this pandemic has passed. Some of those employees will do all of their work remotely while others will work remotely only some days in a week or month. And some employers will shift to an entirely remote workforce, while others will have some of their employees work remotely while others remain on-site.

Posted May 19, 2020 by

Long-term effects of canceling a summer internship program by rescinding job offers

In this fifth of seven short videos for employers who are adapting their internship and recent graduate hiring programs to this Covid-19 world, College Recruiter’s owners, Faith and Steven Rothberg, discuss the long-term effects on an employer who cancels a summer internship program by rescinding job offers to the students.

The two major, long-term effects on canceling an internship program is the likelihood of a significant disruption to your talent pipeline and damage to your employment brand.

Posted May 19, 2020 by

What investments do employers need to make to create a great virtual internship program?

In this fourth of seven short videos for employers who are adapting their internship programs in this Covid-19 world, College Recruiter’s owners, Faith and Steven Rothberg, discuss the investments that employers need to make in order to create a great experience for their virtual interns.

Posted May 19, 2020 by

Virtual tools employers can use to communicate their culture, mission, vision, and values

In this third of seven videos for employers who are adapting their internship and entry-level hiring programs to this Covid-19 world, College Recruiter’s owners, Faith and Steven Rothberg, discuss how we use virtual tools to communicate to our employees our culture, mission, vision, and values.

Posted May 19, 2020 by

Employers of virtual interns should identify projects, tasks, and learning outcomes

In the second of seven short videos for employers of virtual interns and new grads, College Recruiter’s owners, Faith and Steven Rothberg, discuss how employers of should identify projects, tasks, and learning outcomes for the interns and new grad hires who are working remotely due to Covid-19.

Posted May 19, 2020 by

What are some tools that employers already have that they can use to manage their remote workforce?

In this first of seven short videos for employers, College Recruiter’s owners, Faith and Steven Rothberg, discuss how employers impacted by Covid-19 are adapting tools they already have to better communicate with and manage their interns and entry-level employees.

Examples of these tools include Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and even email.

Posted May 19, 2020 by

How to find a virtual or remote internship or other entry-level job

In this fifth of five short videos for candidates who are adapting their job search to this Covid-19 world, College Recruiter’s owners, Faith and Steven Rothberg, discuss how students and recent graduates can find virtual or remote part-time, seasonal, internship, and entry-level jobs.

These jobs are hard-to-find, or at harder to find than a more traditional job was until Covid-19 upended almost everything we knew. But harder to find does not mean impossible. Many employers are still hiring, and not all of the jobs are gig, part-time, or lowly paid.