5 Innovative Ways to Recruit On Campus
Creative events and strategies that don't involve a career fair.
Today’s college students are graduating into one of the best job markets in years, reports show. 65% of employers intend to hire recent college graduates in 2019 according to a recent CareerBuilder survey, and a 2019 NACE Job Outlook Survey found that employers plan to hire 16.6% more new graduates from the Class of 2019 than they did from the Class of 2018 for positions in the United States.
If this tight labor market continues, competition for soon-to-be-college grads will be tough for years to come and career fairs alone won’t cut it anymore. While career fairs allow employers to meet hundreds of potential candidates, the brief interactions can be impersonal and the best students aren’t always waiting in line to talk with employers. To make the most of your time on campus, try some of these innovative campus recruiting methods instead:
1. Host a hackathon or innovation contest.
If your company is looking to hire for positions in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, consider hosting a hackathon. Hackathons are a great opportunity for students to work in a collaborative environment while showing off their technical skills. Not only is the competitive, fast-paced environment great experience for students, but it also gives recruiters and hiring managers an opportunity to evaluate student talent in a natural setting.
Jon Gottfried, Co-Founder of Major League Hacking, says that, “Hackathons are one of the best new places to find talented technical candidates and build employer brand awareness. Students who attend hackathons are there to learn new skills, build projects they are excited about, and make connections with professionals who can mentor them.”
Keep in mind that hackathons do not necessarily have to be technical either. Innovation contests are a great way for companies offering non-technical roles to find and evaluate bright candidates with initiative. While it can be intimidating to pull off a large-scale event, companies like Major League Hacking can help support you through the process and help you pull off a worthwhile event.
“88% of MLH students say they gain skills at hackathons that they don't learn in the classroom,” said Gottfried. “This provides an unprecedented opportunity to share your company's culture and values with students from many different universities at once. Your team can even work with potential candidates one-on-one in a deeply technical way and learn how they think through problems and what they are passionate about. There is no other recruiting opportunity quite like it.”
2. Sponsor events hosted by local clubs and chapters of national organizations.
Another great way to connect with engaged students on campus is to connect with campus clubs or organizations that align with your own company values or focus. Although many clubs are unique to certain universities, you can find clubs that align with your company’s values by looking through the online directories of your target schools and sorting by type of club and focus.
Chapters of national organizations are also a great way to connect with students at your core schools. For example, if you’re looking to recruit engineers in the northeast, consider sponsoring events for the Society of Women Engineers at northeastern universities. Similarly, candidates who prioritize community service, advocacy, and activism efforts will most likely be members of organizations such as Habitat for Humanity or NOW (National Organization for Women) on campus.
Once you’ve found the ideal organizations to partner with – whether they’re a local organization or national chapter – sponsoring an event can be a great way to form authentic relationships with talented students. By investing your time and supporting an initiative the students care about, you’re sure to stand out from similar companies competing for entry-level talent.
3. Participate in panels or guest-lecturing.
Participating in panels or giving a guest lecture about your industry is another unique way of introducing your employer brand to potential job candidates. You and your colleagues can offer valuable industry insights for college students and soon to be entry-level employees. These events allow students to control the discussion based on the questions and things they’d like to learn, so it’s great way for employers to organically showcase their company and other accomplishments. It’s also an opportunity to form personal connections with students before, during, and after the events. Passionate and like-minded students attend and participate in these discussions, so you’ll likely be interacting with the driven personalities and the skill sets you want to recruit for your company.
4. Start a campus ambassador program.
Creating a campus ambassador program can be a great way to maintain your brand presence on a college campus even when you’re not there. In an ambassador program, companies hire and appoint college students to represent and promote their brand on campus through a variety of marketing and promotional initiatives. This can include social media posting, creating video testimonials, partnering with student organizations, and organizing product sampling and coupon distribution events on campus. By creating relationships with these students, brands are able to integrate their brand voice and products into college life smoothly and naturally.
Campus ambassadors also receive certain perks that heighten the experience for them professionally. At Apple, for example, campus reps not only receive free brand merchandise, but they also gain access to exclusive Apple training in Cupertino, California. A good relationship between a brand ambassador and the company they represent will inspire more student connections too. A good brand ambassador networks, creates connections, and attracts new customers for a company through their initiatives, allowing companies to create positive relationships with college students even when they are not physically there.
5. Set up a student referral program.
Employee referrals are a common, but effective recruiting strategy used by many companies already. Employee referrals can significantly improve the time and quality of hire for a company, as current employees will know if the person they’re recommending is right for the job or not. For companies with a strong presence at certain universities, a student referral program can be a great way to create a talent pipeline through recent hires. For example, if you recently hired several students from the same university, use this to your advantage. Speak with them about any potential candidates they would recommend – their younger peers in student clubs or organizations could be a great future hire. By creating a strong relationship with both past and current students, you’ll most likely be able to implement different strategies on campus in the future.
A career fair is just one of the many ways companies today can interact with college students. Networking and creating personal connections is becoming increasingly important in today’s professional climate, so don’t be afraid to try these interactive events to recruit on campus. By implementing these innovative campus recruiting strategies, you’re sure to stand out to the most talented candidates.
Want more advice for reaching top students on campus? Download our infographic 'The Do's and Don'ts of Using Social Media To Reach Gen Z Candidates' for best practices on incorporating social media into your recruitment strategy.