Thursday, April 21, 2005

College recruiting programmes

Kevin Wheeler, writing in ER Daily discusses how to focus college recruitment activities away from the roadshow model. It is an excellent article & one that I want to build on.

His analysis is spot on. His 4 negatives are sharp. You can validate most of this stuff from your data. Look at the cost of acquiring CVs as well as the hires and compare methods. Look at your existing staff, especially experienced hires, where they studied and now compare this with where you go. At one firm we did a basic 'where did our high performers study' analysis and the top performing school wasn't even on our list. To make it even worse it was 400m from their careers office to the front door of the corporate HQ.

I've managed these programmes in several firms, in several sectors. I've operated across Europe and even into Asia. What would I recommend?

(1) as Kevin suggests go virtual. Build a database, segment, capture them 3 years before graduation, build a communications plan that focusses on their information needs. What resources does your firm have that they would want? For many firms this might be possible. At a global media firm we had a great image library & provided a tool that let them send ecards with some of the world's best images. If you are a FMCG you might be able to send vouchers, samples etc. Think about it, there's usually something that you can do that is cheap. Use targeted email (maybe even SMS, though there are some big issues here that are outside the scope of this article.) Small email shots, to highly focussed groups. I've regularly had 60% click throughs by focussing. Most campaigns get about 2%. Send the former and people won't think of it as spam. Spam is only what you don't want.

(2) Focus on how your people can help them. Give up the roadshow but don't necessarily ignore face to face contact. If you know what skills you want then the chances are some of your people already have them. How about offering speakers on topics they have experience on. The schools will love you, the brightest most interested students will turn up, it will be totally focussed on the skills you want and guess what, people will come and ask about jobs after the talk. The dynamics of these presentations are totally different and your ability to sell how great your firm is in this area is stronger.

(3) Read some of my earlier writings on this subject (here,hereand here). You probably have to rethink how your firm looks at this part of the talent market

(4) Use internships wherever possible. Apply similar selection methods (or at least the same competencies). Choose the high performers during this time. Give people experiences that they are going to rush back and tell people at college about. It's really hard to accurately select those with little work experience but you will see the high performers after a few months. Again, this often means rethinking how your firm looks at this part of the talent market.

(5) Please, please, please avoid horrible 'youth' campaigns with smiley people looking cool. It's patronising

(6) Do understand how college students use communication channels. I've used a discussion board about working and applying to the firm with great success (it significantly reduced questions sent by email). Be transparent with your process. I think blogs of recent hires talking about their work would work. Students often don't really know what work is like.

(7) I hate sponsorship of college events / sports clubs etc. It's a personal thing but I've never been able to justify the spend by the stats.

(8) Don't give pencils / notepads / beer mats etc. Do you want someone to join you because you gave them a pen? Spend on this stuff is often huge

(9) Online testing is good, but it has to be seen as relevant

(10) Back in the 80's Boston Consulting Group (BCG) coined the term 'Time Based Competition' to describe being competitive on the basis of being quicker than the competition to complete a process. It is highly relevant when applied to the college recruitment process.