Leveraging the Internet for College Recruiting: 6 Easy Tactics

In the United States, students are just beginning to return to campus after the summer holidays. For most organizations, college recruiting will also resume with the timeless routine of information sessions and campus visits for job fairs, interviews, and other related events.

But smart organizations are foregoing the traditional campus activities, in favor of leveraging the Internet. In fact, if you want to attract and hire the best students, forget going to campus at all; it’s not necessary.

College students tell me they are confused by the entire recruiting process. Organizations on the leading-edge of technology are still using the most traditional of methods to recruit them.

While every student has a Facebook, LinkedIn, or MySpace profile, most companies do not use them in the recruiting process at all. Students are actually a bit surprised that recruiters seem to use recruiting tactics that their parents relate to better than they do. Many are involved in virtual worlds, take online webinars, download lectures as podcasts, and learn from virtual professors. Yet, they must listen to a hiring manager and watch a PowerPoint presentation about some company in a stuffy room on campus.

Unfortunately, recruiters’ belief in the efficacy of past practices is reinforced with surveys by a variety of organizations and institutions with a vested interest in the status quo. But if you take a few minutes to sit down and actually talk to students, you get a different picture of what they would like, what would impress them, and what would engage them.

As demand for college graduates continues to steadily rise, the supply and demand figures for college students should be warning that times have changed.

The number of college students is fairly flat, growing at perhaps 1% a year, and is projected to remain that way for at least another four or five years. Another little-noted fact is that more women than men are enrolled in college and, unfortunately for the high tech and engineering worlds, women don’t tend to major in engineering, mathematics, physics, or computer science. All of these fields are facing significant declines in enrollments and in graduates.

Also consider the students of all age groups graduating from virtual universities that have no campuses. These students are valuable resources for corporations that are currently almost untouched and unrecognized.

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Facing these challenges, I don’t see how organizations can focus on just a few campuses or limit their reach to elite schools. Here are a half-dozen tactics to guide your virtual efforts on campus:

  • Tactic #1: Become student-centered, not campus-centered. Create an employment brand specifically for students. Your goal should be to attract any student, from anywhere who has the skills and major you are looking for. Why focus on a handful of campuses when the Internet allows you to reach all of them?
  • Tactic #2: Use social networks. Create a Facebook, MySpace, or other social network presence. KPMG in South Africa and IBM have created Facebook profiles that demonstrate what can be done to build interest and connect with students. And this is just the beginning of what is possible. By leveraging a customized Ning site, for example, you could create a network where students could invite other students and generate a viral marketing program for recruiting.
  • Tactic #3. Create a dynamic, energetic, and exciting website geared to college students. This should be designed to inform and entertain a potential hire. It should allow you to gather enough information about the student so you can decide whether a face-to-face interview is in order. These websites should have video tours of your organizations, interviews about the positions you are hiring for, and lots of diverse information about why a student would want to work for you. These sites can also contain screening tools and allow students to build a profile or link you to their Facebook or other profile. Use the money you save by not going to campus to pay for this website. Combined with a social network presence, this can largely replace any need to go to campus.
  • Tactic #4. Build a relationship virtually. Once you have connected with a student, use email, SMS, Twitter, or some combination of these to keep the student informed about your organization and also about the positions you have available and any other details about the recruiting process. Frequent Twitter updates to students who choose to follow you, or regular updates to a blog, can keep students interested for a long time. You can link to presentations about your organizations and you can email specific information to individual students as appropriate.
  • Tactic #5. Build virtual job fairs. Virtual job fairs have become common and are even more useful if you have already established a talent pool of interested students with your social network profiles and website. There are a host of virtual job fairs and more organizations are discovering them.
  • Tactic #6: Use every source you have vigorously. Ask every new graduate you hire to tell others on campus about your profiles and website. Get them to recommend a few friends and then pursue them with good virtual advertising and a telephone campaign. If you hire interns, use them as both in-person and online ambassadors to other students. Have them act as talent scouts. Ask employees to recommend family friends. The goal has to be to pursue every avenue to find students who meet the skill needs your organization has. Cast a very wide net and let your website and social network profiles be your filter.

There are many more ways to leverage the Internet for campus recruiting. Over the next five years, virtual recruiting will be commonplace, and organizations that still plod around campus with presentations and cheese platters will be viewed as the dinosaurs – the companies no one wants to work for.