Buying Better Talent: How to effectively use campus recruitment to fill hourly and management track roles
By JoAnne Kruse Founder, HCpartners | January 15, 2012
In an economy where unemployment tops 9% it is hard to imagine an easier time for employers to find and retain talent. However, in the world of recruitment a greater number of candidates to choose from does not necessarily equate to superior quality. Campus recruitment, long the lifeblood of entry-level positions and management trainees, offers even greater challenges. Although college attendance continues to increase and graduates face a tough labor market, there remains a material gap between the availability of talent and their willingness to fill entry level and low-skilled positions. This article discusses how employers can more readily access campus talent to meet ongoing recruitment needs.
It is hard to imagine more of a "buyers market" than currently enjoyed today by employers. With unemployment running at over 9% and voluntary turnover at an all time low, employers are in the enviable position of having an ample supply of candidates. However, a greater supply doesn't necessarily improve the quality of candidates, nor make the selection process any simpler. This is particularly true in the case of campus recruitment, where enrollment is at an all time high, but graduates face huge debt obligations and a lackluster job market. But college graduates will continue to meet a key staffing need for entry-level hourly and management personnel as they provide an important component of any organization – freshly educated, lower paid, new talent. The difficulty in today's environment is that continued limitations on budgets and people investments have resulted in fewer potential hires, so each person brought onboard needs to be a "rock star". Campus recruits are notoriously fickle, with average turnover much higher than for their more experienced counterparts, particularly in the first 18 months of employment. Hiring and retaining these new potential employees requires a closer look at how to approach sourcing on campus, and to understand what new college graduates want from their first employer.
Whether you are hiring one or one hundred college graduates the process of finding, hiring and retaining campus talent requires a solid understanding of student demographics, the current campus recruitment process, and market dynamics. Campuses are enjoying increased enrollment due to a perception of poor job prospects, and higher graduation rates from high schools. Almost 20 million students attend a four or two year college, with women now outnumbering men. Student enrollment is up across all institutions, but growth is clustered at community colleges, trade schools, and large public universities, which tend to have more open admissions policies and charge less tuition. Community colleges in particular have invested heavily in culinary, hospitality and related degree and certificate programs. Most of these schools employ very active placement offices, easing the campus recruitment process for employers.
Graduates today face not only a tight labor market, but also leave school with an average $29,000 in loan obligations. These additional financial pressures mimic what happened with graduates after more recent recessionary events like in September 1987, and the technology bubble burst at the turn of the millennium, but the impact with the Great Recession has been longer lasting, altering the mindset of the average student by creating a greater degree of focus on more practical majors and an intensified openness to internships and temporary assignments. By casting a wide net with community colleges, more traditional four-year programs, and specialized certificate programs, businesses of any size will find a receptive pool of candidates who can readily fill hourly and management track positions.
Finding a motivated graduate may be easier, but campus recruitment has evolved quite a bit. Essentially the campus recruitment process has remained the same: post a position, select from interested candidates, interview on and/or off campus, and extend an offer. The method for meeting and selecting candidates includes the standard approaches of campus fairs, placement office coordinated events, and internships. But networking, either through social media or through other more creative methods has become far more important in managing an effective campus program. Posting on recruitment websites is how more than a third of all students land their first job, and employers can chose from university-sponsored sites, as well as more traditional outlets like MonsterCollege, or newer specialty sites like jobsforcollegegraduates.com.
Technology allows employers greater access to a broader potential candidate pool, as recruitment can be extended to schools across the US and internationally. Programs such as BUNAC have sprung up to facilitate international recruitment, creating easier access to a newer pipeline of talent, particularly important where language or cultural skills are critical. Interviewing, once limited to a 6x6 room, now allows for virtual experiences through SecondLife, or a more conventional approach like videoconferencing through Skype.