Campus recruiting is broken. It’s not anyone’s fault, but rather it’s the system with which we are accustomed to operating. There is no shortage of symptoms, be it the increasing cost to hire, struggles to drive diversity, 55% turnover of new hires, 47% under and unemployment… And while it would be easy to point fingers at any number of reasons these symptoms exist, the underlying cause is consistent across all of them: offering or accepting an internship or full-time role is a high stakes decision for companies and college students alike.
As a college student described to me, “the traditional campus recruiting process is like asking a student and company to jump right into marriage (the full-time role) or engagement (the internships) without having had the opportunity to ever date.” (While I wish I had a better analogy, this one actually works pretty well.)
So what would happen if we took this “job dating” approach to campus recruiting? Instead of jumping right into an internship engagement or the marriage of a full-time role, students and companies have the opportunity to date through short-term professional projects. We think the future of campus recruiting could be so much better for companies and students alike.
Unlike experienced professionals, most college students don’t really know what they want to do or even understand the opportunities available to them. As a result, companies are forced to spend millions of dollars and countless hours attracting students to their company. Most of this hard work is ignored as students are inundated with similar efforts by hundreds of other companies.
Ironically, students do want to learn about what companies have to offer, just not through emails, texts, or websites that all talk about how the company “has an incredible culture,” “values diversity,” and “offers opportunities for growth.” While they won’t respond to these messages or may not be ready to apply to get “married,” they want to learn about your company and its opportunities, especially if they can also demonstrate their skills, build their resume, and generate income. Completing a short-term, professional project is a perfect way to accomplish this.
And since most hiring managers have too much on their plate, they are excited to provide these Micro-Internship opportunities to students, thereby helping companies build a great pipeline of candidates, while circumventing the current strategy of “We need to invest more money and time to get through the noise.”
Once students are aware of the opportunities, companies work really hard to build and nurture relationships with students. While info sessions, dinners, and super days can help, they often feel artificial. In addition, many of these relationship development events are biased against those who may not have the social capital to “work the room” at a dinner event or be as comfortable making small talk with someone from a different background.
Instead, through experiential recruiting, relationships between managers and potential candidates can form organically. As students work on real assignments, opportunities are created for conversations between existing and prospective employees. Instead of artificial conversations about “the wonderful corporate culture” or the school’s basketball team, they can engage in a way more in line with what will happen on the job. Students can ask thoughtful questions that managers are happy to answer. Managers can share insights about the project that provides perspective to the student. And as this is happening, relationships are formed, and both students and managers can better assess fit. The result is a curated pool of prospective candidates that is developed throughout the year and with a greater degree of confidence before traditional recruiting begins.
To that, we’ve all had situations where a student has an amazing resume, but within the first five minutes of the interview it’s clear there’s not a match. Or, even worse, the student who is a great interviewer, but upon accepting and starting a role quickly shows a lack of grit, attention to detail, communication, empathy, or any of the other Core Skills that are so difficult to assess.
We’ve also all made hires who leave within the first year when they realize it’s not the right fit for them (or at least think it’s not the right fit). With 55% of all recent college grads leaving within the first year, this is happening way too often and putting so much of the effort on recruiting, onboarding, training, etc. to waste.
Organizations have tried to address this through behavioral interviews, non-cognitive assessments, badging, and any number of other practices, but the root issue is still not being addressed. That the only way to really assess future effectiveness at a company is through the job itself.
To that, Experiential Recruiting allows organizations to effectively assess key skills through the work. Instead of relying on a test to gauge responsibility, a manager can see if the student turns in a blog article on time. Instead of trying to tease out problem solving from a series of questions, a manager can see it first-hand by how a student tracks down competitive information for an analysis. And instead of a student finding out they don’t want to work in sales after going through onboarding and spending a month sourcing leads, the student can realize it when they are being asked to source leads on a project.
The future of campus recruiting will also not rely on the annual nightmare associated with filtering through thousands of candidates in a matter of weeks. In the same way that hiring managers don’t just need the support interns can provide during the summer months, campus recruiters don’t need to squeeze their process into a few-month period. While there may always be some seasonality to when hiring decisions are made, by engaging hiring managers earlier in the process campus recruiters can gain a competitive advantage in building and nurturing those relationships that will lead to better hiring decisions.
In addition, this year-round process provides other benefits. First, it provides another tool for campus recruiters to keep strong candidates and / or former interns “warm” throughout the year, further enhancing the relationships that lead to better conversion.
It also allows campus recruiters to be more strategic, as they can quickly respond and adapt to the changing business needs and corporate environment. As a result, campus recruiters will be viewed as a valuable resource that can respond to the ever-changing needs of hiring managers, while providing insights on other industry dynamics.
Finally, it expands access. Since hiring managers have needs throughout the year, this approach harnesses that need to create opportunities for a larger number of students, including many who may not attend focus schools, don’t have majors that sound like job titles, or aren’t even aware of opportunities at the company. As there are ten month worth of additional opportunities for engagement, the campus recruiting pipeline will not be artificially constrained by seasonal limitations.
For many organizations, campus recruiting still resembles the process that was in place for the past few decades. Yes, technology had replaced bulletin boards with job boards, on-site interviews with virtual interviews, and resume books with online resumes, but the process still has the same artificial limitations and challenges (many of which have actually made it more difficult). Fortunately, as we’ve seen during the past five years, there is a better process—one that is more equitable for students, leads to better resources for hiring managers, and drives better outcomes—without adding to the workload of campus recruiters and other employees.
For those campus recruiters who haven’t been introduced yet to this form of Experiential Recruiting, there is no better time. With the current pandemic limiting the impact of traditional processes, this provides the perfect opportunity to embrace the future of campus recruiting.