I made the move into early careers from experienced hire recruitment almost ten years ago and quickly realised how differently I’d need to work. It was clear that my strongest allies would be my target university careers services, and that a long-term approach to the relationship would be my best bet. Over the years I’ve worked hard to build relationships with my target universities and I’ve been rewarded with strong pipelines to some of their best and brightest.
I’ve also recently worked within a university Careers Service team and it was such an eye opener being on the other side of the table. I learnt how employers differed in their approach, and that some courses and students are ignored by employers. These students are your hidden talent pool!
So, for anyone starting out recruiting students or graduates, this one’s for you…
Step 1 – who do you want to be your friends?
Firstly, you need to find out where your best talent comes from. Now you may already have this to hand, but you may find yourself in that tricky position of having no data. One of the most rewarding projects is working out this data and then going to get some more of those students! Get appraisal data, look at who the top performers are and now find out where and what they studied.
Look for any trends. Are you surprised? Do your best performers come from your most targeted universities? Did they study unexpected subjects? If you recruit for multiple locations, is there a correlation between which sites and local universities? At your local universities, are there any courses that would be a natural vocational talent pool for your industry? How can you get to those students?
When you’ve got your data, those Careers Services are going to be your best friend!
Step 2 – how do you make them like you?
If you are recruiting interns, placements, or grads, every Careers Service in the land will want to hear from you! Many career services split their employer engagement team by faculty, so you want to ensure you are meeting with the right person.
Treat them like you would an internal client – come prepared and ready to listen!
Talk them through your data. It is gold dust for universities to see how their graduates are performing. Even more precious is pipeline information. Let them know where their students are failing, offer to help them develop skills in this area, and you will have made it on their Christmas card list.
Have plenty of questions prepared. They know their students and what works best for organisations like yours. If you are an SME, you’re not going to be able to compete with the big corporate budgets, so don’t even try! How can you differentiate yourself on campus? How can you get to the students you want to recruit? What kind of events will work best for you to meet them and engage them in your brand?
Step 3 – how do you make their students like you?
So, you’ve defined your campus attraction strategy with the Careers Service and everything is planned. How can you get those elusive & brilliant minds to like you? Be bold, be fun, be engaging! No matter who you work for and what your product is, you can be engaging and supportive. Give those students a brilliant experience no matter whether you’re doing a presentation, skills session or careers fair. Gift them something that they haven’t been given by other employers, whether that’s application support, practice video interview facilities, psychometric testing advice, or just a lot of fun!
Ditch the corporate persona and speak in their language, give them a reason to remember you.
Step 4 – how do you make sure you stay best friends forever?
You feel like this season has been your most successful ever due to the efforts you’ve made with your target universities. So, what does your new intake data say, and what’s your ROI? Are there any surprises?
Continue the conversations with your target Careers Services. I like to have a pre- and post-season meeting with my key contacts and share feedback on where we’ve been successful and where I’d like to develop things next season. Show them the stats, get their feedback on where they think students need extra support, and discuss you can help your target audience with that skill.
It may take a couple of seasons for your work to be rewarded, so don’t rush to change anything if you don’t see results after one campaign. Go with what feels right, as well as makes sense, and the students will follow once you have built your brand with your target courses.
Just like any other relationship, your Careers Services relationships take time and effort, but it’s worth the investment. If you love what you do and want to build a career in graduate recruitment, some of these people may become friends for life! It’s a small world, so even if you or your key university contacts move on its likely that you’ll be able to work together again in future.
If you this is of interest please take a look at our GC Hive courses here or take a look at our Small Graduate Recruiters Club taking place in Manchester on 6th March. Let me know if you'd like to come - it would be great to see you there!