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Nab New Grads By Building Relationships With Colleges

May 1, 2000
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Related Topics: Candidate Sourcing, Featured Article
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Cultivating any relationship needs senior management support and time to become fruitful. The time you invest is directly related to your return.

If a school is important, treat it accordingly. If there isn't time, energy or resources to develop a lasting relationship, don't initiate a relationship with the school. Decrease the number of targeted schools at which you recruit, so you can devote proper attention to developing a lasting association.

Identify key school people. If you happen to have employees who are alumni of the targeted schools, invite them to assist you in identifying and developing a relationship with these key people. During your school investigation, you also should have found the names of instructors or other key people who interest you. Also, calling or visiting the career office staff will help you identify key people for your recruiting process.

Determine your company representatives. When building a relationship, the best first step involves using alumni of the programs, schools, or universities as part of the recruiting team. Find alumni of these programs within your company who are willing to devote time to renewing or beginning a lasting relationship with faculty, staff and students of the targeted programs.

Successful company recruiters are passionate about finding quality students for their company. If you are unable to find an alumnus or alumna of the school, consider a person who has a vested interest in building a strong relationship, such as the recruiting manager, the director of human resources, a hiring manager or a department head. This person must spend the time to develop the relationship and maintain it.

You may find that retired employees are willing recruiters for your different school teams. They can be valuable assets during this time of downsizing. These individuals know the how, what, where, and when of the company. I suggest you have all recruiters attend a workshop on interviewing, so they are up to date on legal and illegal questions. Sometimes interviewers who are not HR professionals want to help the candidate, and they offer career advice. Please ask them to refrain from giving career advice that does not pertain to your company.

Visit key people. The next step is to arrange a meeting between your recruiting representatives and the school's key people. There are five sources to develop: 1) career services staff; 2) admissions staff; 3) faculty; 4) members of student organizations; and 5) gatekeepers. The most essential relationship is the one you develop with the career services staff.

Career Services Staff
This staff can tell you what are appropriate activities or acceptable recruiter behavior toward their students. They will inform you of rules, regulations, and policies at their institution.

The career office can also provide names of additional people to meet, such as the "gatekeepers" for particular groups of students or programs. They usually know the inner workings of the institution and can advise you on the politically correct approach. They can recommend what programs to target and give you advanced notice about new programs or classes.

In small schools, career service people know their students because there are fewer students to counsel and they know the students' career aspirations. They can suggest what approaches will capture a student's attention.

In larger universities, it is more difficult for the career staff to learn about or meet with all of the students, but they will be able to help you meet with the appropriate group of students that you wish to target.

The career staff takes part in hundreds of student/company interactions each year. They can recommend how to make your activity run smoothly or describe ways other companies have resolved an issue. They are a wealth of information, having a dynamic relationship with the career office staff will be beneficial to you, especially in a time of need. This office staff collects salary and benefit information from their graduating students, which is useful when determining your offers. They know the dollar amount being offered and what extra benefits are included -- usually by major and functional area.

The career staff focuses on establishing interview schedules, and in most schools, company presentations. They will help you find the best time for your presentations, and for interviewing candidates for either internships or for full-time positions. Staff members will also instruct you on their particular recruiting process and recruiting time line.

Each school has its own interviewing time frame and a set procedure for student signups. Before implementing an elaborate plan, check with the career staff to see what is customary, then take your plan one step above the normal activity for that school.

If the school usually has corporate presentations that serve pizza and pop, hire a caterer to serve something
different or fancy. This will make you stand out from
your competition.

In addition, craft a presentation that is different from the others. Again the career staff will tell you what other companies are doing.

Admissions Staff
From your investigation, you may have developed a relationship with admission staff members. In smaller institutions, they can give you information on programs that are beginning or under development. This will give you an opportunity to discuss with the instructor or group of instructors how your company or your executives could be part of the new course.

Another valuable way to interact with the admissions office is help them recruit new students. If your company has facilities in a city where the school wants to recruit, offer your site as a place where the school can host local prospective students to showcase itself and its curriculum.

To enhance your corporate image, invite faculty to visit your company with their students so they can feel, see, and touch what they would be learning.

While the admissions staff is at your location, invite them to meet your employees and tour your facilities. This is a great way to get visibility and create a good relationship. Set up appointments for school administrators to meet your corporate leaders and discuss issues that affect the school, the students and the industry. The staff will take great stories back to campus!

Companies have helped graduate schools market their program for years, but they have not taken a similar role with undergraduate schools. As a company, you could be an innovator by assisting undergraduate programs market their curriculum. In addition, you would have an opportunity to see local raw talent first and cultivate those who interest your company.

Faculty
After you develop a solid relationship with the career staff and would like to do more with the school and its students, you will want to establish a relationship with faculty members. Have your alumni employees, if you have any, or employees who have taken an interest in the school, establish a relationship. The object of this relationship is to learn if your company can play an active role in the school -- academically, financially, or interactively.

If it makes sense, offer your company's facilities and expertise for a program, a class, a visit or research project. This is an excellent way to introduce students to your company.

Offer to bring your executives into the classroom to discuss current topics or issues confronting your company or industry. Make the instructors aware of what your company can do to supplement classroom instruction. Bring the classroom to your company for a week or be part of a semester's project to give students a hands-on experience. Perhaps you can financially support faculty or students' research projects, trips, or visits. You may want to consider scholarships, fellowships or endowed chairs once the relationship has matured.

Many rigorous undergraduate programs require a senior thesis. You may want to offer your company as a project to these students. You might find a solution to some problem and broaden your knowledge about which schools provide a better education and, ultimately, better employees.

Inform gatekeepers of your opportunities or the type of individual you want to hire.

To enhance your corporate image, invite faculty to visit your company with their students so they can feel, see, and touch what they would be learning. If they accept your invitation, you have three goals:

  1. Give students a more thorough understanding of your company, so they will be more receptive to accepting a job offer if one is extended.
  2. Give you and your employees more face-to-face interaction with individual students.
  3. Give faculty members a better understanding of your business, so they are more willing to use your company in their teaching and recommend students who might be a good fit with your company. Faculty members are not transitional; they will be your constant element in this relationship.

Faculty at many universities can be off limits to corporate involvement, although individual faculty members may relax this attitude to varying degrees. After your relationship with the school has matured and you are a familiar face to the faculty, this may change. The career office can explain the school's policies and faculty approachability.

However, it is extremely difficult for your recruiters to meet with faculty stars. As you learn more about the school, you may be able to link these high profile individuals with your CEO or president on some topic of mutual interest.

Generally, it is not wise to use your resources trying to reach these stars. Faculty from smaller institutions are more willing to interact with companies and to help their students find jobs.

Members of Student Organizations
Every school has clubs such as sororities, fraternities and various student organizations that might help your recruiting efforts. Again, the career office will give you information about campus organizations and the names of contact people for each group.

Approach the appropriate groups and ask if you could host a presentation for them with a food reception. At the presentation you might describe opportunities that are available within your company. Undergraduates usually have limited exposure to particular industries and company functions, so presenting different career options will help them determine what they want to do. Top-notch students who haven't established firm career goals may be found at such a presentation.

The best time to begin a relationship with a school is at the end of the school year.

A recent advertising agency report, based on student surveys, suggested that giving "free beer" to college students will attract them to your company's presentation. Before you decide to do this, I suggest you seriously consider the final reputation you will develop on campus. Students may recognize you only for the free beer and not as a serious recruiter.

Several years ago at Michigan, beer was freely served at all functions. Companies found they didn't attract the type of students they wanted to hire. The students came for the beer and didn't interact with any of the recruiters. When the companies realized they were wasting their resources and attracting the wrong type of students, they stopped serving alcoholic beverages.

Gatekeepers
There are people at any organization who are considered gatekeepers. Many schools have them, but they are not obvious to outsiders and often have misleading titles. Recent alumni employees should be knowledgeable on this issue. If you don't have alumni employees, ask the career or admissions staff members for the names of people you could contact.

These gatekeepers may be faculty members or administrators who have taken an interest in a particular group of students, such as a faculty advisor to the finance club or advisors to leadership programs. The important thing about gatekeepers is that they have the ears of students you want to hire.

Building relationships with these individuals will benefit any company that hires from colleges. Inform gatekeepers of your opportunities or the type of individual you want to hire. They will inform students about your company, as well as suggest particular students you should interview.

A final suggestion for relationship building -- begin this process during the non-recruiting season. The best time to begin a relationship with a school is at the end of the school year. This may sound strange, but if you begin a new relationship at the start of the school year, you will find that many people are too busy and not available for appointments. Bringing your top executives to meet faculty and the administration during their busiest time will probably result in contacts that lack the intensity you desire.

At the end of the school year, you will be able to establish what times the different people are available and set tip a schedule that fits you and the people you wish to see. Then you will have all summer to create your corporate campus presence.

Workforce, May 2000, Vol. 79, No. 5, pp. 98-103.

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