Competition for fresh outs—new graduates fresh out of college—is growing as more employers attempt to rebalance a rapidly aging workforce. In March, NASA announced that 50 percent of its hires going forward will be fresh outs, double its previous goal.
The perennial shortage of engineering talent will only grow more acute as both government agencies and private companies boost new-graduate hiring.
Schlumberger recruits at 450 universities worldwide to maintain a workforce of 87,000 employees across 80 countries. The company, with principal offices in Houston, Paris and The Hague, Netherlands, generates $27 billion in annual revenue. It invests heavily in its new hires and wants employees who will remain with the company for life.
“Under our recruiting philosophy, we hire fresh outs, develop them internally and promote from within,” says Darryl Hood, Schlumberger’s North America technical recruiting manager for oilfield services.
The North America oilfield division uses 15 in-house recruiters and 10 support staff to cover campus recruiting at 90 target schools. To build a deeper relationship with potential candidates, Hood tapped Experience Inc. to build a talent community that puts Schlumberger in touch with students as early as their freshman year.
The new talent community engages and maintains relationships with students and recent graduates through frequent member communications and targeted outreach, including e-mails and newsletters. At any point, members of the community can opt to engage directly with a Schlumberger recruiter.
Schlumberger’s fresh-outs-only policy is part of a longstanding recruiting strategy.
“The idea is that our industry is unique and the company has its own culture,” Hood says. “We develop new hires and they progress into other responsibilities. We give employees the opportunity to have a diverse career without leaving the company.”
New hires undergo a three- to five-year field engineer training program, with three promotions typically occurring during that time. The training program represents a substantial investment for the company.
“The talent community launched five months ago as another avenue to link us directly with students,” Hood says. “The main advantage of the talent community is that it is proactive. We use social networking sites as well, but communications through sites such as Facebook are more passive.”
More than 1,200 students and new graduates joined the Schlumberger talent community within the first three days of the launch. Membership grew steadily before the summer break and then flattened; it now stands at 2,500. As school starts back up, Hood hopes to see double-digit growth in the number of new community members from target schools.
“The biggest plus is that the talent community enables us to maintain communications on changes in the business and in the industry on a mass level and to continue communications with students over time,” Hood says. “Students want more engagement and they want it through current technology.
“Communicating directly with students is an absolute benefit. Another benefit is that we have greater flexibility in the information that we share.”
Schlumberger is now pursuing plans to extend its talent community to new groups. The North America oilfield division hires 100 field interns every year, and Hood plans to fold them into in the talent community to maintain contact with them during the academic year.
“We are also expanding the talent community to include existing employees who can discuss their experiences with students at an employee’s alma mater,” he says.
Hood has already seen an improvement in recruiting efficiencies.
“The talent community reduces the amount of time that our in-house recruiters must spend on communicating activities coming up on campuses and helps expedite the timeliness of ad hoc activities for recruiting,” he reports. “It helps us reach out directly to more students.”
The Experience database now includes 4.5 million students, primarily juniors and seniors, plus recent graduates who are new in their jobs and still exploring opportunities. The vast majority of the Experience users access the site through the accounts maintained by their schools, alumni associations or honor societies.
University career services officers actively direct students to the site.
The advantage for employers is a large, cost-effective expansion of their recruiting capabilities.
“We add to their team,” says Jenny Floren, founder and CEO of Experience. “We can put 10,000 feet on the street—career services staff members at schools, honor societies and alumni associations. We get them to bring in the next generation of talent. They provide us not only with access to students, but with deeper levels of access than money can buy.
“These 10,000 school staff members are our partners and use our platform to deliver services to their students,” Floren says. “They log in to the site every day, do outreach to their students, send them onto the site and monitor their responses. Our clients are companies with a specific focus on next-generation talent, and the schools provide access to this talent.”
Experience offers client companies a monthly license based on an annual contract. After a four- to five-month pilot period, the client can cancel. The service starts at $2,000 per month for the most basic service.
“The annual rate of $24,000 is less than the cost of a part-time recruiter, and that doesn’t include the analytics, data and Web 2.0 capabilities that we provide,” Floren notes.
Experience has three company-specific talent communities up and running, five more in the process of launching and 10 industry-specific talent communities. One of the three existing talent communities is the Web site Microsoft Students to Business, known as S2B, which connects Microsoft and its partners to students and new graduates in 80 countries.
The Microsoft S2B talent community offers industry content, training opportunities, certification programs, software, jobs and internships to its members.
More than 9,000 students and recent graduates have joined the Microsoft S2B talent community since it launched a year ago. Microsoft and its partner companies have posted more than 350 jobs and internships and S2B members have submitted thousands of applications. More than 500 students have been trained on Microsoft technologies to prepare for career opportunities in the Microsoft community.
Companies like Microsoft that hire both new graduates and experienced professionals may need a cluster of talent communities to tap different talent pools and target content to candidates at different stages of their careers.
“It’s a marketing challenge,” Floren says. “It’s not a small task to keep people engaged. Unlike experienced professionals, Gen Y candidates need the ability to explore different industries and companies to help decide where they may fit in.”
Because many Gen Y candidates are still in this exploratory phase, LinkedIn, Twitter and other networking sites may not be adequate for tapping that talent.
“These sites are based on networks and data for people who already know where they want to be and who they want to connect with,” Floren notes. “Gen Y candidates may not know where they want to be, who they want to connect with, or how to build a profile in the language of employers. LinkedIn hasn’t cracked the code of how to bring in the next generation.”