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Everything Wrong with College Recruiting

Why should your organization care about campus recruiting? Nearly 60% of all new hires are fresh college graduates.



While organizations are spending $200 billion on recruiting, companies are still unable to effectively navigate the collegiate recruiting process. The college recruiting industry can often be the “perfect storm” from a talent acquisition perspective. It includes everything that makes traditional recruitment difficult and costly, including: incredibly high volumes of applicants, inexperienced resumes, costly collegiate partnerships & events, and heavy travel. On top of simply navigating and planning your early-talent recruiting, organizations are also struggling to find the best talent.


A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management states that the average cost to hire an employee is $4,129. However, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, hiring an entry-level employee can cost an average of $7,645. While plenty of articles and studies discuss the costs associated with poor organizational hiring decisions, few discuss the associated costs for outdated organizational collegiate recruiting strategies.


Inability to Find the Best Talent

Some may claim that the reason why companies are still unable to find the best collegiate talent is because their methods (including resumes, GPA’s and interviews) are inefficient. I disagree. Unfortunately, interviewing is here to stay. However, I’d argue it is the organizational expectations that should change and not the expectations of the candidates. First, why do some college students and recent graduates perform so poorly during interviews? Because college does not teach them how to interview. Secondly, why are all entry-level resumes formatted so poorly? Because most college students are not instructed how to create a resume and even fewer visit their campus career center claiming to offer these services. Lastly, some experts claim evaluating candidates solely based on their GPA is not an accurate depiction of future success. In theory, this thinking holds merit for those individuals that succeed despite their lackluster GPA or perhaps lack of degree. However, I would argue that evaluating entry-level candidates by GPA is due to the lack of areas elsewhere to evaluate.

If we are going to buy-in to the fact that a college degree is a prerequisite to qualify for your open role, then we must buy-in to the notion that GPA can be a predictor of success.

Thus, it is not about the methods used but rather the collegiate recruiting strategy itself that must be examined.


Making your brand visible and known in a sea of companies trying to do the exact same thing is an uphill battle. However, adding the challenge of school selection and finding time to properly screen each candidate is nearly impossible for most organizations. Most strategies focus on targeting a specific number of schools, usually local or alumni-focused campuses to make their organizational presence. However, I would argue most organizations see campus visits as a necessity but provide little explanation or analytics to justify the “why” behind their school selection strategy.

I see most campus recruiting strategies as a seasonal PR event that provides very little long-term upside within organizations afraid of change.

Some (mostly larger) organizations take a hyper-focused approach towards collegiate recruiting placing recruiters responsible for specific targeted campuses. Their job is simple; find the best talent of tomorrow, today. Their recruiters are often responsible for event planning, relationship building, and volume-based interviewing. The largest organizations typically break out their targeted schools into a few “core schools” where they know the bulk of their hires traditionally come from. While they may hire students outside of these schools, it is common for no one to ever review their resumes at all. However, most organizations do not have the luxury of having campus based recruiters.


Alternatively, most organizations treat collegiate recruiting as a seasonality-based business. Internships and entry-level roles are posted and recruited for in the same fashion as all other organizational openings. There are few main concerns with this approach. According to Forbes contributor Josh Bersin, the average entry-level opening receives more than 150 resumes, and more than 45% of those candidates never hear anything back from the employer resulting in 83% of candidates rating their experience as poor. While the main goal of collegiate recruiting is finding the best talent, the secondary goal should be to increase brand awareness and increase talent engagement. Traditional campus recruiting teams struggle with finding the time to efficiently reach out and create a positive candidate experience. Not only is there not enough time to screen and interview enough applicants, ultimately teams rely too heavily on their core schools while potentially missing out on other qualified applicants.


In short, recruiting teams do not have the capacity to effectively manage the college recruiting process and most organizations lack a true strategy regarding their year-round campus based recruitment efforts.


Spending More, Same Bad Hires

The wildly expensive state of collegiate recruiting is at an all-time high. Not only are companies charged to even come onto campus, the additional costs of job postings, sourcing tools, travel, and off the clock attendance time of revenue-generating employees adds up quickly. As stated previously, some organizations associate these added costs towards on-campus relationship building efforts. However, I would argue these costs are unneeded and misguided for attracting top entry-level talent. For some organizations, the cost associated with having expensive sourcing tools and on-campus recruiters makes sense. However, for most organizations having a dedicated team simply does not make sense. This is especially true for small and mid-sized businesses with few HR personnel, where non-income generating tasks can quickly take up most of their time (like recruiting).

There seems to be no sign of campus career fairs decreasing in popularity. In fact, 75% of all employers visit these types of events. According to Glassdoor, the average organizational cost to participate in a single event can range from $125–400. However, this does not include travel, accommodation, and marketing materials so even a few events per year can end up being quite costly.


Additionally, very few organizations rely solely on campus recruiting to fill their early career openings. They supplement their campus recruiting visits with traditional job postings. The average costs associated with popular job posting platforms is roughly $300 per month for a single job. However, according to Mile Živković, the average time to fill on entry-level roles in 42 days so you will likely end up having to renew your ad.


There are also college specific sourcing tools becoming more popular as collegiate recruiting continues to be an organizational challenge. The most notable seems to be WayUp, a sourcing tool promising to bring more qualified candidates to your open entry-level roles. While they keep their organizational pricing off their website, my experience puts their sourcing tool costing organizations upwards of $20k annually for mid-sized organizations. While this tool is fantastic for increasing candidate volume, it still requires staff to screen potential candidates and provides little improvement towards candidate experience. Additionally, organizations will continue to supplement this tool with other costly recruiting efforts.


How to Improve Your Collegiate Recruiting Efforts

If you’ve made it this far in my potentially over-analyzed article, you’re probably wondering what I present regarding solutions to these problems. While I could detail how I founded Nine to Five to address a lot of these issues directly facing organizations. I feel it would be more appropriate to present strategies to improve your own college recruiting strategies.

  1. Aim to develop partnerships with students. At Nine to Five, we have focused on hiring Campus Ambassadors to promote opportunities directly on campus for respective organizations. To truly be successful, employers need to be able to reach the students directly. How can your organization contribute to the students’ education on campus? Could you have alumni create faculty relationships and potentially get involved with project-based learning in the classroom? According to Jason Weingarten, CEO of Yello, partnering with faculty can allow organizations an opportunity to engage with students and ultimately give students an inside view of the company’s culture and/or potential career paths.

  2. Find out what methods work for your organization. College recruiting is not one-size fits all. Large, incredibly recognizable companies need less effort and attention paid to awareness and interest. However, most companies are unknown to students. If you are going to copy recruiting strategies used by more well-known competitors, you will ultimately lose the war for talent. Not all organizations will see a return on their investment for campus career fairs or establishing an on-campus presence. Can you find other ways to increase student engagement and awareness? Companies can use alternative recruitment marketing strategies to increase engagement including, email marketing, social media campaigns (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter), LinkedIn paid ads (shown below), and LinkedIn InMail targeting.

  3. Treat your campus recruiting as a year-round endeavor. Ramping up your early career recruiting efforts only when you have internships or around graduation time will hurt your organization in the long run. Find ways to engage students all year, instead of treating it as a seasonality based discipline.

  4. Implement effective workforce planning tactics toward your college recruiting efforts. Unlike other organizational openings that can be unpredictable and time-sensitive, intern and entry-level recruitment is predictable. There is nothing stopping organizations from selecting their interns early and often. How many internship roles did you have last summer that were approved for recruiting in April? Instead, this year try to begin recruiting in November for summer 2020 interns. By effectively planning your internship recruiting efforts and not being afraid to “lock-down” interns early, your organization will ultimately find better talent and reduce competition during recruitment.

  5. Act as a partner and educator, not a recruiter. Despite what people say about this generation, they can see through anything unauthentic. According to Farouk Dey, dean of experiential education at Stanford University, showing up simply as a recruiter is not going to work in today’s environment. Avoid events that are treated as “business-like” and make everything as casual as possible.


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