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College Recruiting: Know Who You Are and Where You Fit As a Company (Make Relative Deprivation Work for You)...

I had the pleasure of leading a roundtable discussion in Atlanta a few months ago on the topic of College Recruiting.  I hadn't been in a position to really dig into this topic with big and small employers alike, and I can say this as a result of my experience...

It was eyeopening.

As a result of getting to talk to about 35 practitioners - some who were all in on college recruiting and some who were doing nothing - here's my observations on the current college recruiting scene and what you should know: Campus

1--Big employers have brands and spends that are almost impossible to compete with when it comes to college recruiting.

2--If you really have a need to acquire hires from college recruiting and wait until a candidate's senior year, you've already lost.  The big brands invest in large-scale internship programs and actively track conversions to new hires from those programs.

3--It's easy to recruit business and marketing majors via campus recruiting programs.  They're drawn like moths to light towards campus recruiting efforts.  Technical and STEM students are much harder to recruit via these programs.

4--The big brands generally only have so many cycles to spend, so they recruit at the top schools, the state schools with the most candidate flow or my favorite - the school of a top executive - whether it really fits in the strategy or not.

5--If you don't have a big brand, competing against some of the Fortune 500 and their campus recruiting efforts has a really poor ROI.  You're going to get HAMMERED.  It will take you years to get traction at the schools where they are already embedded.  

6--Meanwhile, there are countless schools that go begging for deep involvement from companies related to campus recruiting.

The bottom line of what I heard is this: If you're at a big brand and you're invested in college recruiting, play on.  If you're new to the game, remember that there's a lot of talent that doesn't get touched by this process, but you're going to have to go to places like Kennesaw State, Wayne State, North Alabama, West Georgia, etc. - not Georgia Tech.

There's a lot of big fish in little ponds waiting to be treated like stars - to say nothing of the medium sized fish in little ponds.

Most of the small school talent has a shot to perform as well for you as the big school talent - or even outperform them.  Take a listen to the Malcom Gladwell video below on a topic called relative deprivation to understand why (email subscribers click through if you don't see the video below).


Kimberlee, no longer Esq.

I love this take. Whenever orgs I'm working with are talking about advertising at schools, they almost always say something like "... and we posted it at the top 10 international development programs" or whatever, and I find it baffling. Like, do you need a top academic in this position? No, you need an entry level person. There are thousands of International Development grads looking for jobs, and there's no specific reason to think that these schools are producing better matches for your organization than other schools would. Y'all just been duped by the same marketing strategies they use to get the "top" students (which, again, when we're talking about recruiting 18 year olds to wax philosophical for 4 years, what does "top students" even mean?)

Not to mention that most of the really prestigious schools in the US are well-known for actively eschewing meritocracy in favor of $$$. I am totally willing to believe that building deep recruiting relationships with schools *can* pay off, but Kris makes an excellent case for why anyone trying to get into it should think really carefully about whether their actions are actually tied to the outcomes they're looking for!

(as a PS, I'm also given to understand that Handshake is getting more and more popular, and is free for employers to post on, so it would take a lot to convince me that most employers should even bother to dedicate actual time and resources to college recruiting at all!)

Kimberlee, no longer Esq.

(though, a question: IS college recruiting mostly entry-level? Or are there some schools where more experienced alums will check their school's job board or otherwise be reachable for recruiting with their school as an intermediary?)


Hi Kimberlee -

To answer your question, some colleges and universities are doing a great job with alumni networks that active recruiting of experienced hires through the college brand, but the vast majority of college recruiting is still grads fresh out of school... MBA hiring from full-time programs is a mixture of both...


Brandon Steven

Really appreciate. Many colleges recruiting on the basis of people's experience and your administration hire still in grades out of school. Well, this is really a good thing I came across. Keep it up!!


Great Post!

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