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The Green Sheet Online Edition

December 08, 2008 • Issue 08:12:01

Recruiting top college grads

By Curt Hensley
CSH Consulting

Is your merchant services business looking for rapid growth? Finding talent from within the payments industry is one way to go. However, college recruiting is another alternative many financial services companies can use successfully.

In recruiting from colleges and universities, a strategy called "superior college recruiting" has rendered more traditional approaches outdated. Breaking free of entrenched methods isn't easy; few in the corporate world are willing to take on the challenge.

The traditional approach

About 95 percent of recruiting efforts on college campuses follow a model that is dependent on career centers. It relies heavily on career center services but very little on actual scouting for talent.

The traditional model is straightforward:

  • Pick the top U.S. colleges and universities to target.
  • Arrange dates with college career centers for information sessions, job fairs and interviews.
  • Place ads in college media markets announcing the sessions or advertise on campus.
  • Develop company brochures.
  • Offer giveaways, and deliver compelling presentations.
  • Hold on-campus interviews with candidates selected from sessions and fairs.
  • Make offers of employment to the top candidates interviewed.

It's uncomplicated, relatively inexpensive and produces enough hires to keep countless companies reasonably satisfied. Unfortunately, corporate recruiters are unaware there are alternatives that yield clear, competitive advantages and include more sophisticated elements designed to ensure extraordinary results.

The missing elements

Superior recruiting is distinguished by reduced emphasis on campus information sessions and more focus on branding, technology, relationship building, aggressive marketing, and fact-based decision-making.

Following are nine key aspects of the superior college recruiting approach created by human resource expert Dr. John Sullivan:

  1. Making data-driven decisions. Decisions are based on data rather than emotion. Recruiting tools and approaches, like sourcing and advertising, are selected based on the superior numbers they produce.

  2. Creating a written strategy and plan. It's difficult to have an impact using a haphazard approach, so have a written strategic plan in place to focus and direct your recruiting effort to include:

    • Relationship recruiting: This strategy focuses on building relationships with faculty, students, alumni and staff. When you build long-term relationships with individuals whom students know and trust, those contacts can help you identify and sell top students on your firm.

    • Remote recruiting: This is designed to allow a firm to pick the very best students from a number of universities without having to physically visit each one. Remote recruiting emphasizes the use of the Internet and social networks to identify and assess college talent.

    • Continuous graduate recruiting: This long-term approach focuses on recruiting even after students have graduated. One element of this strategy is to identify the best recruits while they are still in college. You can then wait until your targeted graduates stabilize and are trained by another organization for two years or more before recruiting them.

    As graduates mature, they may consider your firm for subsequent employment opportunities. Working closely with alumni associations is key to maintaining open communication channels with alumni.

  3. Identifying clear, measurable goals. Goals help everyone understand what they are working toward. Most traditional college recruiting efforts have simplistic goals, like recruit five interns or hire six business majors.

    However, the goals of superior college recruiting is to dominate the college market and get a disproportionate number of exceptional students; build and maintain a measurable competitive advantage in recruiting; build an employment brand that makes every targeted college student aware of your firm; and win every head-to-head fight with competitors over top targets.

  4. Establishing an employment brand. Your image as a great place to work is the cornerstone of this approach. Executing a formal plan to become an employer of choice so that every college student has heard of you and wants to know more about you is the most critical element of superior recruiting.

    College branding includes winning best place to work awards, placing on the best place to start a career list, being written up in targeted media for your best practices and having executives speak on campus. You can develop your employment brand even with just three or four local universities in your area.

  5. Identifying top students. Dramatically expand the number of available ways to identify top students by adding an Internet component. Traditionally, students were identified through scholarships and assessment of those who attended information sessions.

    Superior identification tools include the use of student and graduate assistant referrals, online and on-campus contests, social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and online forums. Other sources include campus professional clubs and honor society meetings to identify talent, as well as having interns act as on-campus recruiting ambassadors.

  6. Convincing targeted students to apply. Put emphasis on multiple selling approaches. These marketing techniques are designed to get students to formally apply for positions via your Web site or sign up for campus interviews. Some effective approaches in use today include recruiter blogs or podcasts that highlight a firm's best points.

    Other ideas to consider include creating compelling videos for your company's Web site or YouTube; texting recruiting messages to potential candidates; encouraging students to refer their classmates to you; designing a corporate career page dedicated to wowing top graduates.

  7. Assessing applicants' capabilities. The most traditional aspect to recruiting is the face-to-face interview normally scheduled through a school's career center. The superior approach allows off-campus student interviews. Additional features might include computerized online assessments, contests or interviews.

    The most effective assessment process, on-the-job assessment, can occur during internships or with short-term projects students can complete off-campus during college breaks.

  8. Making compelling offers. You can't classify your approach to college recruiting as superior unless you are aggressive. The foundation of the superior approach is identifying each target candidate's job acceptance criteria and tailoring the job offer so that it best meets each of the criteria.

  9. Defining metrics for improvement. Most traditional recruiting systems don't learn from bad hires or employee turnover. Key recruiting metrics should include candidate and hiring manager satisfaction, the overall quality of the candidates, the percentage of diversity hires, new hire performance on the job, and one-, two- and five-year retention rates.

The way college students communicate is changing rapidly, so shifting your approach is essential. The rapid advancement of new technologies now allows college recruiters to do things that were not possible just a few years ago. If you are looking to be an innovative leader in the merchant services arena, adopting a superior college recruiting model is a critical piece of the foundation. The Green Sheet, Inc.

Curt Hensley is the founder, Chief Executive Officer and President of CSH Consulting, a recruiting firm exclusively focused on the payments industry. He and his leadership team have over 50 years of combined experience recruiting in the merchant acquiring arena. They have placed over 1,200 payments industry professionals since their inception eight years ago. Contact Curt at 480-315-8800 or curth@cshconsulting.com.

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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