Employers Must Influence Today’s College Students

Two main messages come to mind in recruitment marketing: We’re Hiring and We’re a Great Place to Work. Now, if the majority of companies spend a majority of their time conveying these two statements on campuses across the country, are we all, in some way or another, contributing to the dilution of our employer brands?

And, if so, how will job seekers differentiate one “great place to work” over another?

According to the CEB 2014 Employment Branding Effectiveness Survey, millennials (debatably defined as individuals born between 1981 to 2000) spend more than 50% less time than Gen Xers and Boomers researching companies before applying. On average, millennials spent 12.4 hours learning about employers during their most recent job search. Other generations averaged 25.9 hours.

What does this mean for employers that are hot to hire Gen Y?

Employers Must Influence Today’s College Students

More than ever, employers must think of innovative ways to amplify their brands in order to reach this highly sought after demographic. One critical way to stand out on campus is to do more than just promote jobs. You’ll also have to do more than just tout how great your company is. Here are ideas to consider as you plan your fall recruiting strategy:

Give away some money.

That’s one way to draw some attention. Scholarships and other monetary awards – offered directly to target universities, via student organization partnerships or to individuals – are effective ways to build brand awareness and make in-roads with key student populations.

For example, if your company hires business or STEM majors, consider offering scholarships to underclassmen in these fields. This will allow you to early identify talent, build your pipeline for the future, and learn more about the recipients. The added bonus is that it also positions your organization as a company that cares.

Take the C-suite back to school.

Years ago, I established a partnership between my then company and a professor at Penn State. The idea was to sponsor a capstone project for a 400-level class. At the end of the semester, a C-level executive from the company traveled with me to campus to listen to the student’s final presentations. He was so impressed that he wanted to make offers on the spot!  At my new firm, we are busy planning for a spring case competition which, I think, will excite and challenge students … and create some buzz on U.S. campuses.

How can your company partner with your target universities and value to students’ academic experiences? How can your team of college recruiters engage top university talent on a more consultative level?

Give them a taste of your company.

Are you in the throes of a summer internship program? The best companies know the value of providing meaningful work experiences to students, though executing an eight or ten week internship requires time and human resources, as well as people dedicated to developing early careerists.

But what happens when summer is over? Have you ever thought of hosting externs?

By offering a week-long externship during fall or winter break, organizations can nurture important relationships and stay top-of-mind with university staff, pipeline candidates and student organizations. Think of externships as excellent extensions of your corporate experience. (How’s that for alliteration!)

Develop a campus content marketing strategy.

Campus recruiters are great at (and like giving) career advice and interview tips. Ask them to put pen to paper, fingertips to laptops, and write one or two blog posts that can be shared with campus career centers. Many centers have blogs that are shared with students via email and social media. This is a low cost way to provide meaningful information with the larger campus population, and extend your company as a campus partner.

Create purposeful offerings with measurable outcomes.

Adding programs to your existing campus strategy takes time and effort. Not only are recruiting teams expected to fill hundreds of entry level job openings, they are now being asked to develop, market, administer and measure add-on programs.

Don’t overwhelm your teams!

Before rolling out a new program or revamping an existing one, find a champion—someone who’s excited about owning the program and driving results. A well thought-out initiative can translate into real business outcomes, such as:

  • Greater participation in on-campus events
  • Brand lift awareness at key schools
  • Uptick in website traffic and internship and/or full-time job applications
  • Higher engagement levels via career-related social channels
  • Increase in quality of hire due to early identification and pipelining

What if your organization does not have the resources to do more on campus?

Attract students through the interactions they have with your recruiters and managers. Encourage your teams to take a more consultative approach, by seeking to build relationships and trust, listen carefully, and foster open lines of communication.

Instead of funneling candidates through your recruiting process like widgets on a conveyor belt, teach recruiters to build relationships and create positive candidate experiences. CEB’s research also shows that millennials receive 12.5% more offers than other generations, so dedicating extra attention to the candidate experience is likely to improve campus offer to acceptance rates.

Will your organization take more than just jobs to campus this fall? What are you doing to attract and influence millennial job seekers?

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Shannon Smedstad

Shannon Smedstad has nearly 20 years of recruitment, employer branding, and communications experience. Currently, she serves as the Principal Employer Brand Strategist at exaqueo. Previously, she held employer branding and recruiting leadership roles at CEB and GEICO. She’s a work at home mom raising two awesome girls who also enjoys reading, running, leading a Girl Scout troop, and her morning coffee. You can connect with Shannon on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Reader Interactions


  1. torin says

    Your article speaks directly to our newest endeavor: see future[dot]com.

    The change we want (in hiring, talent attraction, loyalty, etc) amongst all audiences going forward will involve different levers being pushed.

    We believe that if internal employees spent more time, in a way that was convenient to their daily demands, with millennials, it will make a difference.

    Your statement “Give them a taste of your company” is a take action plea that if heard and acted upon, will deliver incredible value in the years to come.

    Great piece.


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