Relationship Recruiting with College Students

As a recruiter for a digital marketing company, we source most of our candidates for our entry level positions from colleges – attending college career fairs, posting jobs on college career portals, holding information sessions, or connecting with faculty teaching in our majors of interest. Fortunately, my company has long-standing relationships with some great colleges and has a positive reputation with them as an employer. We don’t experience much shortage of interest or lack of applications for our positions, nor much declination in job offers.

Relationship Recruiting with College Students

While college recruiting works like a dream for us, it doesn’t mean that we don’t need to stay in tune to changes in this kind of recruiting. As recently as 5 years ago, a college senior or recent college graduate had to strategically demonstrate how well his background and qualifications matched what the job description requested. Additionally, they were grappling with foreboding unemployment in a tanked economy. Students were at a loss for what recruiters were looking for, and recruiters were hardly looking at all. The gap between the student and recruiter was wide. Today, that gap is closing and as more qualified graduates enter the marketplace, employers are there with a handshake and a smile.

At the advice of college career centers, students are becoming networking- and personal branding-gurus. They aren’t just sending their resumes down a black hole of a careers page and then crossing their fingers and attentively waiting by their inbox for a response. Instead, they are actively pursuing companies by following them on social media and directly connecting with recruiters on LinkedIn. Likewise, have you SEEN the swag kids are getting these days?! T-shirts, sunglasses, koozies! For recruiters and students, it’s akin to a courtship. Students woo recruiters with webpages and monograms topping their resumes while recruiters entice candidates to their booths via live tweets and the best ballpoint pens. Career fairs are just a few olives short of a full out cocktail party.

College recruiting has become relationship recruiting where students and companies build a foundation of trust and mutual goals, and the recruiter is the facilitator of this relationship. Thanks to employment branding and social media, recruiters can educate students on their company and industry in an engaging and hip way. They themselves are also the face of the company they represent, and the best recruiters have smiling faces. As a result, students are more educated during their job search and take a genuine interest in the few specific companies for which they want to work. Students have self-selected and aligned themselves with a company’s culture and mission. This is great for recruiters and the company as a whole! To be able to hire people who are curious, well-informed, and already loyal to a company is a big win.

Recruiting based off of building relationships with students is the most successful kind of college recruiting and the kind that students relate to the most. The recruiter and the candidate form two sides of the coin; they are both working to impress the other and have the opportunity to form a relationship built on mutual interests – the company’s culture, its five-year plan, its approach to innovation, etc. The recruiter seeks to share relevant career information that is of particular interest to today’s college student while the student looks to demonstrate to the recruiter his knowledge and fit for the company. It’s time for the recruiter to see the student not just as a resume in a pool of resumes, but as her potential future co-worker. Don’t just attract students to your booth for them to stockpile swag. Get them to want to come see YOU, shake your hand, and smile.

This article, backed by research by Casella, further demonstrates the evolution and future of career preparation for college students. It’s a really interesting read.

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Amber Hanson-Rumbaugh

Amber Hanson-Rumbaugh is a Corporate Recruiter at RKG, a Merkle Company, a leading digital marketing and search agency headquartered in Charlottesville, VA. In this role she is responsible for sourcing, interviewing and hiring candidates and also manages employment branding via social media, on-campus events and internship development. Prior to joining RKG, Amber worked for 3 years in college admissions in Houston, TX . Connect with Amber and follow her on Twitter. (View expressed are mine and do not reflect the views of RKG, a Merkle Company.)


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