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  • 02.01.09

Balancing massive headcount reductions with campus recruiting

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In my current role as Director of MBA career services, I am charged with the difficult task of trying to convince companies that haven’t recruited with us before to hire our students for full-time or intern positions. Even when times are good, this can be incredibly difficult (think immovable object) as most companies focus on a handful of “core schools” and rarely, and I mean rarely, waver from that list no matter how compelling your pitch.

Now, waist deep in a recession and smack dab in the middle of the campus recruiting season, companies are struggling with how to justify hiring freshly-minted MBAs or undergraduates when they’ve just announced thousands of employee layoffs. So, when faced with the choice, many companies are deciding to furlough their campus recruiting programs altogether instead of trying to maintain their talent pipeline, even if only at a fraction of normal hiring levels.

Companies are obviously faced with some incredibly tough choices, many of which will impact whether they’ll even be in existence past the end of the week (if even that long). But cutting campus recruiting programs altogether can be costly.

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The time, money, and sweat equity you spent building your on-campus presence is a sunk cost. It’s gone. You can’t get it back. If you decide to pull the plug on your college recruiting program, there’s a good chance you’re going to have to start from scratch once we start to crawl our way out of the current economic mess we’re facing. And that can send ripple effects through your campus recruiting efforts for years to come.

Instead of completely eliminating campus recruiting, continue as many companies have, to consider any and all low-cost recruiting alternatives. Substitute phone interviews for campus interviews. Post jobs and internships with campus career centers. Stay in touch with candidates of interest–especially if there’s a chance you might be able to offer them an internship before the start of summer. If you can’t commit to bringing someone on full time, consider hiring an intern or two. Even if you can’t do any hiring, maintain your on-campus presence with a company presentation or attendance at a career fair (utilizing local alumni as representatives if you need to), making clear to students that hiring opportunities presently don’t exist, but that you want to meet candidates for future openings.

Though the temptation exists to cancel all recruiting activities, that’s a costly approach. Limit the scope of your involvement, but maintain the relationship. It’s critical for long-term hiring success.

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Shawn Graham is Director of MBA Career Services at the University of Pittsburgh and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (www.courtingyourcareer.com).

 

About the author

Shawn Graham partners with small businesses to create, implement, and manage performance-driven marketing strategies. His knowledge base includes media relations, business development, customer engagement, web marketing, and strategic planning.

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