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Careers: Campus Recruiting Over/Under

This weekend, I had a chance to dive into Recruit or Die: How Any Business Can Beat the Big Guys in the War for Young Talent. Over the 7+ years I’ve worked in career services for a major university, I’ve had countless conversations with recruiters small and large about what it takes to develop a successful campus recruiting program.

This weekend, I had a chance to dive into Recruit or Die: How Any Business Can Beat the Big Guys in the War for Young Talent. Over the 7+ years I’ve worked in career services for a major university, I’ve had countless conversations with recruiters small and large about what it takes to develop a successful campus recruiting program.

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Unlike other books I’ve read on the topic, Recruit or Die takes a comprehensive look at the entire campus recruiting process, from understanding what prospective hires want from their jobs and their careers, to how to write an effective job posting. If you’re new to campus recruiting, or if you’re looking for ways to continuously improve your efforts, check out Recruit or Die. I know it gave me a few new ideas that I will use when I work with companies on creative recruiting strategies.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and who has actually ever lived or known anyone who has lived under a rock?), you know that there’s growing concern over the weakness in the economy beyond the housing and financial sectors. And Friday’s government employment report that the number of Americans with jobs fell last month for the first time in four years didn’t help allay those fears.

Historically, when the economy is hot, companies have over hired. When things start to cool off, they likewise overcompensate by brining hiring to a screeching halt. This boon or bust reactionist mentality might seem like a good idea at the time, but both create serious long-term implications when recruiting on college campuses.

Over hiring is probably the most visible and usually causes the most damage. You know the routine…when the good times are good, we get caught up in the hiring frenzy. But when things take a turn for the worst, companies are often left scrambling to reassign, layoff, or even fire staff causing a black eye for the organization and hurting its ability to hire talent down the road.

But even when the economy remains strong, over hiring can still have negative consequences. Bringing too many people on board can mean less individualized attention and training dedicated to each new hire. This “let’s throw a bunch of people against the wall and see who sticks” mentality will come back to bite you in the long run when dissatisfied former interns and employees share their dissatisfaction with others.

To avoid over hiring, develop a plan for smart growth. Project your staffing needs based on three scenarios 1) your current situation, 2) if things continue to grow at a similar pace, and 3) if the bottom falls out. Assess and reassess your hiring numbers; benchmark with some of your top competitors.

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On the flip side, under hiring can be just as damaging to your organization’s reputation. I see this a lot with companies when the economy starts to cool down. Instead of maintaining a steady, albeit smaller, talent pipeline on college campuses, companies eliminate campus recruiting for full-time and intern candidates. This strategy can completely undermine any brand equity you were able to build up. As a result, it’s likely going to take you twice as much effort to convince prospective applicants that you are committed to hiring students from their campus. Instead of eliminating your campus recruiting efforts, revisit your hiring numbers and your list of core schools. Continuing with a smaller hiring class is a much better strategy then eliminating college recruiting altogether.

Also, if you’ve had to let recent hires go due to a merger or acquisition, realize doing so is going to really reflect negatively on you if you decide to return to campus just a few short weeks or months later. I’m not saying you shouldn’t continue to recruit, but I am saying it’s critical that you factor in the public relations aspect of telling students “We want to hire” when they know a few of their classmates were just let go. Look, they’ll understand that sometimes you have to let people go, but let the dust settle before you’re back hanging up your shingle on campus.

When you’re looking to develop a talent pipeline, remember that it’s a long-term play that shouldn’t be scrapped the first time the company stock takes a hit. Instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, look for creative ways that you can continue to attract, recruit, and retain the future leaders of your organization from colleges campuses.

Shawn Graham is an Associate Director with the MBA Career Management Center at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (courtingyourcareer.wordpress.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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