High impact college recruiting on a small budget

Considering the current economic climate, most organizations are tightening their collective belts when it comes to cash expenditures. The area that seems to be targeted very quickly is recruiting and hiring budgets. Whether your company or customers have placed hiring on freeze or simply slowed things down, it is almost a sure thing that the action taking place is being done with less money being spent. Unfortunately, people looking for a job don't care what our budget looks like, they want a job, a way to find one in the future, or a good reason to consider you when they start looking. This is why continuing to recruit on whatever shoestring budget you have is important even if you don't have a lot of positions to fill!

We've all heard the phrase 'out of sight, out of mind' and it is absolutely true in the recruiting world. Nowhere is it so prevalent as on college campuses, though. Many students will view their Spring career fair as the time to get a job and won't even send resumes to companies not in attendance. The reason is simple: a company who does not visit campus is perceived to be less interested in those students than one who attends. Unfortunately this perception becomes reality and those out of sight...well, you know where that is going. The heartache is that career fairs can be very expensive. You need to have giveaways, a big flashy display, multiple recruiters, travel expenses, and time after the fair to review all the resumes. So how do you maintain visibility for less money? Trust me, the answer is more simple than you think.

Step 1 - Identify the schools you want to target

Based on past hiring, intern programs, or projected staffing needs, it should be fairly simple to pick out a few schools that will likely have the best candidates for your positions. You can be looking to fill some entry level positions, internships, co-ops, or just build relationships. No matter what the need, pick a handful of schools to really concentrate on.

Step 2 - Find a professor who is passionate

This can be the hardest part, but once you find the right professor you will hardly have to do the recruiting work yourself ever again! Professors are in higher education for a reason. By and large they are passionate about their subject matter and are there to help the students. We can all remember those who weren't so great at this, but I'm sure a few stick out as advocates for their trade that inspired class after class! These are the profs to make friends with and they will be easy to identify.

Once you have a rapport built up with the core group of professors start using that relationship to work as a partner with them. Ask if they have any standout students they would recommend for a challenging entry level role, mature undergrads for an internship, or grad students for a management program. If these students exist, the faculty will jump at the opportunity to help them out. Often you will find that these professors are even willing to pass job descriptions and deliver your pitch to the student, thus generating excitement before you even pick up the phone.

Step 3 - Non-traditional visit to campus

No matter what kind of behind-the-scenes work you've done, you still need face time. If budget is a concern, though, don't show up at a career fair with a lackluster display and cheap handouts. This is a sure way to sink down the list. Instead, offer to come and speak in the professor's classes for a day. You'll have a captive audience and the students will feel as though they are getting special treatment.

You'll have an hour at a time to get a room full of kids excited about what your company is doing, how they are doing it, and why they need to work there. Even if you don't have jobs to fill, take the time to make these visits. You'll start to get some great word of mouth around campus as students tell their roommates and friends about you company. Although there is still some cost associated with the visit, this is as close to free advertising as you will get!

What do you get out of it?

The benefits are numerous to this approach. First and foremost it is a quick way to stand out in the student's mind. At a career fair there could be hundreds of employers in a noisy and sometimes confusing setting. The students will get back to their dorm or apartment and wonder was it the guy from ABC that said to email a resume, or XYZ?

In addition, you'll get that word of mouth advertising. Students talk, blog, post on Facebook/Myspace, Twitter...you name it. If you make a good impression, that word has the potential to spread like wildfire.

Build the relationship by getting younger students interested in intern programs or co-ops. Starting a solid intern program at a school will get you a great pipeline of applicants and an inexpensive trial run of what they will be like should you make a full-time offer upon graduation.

Last, but not least, you can take time with those high performers you and the professor already talked about. Give them a few minutes of your time between classes to do a mini-interview, offer them your contact info, or encourage them to check out specific positions. This is your time to target the best and brightest rather than hoping they elbow through the crowd and you can locate their resume in the stack you took home with you.

Overall, this approach may take a little extra effort, but the rewards are absolutely worth it. Giving yourself a good name on campus, and working to maintain that relationship will ensure a steady flow of applications from the best and brightest, not just those who couldn't land a job elsewhere!

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