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Tips for Entry-Level Recruiting

Building an Entry-Level Talent Network

By Brian Heifferon, AfterCollege

Recruiting can be a thankless business. Recruiters know that the news headlines about historically high unemployment only tell a small part of the story. The fact is, it’s actually harder than ever to find highly qualified candidates in industries like high tech, engineering, accounting, science and healthcare. This shortage of in-demand talent is even more pronounced when you’re trying to identify top college students and recent graduates.

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Add in an anemic economy and unpredictable hiring needs, and many entry-level recruiters now find themselves in an era of on-demand hiring where their hiring budgets and objectives can change dramatically from month-to-month, yet the expectations on their ability to maintain their recruiting readiness remain extremely high.

So how can an entry-level recruiter best maintain his/her level of readiness with limited visibility into forecasting and future budgets? There are several best practices that will allow to you develop a reliable network of ready-to-hire talent. It really boils down to a few key concepts – focus, visibility, and authenticity.

Here are a few specifics on how to integrate these concepts into your college recruiting and branding strategy:

1. Identify your target and get some attention

Like most things, the key to any effective college recruiting initiative is laser-like focus. Don’t waste your time on attracting candidates that aren’t suitable for your positions. Does your company build software? Then target computer science programs. Don’t waste your time with the masses. Tools that require you to deal with the masses are counterproductive.

You need to get out of line in order to get the attention of your target audience. Don’t blindly follow everyone else through the ‘established’ recruitment channels on campus. If you want your company to stand out on campus, you need to go directly to where the students already hang out. The best examples include their academic departments, student groups, and honor societies. And the trick here is to target their key influencers on campus – faculty members and administrators. According to a recent AfterCollege Student Insight survey, 44 percent of students replied that they turn to professors, teachers and deans for employment leads.

The lesson here: Not only is it okay to take the non-traditional path on campus, it’s dumb not to.

2. Focus on pipelining talent without regard to current openings

Once you’ve established your target audience, you need to begin an outreach program. Ideally this program will leverage the key influencers you’ve identified on campus. This is extremely important as it will allow you gain access to a much larger percentage of passive job seekers, generally freshmen, sophomores and juniors who are not actively using their school’s career services center yet.

Your outreach program should not necessarily focus on filling immediate openings, but speak more broadly to what types of opportunities your company offers, as well as what you are looking for in candidates. You should conduct regular outreach into your target audience and carefully measure what types of candidates you’re attracting. Remember, the ultimate goal here is to establish a reliable long-term network of highly qualified entry-level talent that you can capitalize on for future hiring needs. It’s important to be mindful of attracting enough passive job seekers from lower grade levels that you can nurture along the way.

3. Nurture your network with regular updates and relevant information

Now that you have a good number of students and recent grads in your talent network, you need to nurture it and keep them engaged. Soliciting help from your colleagues (hiring managers, recruiters, sourcing specialists, alumni) is highly recommended. Send along regular announcements, event updates, new job opportunities, product launches, etc. Target your messages according to your audience and looking at different segments like grade- level, discipline, geography, etc. to ensure you’re sending along the most relevant information.

4. Be authentic and drop the boring corporate-speak

Today’s students and recent grads are seeking authentic feedback and interactions with employers, regardless of whether this happens in-person or virtually. Making recruiters and alumni available to openly communicate with potential job seekers is the best way to facilitate this exchange of information. According to AfterCollege’s 2011 Student Insight Survey, 86 percent of students listed work/life balance as their primary concern when considering a potential employer. Students are not going to learn anything about that, or anything else meaningful about your company, from a brochure or a pre-approved company line. So drop the stiff corporate communication style and start to engage students and recent grads in real conversations.

Positioning your company as an employer of choice and recruiting top entry-level talent doesn’t need to be a painful or stress-inducing experience. As mentioned above, there are a number of tools and strategies that are relatively easy and cost-effective to implement that can help you accomplish your goals, even in the face of uncertainty and constantly changing expectations. Developing a Talent Network of entry-level candidates is the best way to get started, and to do this, the AfterCollege 2011 Student Insight Survey suggests that you need to meet the students on their own turf, reach out to passive candidates early and often, and commit to engaging in authentic communication.

About AfterCollege

For the last 11 years, AfterCollege has been connecting college students, alumni and employers through faculty and career networks at colleges and universities across the country. They seek to create a better way for job seeking students and alumni to connect with the right employers. Through AfterCollege, employers have access to more than 2.8 million students and recent graduates via 19,000 faculty members at over 2,300 colleges and universities.

Brian Heifferon is the COO and founder of AfterCollege.

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