Kickstarting Your College and MBA Recruiting Program

CoolAvenues Newswire | April 30,2014 02:36 pm IST

In research for my upcoming book, I interviewed one of my wisest and most inspirational professors, Jim Collins, author of From Good to Great..

Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't. The free-flowing discussion with him reminded me that the framework for transforming good results into great ones can be applied not only to enduring organizations and leaders but to activities like recruiting as well.


For those of us involved in recruiting, we can commiserate on the fact that it's been an especially challenging time. The aftermath of 9/11, a tumultuous market, global economic woes, the wave of corporate wrongdoing, and an uncertain hiring picture are the landscape upon which we must execute our own recruiting strategies and plans.


Still, forecasts are pointing to a slight upturn in the economy, which translates into a great opportunity to build for the future. Getting ready for when the recruiting cycle heats up again should be the main focus now. What we've currently got is a window of opportunity to start up or re-energize our college and MBA recruiting, all the while enjoying an abundance of talented candidates and the luxury of time to refine our efforts and build a program from good to great. Here's a top ten list that I hope will inspire you and provide some food for thought as the school year starts up again and you consider your recruiting efforts.


1. Know what's important

What's important to you and your organization? What's important to those you want to recruit?


For you, the recruiter: What are the ideal candidates in terms of qualities, experiences, and competencies? What kinds of schools/programs offer the backgrounds and customer-service experiences you want? Approximately how many do you need to hire and into which groups, and ideally when? What do you need to do internally to make your recruiting efforts effective? Who are your recruiting champions, who are your detractors, and how do you engage them? What resources do you need to be successful?


For your targeted candidates: What matters to them now, during these particular times. (It's definitely very different than what mattered to these same candidates only a few years ago.) Is it your organization's values and culture? Who your leaders are and your corporate responsibility? Are stability and measured growth more or less important? Is compensation at the top of the list? Or maybe career development opportunities? What do you have to offer that your tier-one candidates want?


2. Think big picture; think 3D

Consider three dimensions to your big picture recruiting strategy and plans:

Understand how your college and MBA recruiting fits into your overall recruiting and human resources picture;

Re-recruit the placeholders already in your organization - those among your current employees.

Develop a four-phase action plan for your recruiting program.


In brief: How does your college and MBA recruiting fit into your overall hiring needs now and in the future? What is the value add of college and MBA recruiting relative to your other recruiting sources such as the use of executive recruiters, participation in job fairs, reliance on Internet initiatives, employee referral programs, or others? Why is college/MBA recruiting important to you? How do you customize your recruiting activities for college and MBAs vs. experienced industry hires?


For many organizations, college and MBA recruiting is a viable, cost-effective option to build the supply chain for future leaders, fill immediate gaps in skills required to compete, fortify the workforce with a diversity of perspective, and - given the buyer-seller market imbalance - find a bargain or at least a good value-for-the-money in the recruiting marketplace when considering other recruiting options.


The reality is that a number of candidates are either taking a break from working for as long as they can afford to or biding their time in a placeholder job until the economy starts picking up again. If you have some placeholder employees in your organization, think about the investment you've already made in them. They represent precious talent and knowledge. Also, there's a significant cost-per-hire to replace an employee who walks out the door.


Integrating your efforts to re-recruit your placeholders while conducting your external recruiting efforts for new hires is certainly challenging, but imperative. Doing something about this now can also make a big difference when you work your new hires into the organization, which oftentimes engenders a kind of caste system of the haves and have-nots. Think about what you can do now to engage your current placeholder employees (the potential "have-nots"), particularly those who are highly likely to leave when their job prospects begin to brighten.


Ask yourself: What are some high-impact, cost-effective ways you can invest in their commitment and development? How can you offset the risk of not only losing this precious resource later on, but also making them more productive and more job-satisfied?


In my book, Hiring the Best and the Brightest, I discuss the 7Cs that are key in retention strategies aimed at keeping your talent. They include: core values and culture, connectedness, commitment to people, communication, career development, continuous learning, and compensation.


An effective and enduring recruiting program covers four key phases. These phases and the to-dos for each include: -


Upfront preparation: assess needs; research and select schools; cultivate key relationships; schedule interviews; formulate communication strategy and messaging. 

Pre-recruitment: build visibility and presence on campus; know your customers; make use of what the school already offers; host an employer information session and focused events; target candidates. 

Interviews: choose your teams; prepare them so they are synched; conduct preliminary interviews; evaluate candidates; and follow up with invitations and rejections. 

Second rounds and offers: second rounds and a close-up look or day on the job; doing your compensation homework - market, competition, school-specific, and internal compensation philosophy; thanks and appreciation to all stakeholders; feedback and improvement; start over and build the momentum.


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