I have had the unique pleasure to work in university career services for just shy of a decade across three major universities. This has provided me with an insight into the inner workings of universities – more importantly, recruiting from universities. This is also why I was recruited by PeopleScout to provide a unique and innovative perspective for the Segment Strategies team (US Campus and Diversity) for our client BMO.
In campus recruitment, the traditional path has been hiring corporate recruiters with no higher education experience. While I have seen many successful professionals come from corporate world for these roles, I would like to present a few key thoughts to change your thought process on campus recruitment from company to university, to university to company.
Career Services Alignment
Every university is unique. You cannot treat them as if everything operates the same. Some Universities have Career Services report to Student Affairs, and others may have them report to more administrative arms that are tied to admissions, which can make a difference in your interactions with Career Services. Strategic initiatives, priorities, and other aspects can affect how best to align with your target universities. For example, in general, Career Services offices that report up to Student Affairs tend to be more focused on a student counseling paradigm. They want equality and will typically not recommend specific students or do anything that would not present all students equally to you. Whereas, other reporting structures might result in your ability to get great recommendations of candidates from career services staff.
You will always want to maintain a relationship with your target universities’ Career Services; however, there are many administrative offices that provide unique opportunities to connect with students before they engage with Career Services, if at all (you would be surprised with the top talent that does not really engage with Career Services offices). Students align themselves with departments that they feel a connection to, and many administrative departments provide additional career and employer services. Consider carefully who you are seeking, and dive deep into your target universities to see what other offices also support your target candidates (e.g. academic staff departments, centers of excellence, student leadership departments, multi-cultural student services offices, veterans affairs offices, adult student affairs, specific student groups, etc.). Finding the right few people at each university who have aligned interest with you in helping their students get jobs is critical to the ever changing recruitment landscape. Having a few non-career services contacts can be the difference between success and failure at a university.
Structure of Career Services
Some universities have a centralized Career Services model that makes it simpler to engage (one office, one job portal, etc. for all students/alumni). Others are decentralized where you have to make connections with each individual career center to ensure successful solid partnership. Decentralized offices tend to have different resources, career fairs, engagement opportunities, employer communication, and sometimes job posting portals. Unfortunately, decentralized models tend to make it easy for great opportunities to slip through the cracks for employers. So, know the structure and work the structure.
Ask good questions
Make sure you are annually evaluating your schools as well as changes in their student populations and helpful staff contacts by support office (as noted above). Many companies rely on established relationships over the course of multiple years to create the same outcome. The reality is that universities are constantly changing to reflect market need and enrollment. If your target candidate population is diminishing, you need to know that. You also need to know if your go to person has changed roles or priorities.
Staff and academic support meetings
It is good to set up annual meetings with key support offices and academic department. This will take some coordination to set up a day that works for all separate offices, but it is worth it to spend a half day to a full day meeting with these key stakeholders/departments to stay in touch with changes, new programs, and new initiatives (that may or may not align with your target candidate), and to keep your needs on their radar.
While this is just the tip of the iceberg, hopefully this leaves you with a few key thoughts to consider when switching the perspective from considering university intricacies first and then second how they may or may not align to your talent acquisition strategy.