The Worst Advice We’ve Heard About How to Recruit College Students
January 8, 2015
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There’s a lot of bad advice out there about how to recruit college students. Here’s what actually works.

Your company has a lot to offer. Your product is exciting; you’re an innovator with new ideas that are going to change your field. You have good money-flow, and your benefits are nothing to sneeze at. So it’s an absolute mystery to you as to why you’re trailing behind your competition in your attempts to recruit college students.

You’d be amazed at how many companies just scatter a few breadcrumbs and then expect a stampede of eager recent graduates to break down their doors. It’s not enough to simply show up – you’ve got to be what the students want to become.

There’s a reason why student dream companies like Google are ranked so highly in recruitment practice surveys. They’re such a monster company that they probably could just throw open their doors… but they don’t. They’re constantly evolving the methods they use to recruit college students.

With that in mind, here are 5 of the worst practices you’d do best to avoid.

1. “You just need to show up and they’ll come to you.”

Student recruitment is not a short-term process. It’s farming – you plant seeds, tend to the relationships you’ve built with the students, and only then can you haul in that bountiful student harvest.

At the very least make yourself continuously available to answer questions the year round. Your brochure, video, or take-home package is only going to carry that student so far. Being the recruiter who is always there for them is going to make you stand out from the crowd.

Even better, become a mentor, showing how companies look to recruit college students. Guide them through what an interview might look like or help them work on their resume.

Maintaining those relationships isn’t just up to the students – you have to meet them halfway.

2. “Giving them a job is enough.”

Good luck with this one. With the information flow available these days grads know all about how new employees are treated at your competitors companies. They’re going to learn all about the perks that come with working for Competitor X.

To recruit college students (especially the cream of the crop) in the internet age you’re going to have to throw some sex appeal on top of a standard wage or salary package. A lot of companies are offering meditation classes and quiet rooms, others pull together team-building adventures.

Pull on your student hat – when you were a grad what was weighing heaviest on your mind? Here’s an incentive that shows a lot of leg – help them work off their student debt.

Student debt has been getting a lot of press the last year or two, and for very good reasons – it’s crippling. And depressing. And suffocating. Students are working for their universities for years after their graduation.

Here’s your chance to be a hero by helping them combat that debt. Loan contribution programs like Flex395 help you pay down their loans with contributions, much like you’d make to a 401(k). What student isn’t going to want a piece of that pressure-easing pie?

3. “Shotgun!”

This point isn’t about always letting the student have the front passenger seat (although it couldn’t hurt). This is about the dubious practice of spraying and praying a huge range of colleges and universities and then hoping for the best.

To recruit college students at one college is not the same as recruiting them at another. The cream of the crop at University A might only be the equivalent of 2nd-tier students at University B.

As you pull students in from different schools correlate their progress in your company with their school – are you getting consistently better results from the students from one particular location over another? Then it’s time to narrow your recruitment focus.

4. “We’ll Get Back to You.”

Starting a student in your recruitment process and then never communicating with them is just mean. It’s completely unnecessary and it makes you look callous and uncaring.

It costs you 1 minute of your day to put together an email to let a student know where they are in your system, and it will mean the world to them. As mentioned in Point #1 maintaining these relationships is a major part of your process to successfully recruit college students.

5. “Just Send Anyone.”

This is another symptom of the sickness that is just expecting students to come to you.

Put some thought into whom you’re going to send to recruitment offices and fairs – the person or people, after all, are a display of your company’s culture or vibe. Ralph from accounting may be a whiz with the books, but his droopy eyes and somnambulism probably aren’t going to make a student’s heart sing.

Make sure that your rep is an encyclopedia on your company. Having someone answer questions with a repeated “Check our website” is a fizzle – having someone light up and happily chatter on about how awesome it is working at your company is fireworks.

Added tip –don’t hit on the co-eds. That’s kind of gross. (It happens. A lot.)

Distribute Joy, Recruit College Students.

It sounds kind of hokey, but it’s the truth. The key verb when it comes to recruiting is sell – you’re in essence advertising the open positions in your company.

Think about how advertisers woo their customers. If you were Google, how would you pitch your open slot (even if you can’t match Google’s monster-company incentives)? If you were the student, what would make a company stand out above all the others?

Take our advice and listen to yourself.