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Best Practices for Amplifying Your University Recruiting Program

Written By Dana Frederick | June 25, 2019

University recruiting strategy iconsHow can one team of recruiters provide an immersive hiring experience for tens, hundreds, or even thousands of university candidates? We asked our in-house Customer Success experts—who’ve worked with some of the biggest university recruiting programs in the world—to dispel the best practices they’ve learned.

Few recruiting disciplines are as complex, or as competitive as university recruiting. Compressed timelines, geographically distributed candidates, a continually evolving talent pool, and a seasonal boom and bust of applicants make it challenging to juggle. And to add to it: you also have tens of other employers competing directly for the same pool of candidates. It’s a logistical circus that only few can master.

So how do well-known brands craft their university recruiting strategies accordingly? The key is to focus on implementing repeatable, sustainable best practices that can promote a positive candidate experience at scale.

Luckily, this is something our global Customer Success team has tackled before. They work with brands like VMWare, Goldman Sachs, and Stripe to optimize their university recruiting efforts. Our Manager of Enterprise Customer Success, Jeff Gordon, interviewed Enterprise Customer Success Manager and former university recruiter, Stacey Kirstein, to hear the university recruiting best practices she’s gleaned from her experiences. These are their notes from the field:

Avoid the university recruiting "black box" at all costs

Skimping on communication is one of the easiest ways to lose candidates. Missing information on where they’ll be placed, or gaps in their interview expectations are some of the biggest candidates turn offs.

In this case, there’s no such thing as over communicating. Studies show that 66% of students feel unprepared for interviews—a trend that’s notably magnified when it comes to women candidates. Since most of these candidates have minimal interview experience, being explicit about your interview process, who they’ll speak with, how they’ll be placed, and how they’ll be evaluated will help put them at ease.

Another major consideration? Closing the loop on candidates you don’t move forward with. Stacey sees plenty of cases where university candidates don't get closure. “Candidates apply to your company, and either never hear back, or maybe they apply, have a phone screen, and then never hear back.” Stacey says. “It can be a large damper on your brand.”

That’s especially hazardous in a university environment. Experiences with your brand—good or bad—will be quick to spread across the community. Having a clear and constant communication style will help you use that to your advantage. 

Measure program impact in the long term

There’s no singular tell-all metric for measuring success in university recruitment—generally speaking, your performance indicators should be tailored to your individual business and program goals.

But if you’re not sure where to begin, or if you’re looking to take a high-level pulse of your program, retention is a good starting point. Use your available tools to determine how many of your past university hires are still working at your company. What percentage of each cohort dropped off after a year? After two? And how do those rates compare to your experienced hires? 

Stacey says that some successful programs measure retention up to 2 or 3 years after hiring—so you won’t see results overnight. But understanding how long program hires stay at the org will paint a powerful portrait of the program’s impact on the organization.

Tying in your target university list

To go a level deeper, you can break down employee retention by university. “For example, you can look at a particular school that [candidates] are coming from, and how long candidates from those schools are staying with your organization.” Stacey suggests.

This approach serves two functions: first, it helps you dig into the more granular trends driving your retention stats. Second, it can help objectively identify high and low performers on your university target list. Both insights are valuable ammo to bring to your high-level planning discussions as you refine your campus recruiting strategy.

Position your program as a 4-year process

Most students at a 4-year university won’t be ready for full-time work until they’ve graduated. But that doesn’t mean you should only engage with them in their senior year.

To stay competitive, best practice is to engage with students as early as possible. “You see offers going out earlier and earlier to candidates.” Stacey says. Get a head start by familiarizing students with your tech talent brand early on. Try starting with information sessions for freshman, and building relationships out from that cohort—from multi-day leadership programs, to internships, and more. The stronger relationship you build throughout their university experience, the higher the odds you’ll be able to bring them on full-time.

And if you do choose to send full-time offers early in their university career (e.g. in their junior year), you can set up programs to keep them engaged until they’re on-boarded. For example, you can set up a LinkedIn group or email list where you send them regular updates on company news, invite them to company events, or share information about company programs they may be interested in. It’s a manageable way to ensure candidates feel supported and engaged at scale.

Implementing best practices in your program

University recruiting is a dynamic, challenging field. Implementing best practices like avoiding the recruiting "black box," measuring your program impact long-term, and focusing on engaging with students throughout their university careers will help strengthen your program over time.

For more ideas to use in your next university recruiting season, check out our guide:University recruitment playbook: read now

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