This is Why Earlier is Better for Campus Recruiting

Taking a proactive approach to campus recruiting will yield good results.
By: | March 6, 2019 • 4 min read

At a recent lunch meeting with a corporate partner at a large, established organization, the discussion veered to their campus recruiting practices for marketing positions. In the past, recruiting in the spring was the norm, but over time, it became apparent that many talented students were being scooped up in the fall, leaving a shrinking pool of talent for spring recruiting. It isn’t easy steering a large ship, but this year that organization was able to move to a fall campus recruiting program.

The concerns from this organization are warranted—according to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, there will be more than a 9 percent jump in fall campus recruiting (entry-level and internships) this year. That comes on top of a more than 11 percent increase from 2016 to 2017, according to NACE.  And if you go further back to 2015, there’s been nearly a 30 percent increase in fall recruiting from 2015-2018.

When it comes to the marketing industry, companies are competing more than ever with the traditional industries that recruit in the fall—finance, consulting and accounting. Based on conversations I’ve had with career-services professionals, there’s been an uptick of marketing students interviewing on campus for consulting positions. They attribute this to similar skill sets between consulting and marketing, and the appeal of fall recruiting for these students. Increasingly, there isn’t just one type of candidate for an entry-level marketing role; instead, candidates with a host of skill sets are sought after. As Faith Albers, director of client marketing at Whereoware, says, “I’m looking for students who have skill sets that include coding, Photoshop, advanced Excel and project management, and put them at the top of the list for an entry-level opening.”

In addition to the  need for  hard skills, many corporate partners are recruiting for students with critical thinking and creative problem-solving abilities. As consultant Rose Cartolari wrote on Forbes recently, companies should be recruiting for “learnability.” “With organizational structures that require agility, collaboration and communication, it’s critical to find people with creative mindsets who are able to innovate and adapt,” she wrote. “Recruitment strategies need to start looking for how resilient candidates are, how they handle failure and how adept they are at understanding context changes. This means lots of deeper conversations and probing.”

The good news is that the current crop of students have many of these traits. However, just showing up on campus without a well-thought out strategy isn’t nearly good enough. You need to build strong relationships—with professors, career services, student leaders and other key campus constituents—in order to identify those students who have not only the right skill set and mindset, but who will best fit with your company’s culture and mission. In my over 20 years of campus recruiting, I’ve found that using the personal approach to develop close connections between schools and companies is what leads to success. Providing students with concrete feedback from interviews, guiding them with resume and interview tips, and making introductions to others who might support their career journey has enabled me to deepen campus relationships.

Colleges and universities are engaging with employers to a much greater extent than in the past, with a plethora of opportunities that encourage companies to strengthen relationships with schools and students.  Many hold substantive events and activities on campus, such as speed networking, industry nights, mock interviews and resume review sessions, and provide access to campus clubs and in-classroom presentations. During a recent visit with a campus club with an early career marketing professional, we were able to discuss college-to-career choices, different marketing roles, and provide sound career tips to the 20 students who attended. I’ve since been able to connect several students in that club with internship opportunities.  These types of activities show the schools that you have a commitment to them and their students. Many of these school visits and student discussions have led to lifelong relationships.

Some of the biggest winners of close campus relationships can be smaller or mid-sized companies. Although they often have greater restrictions with budget and headcount, hiring one or two summer interns can lead to truly good results. Interns are a clean slate. They know what works and what doesn’t at their school. They have great ideas that your company may not have thought of.  They’re digital natives while many of us are not. They’re excited to be at work. And a summer internship is a 10-week interview, not a rushed process when you are up against the wall to make that hire.

With the speed at which marketing and technology are converging, some of the best and brightest talent is currently on campus—and these are the hires that will be well-equipped to do the work needed as the marketing industry continues to evolve.

Terri Herschlag is senior program manager for Marketing EDGE