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The Business Must of Campus and Early Careers Programs

Mar 16, 2020
Industry Region Resource Type

Millennials and gen Z, those currently aged between 18 and 35, now dominate the workplace making up 50 percent of the workforce. And when it comes to new job opportunities, nearly 80 percent of those who fall into this age category look for people and culture fit with employers, followed by career potential.

Organisations must evolve their talent strategies in order to meet the needs of the younger (growing) workforce. To attract the best young talent, campus and early careers programs are stepping further into the spotlight; not just for open roles but for companies seeking to stock their talent pipelines with driven, willing to develop, innovative candidates.

In the past, HR leaders tended to focus on career fairs and campus job postings, but these routes are no longer enough to gain true competitive advantage. There are so many competitors out there that standing out from the crowd is challenging. But it is possible. Today, students and soon to be graduates are more interested in employers that represent strong cultures, care more about people than profits and growth opportunities. 

Employers that get involved with campus happenings, are invested in the university itself and show genuine interest in the personal and professional lives of potential candidates (as opposed to just filling open roles) will achieve the highly sought after competitive advantage.

The following three strategies offer definitive, direct paths toward more strategic, proactive and bottom-line driven campus and early careers recruitment campaigns.

1. Social Media

Campaign & messaging

Although there are substantial differences between a company’s consumer brand and employment brand, the importance of consistent, genuine messaging remains paramount. An employer’s branding and reputation are crucial in today’s market, you only have to look at the traffic to sites such as Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn and such like. Your company’s messaging on campus is equally as important. 

Employers should illustrate to students their employment brand in a way that accentuates the organisation’s values and culture. One of the first, and arguably one of the most important, steps to take is social media content development – specifically, on campus. That is, strategically considering the messaging and ensuring that the company brand ( which needs to be targeted to students and entry-level candidates) is consistent.

Nearly 80 percent of NACE (National Association of Colleges & Employers) organisations reported using social media in their recruiting efforts, up significantly from the 68.7 percent reported in the previous year. (NACE’s 2017 Recruiting Benchmarks Survey)

Snapchat & Instagram

Similar to your organisation’s technology strategy around recruitment, the growth and evolution of social media should be heavily considered when developing a campus and early careers marketing plan. The use of social media as a recruiting tool has increased significantly in recent years and it’s not hard to see why,  Facebook has around 2.2 billion monthly active users, Twitter has about 330 million monthly users and LinkedIn has over 590 million members in over 200 countries, 

Twitter and Facebook are still heavily utilized by today’s campus population but the likes of Snapchat and Instagram are fast becoming the platforms of choice for many students to the concise format. For example, in a recent campaign, a large financial organisation leveraged a targeted Snapchat campaign across 60 campuses within the US – yielding 2.1 million views and increasing visits to its career site by 82 percent. 

Instagram “dominates” when it comes to interactions per 1,000 followers (between 50 and 70), including 600 million active users overall.

Today, 79 percent of job seekers use social media in their job searches, according to the Pew Research Center. This figure will continue to grow as new generations entering the workforce default to digital when any new task arises. They’ve grown up in a world surrounded by technology and social media so they expect brands to have a strong digital presence.

Social media platforms are beginning to recognize their influence in talent acquisition and are facilitating ways users can easily post and promote job opportunities to their audiences. For example, social websites are providing open APIs so they can be synced directly with company techstacks.

Ultimately, social media  is one of the third most leveraged sources for quality hires, just below employee referrals (which often happen via social media) and job boards (of which social media platforms technically are). Many companies are not only recruiting via social media; they’re developing their brand strategies and talent communities through social media. For organisations investing in university recruitment, social media isn’t a nice to have; it’s a business imperative.

Engagement and executive level interaction

Engagement is equally as important as messaging and branding. Posting content daily might yield followers, but interacting with candidates and the “live” formatting available on most social media platforms can truly differentiate your brand. Share content through avenues like Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, and Snapchat to bring your brand to life. Beyond that, involve senior leadership to give students a first-hand look at the leaders of your culture, brand and the personalities you seek to hire. And remember to be authentic as prospective candidates really do value transparency and will check if what you’re telling them is actually true.

2. Campus engagement

Another important aspect of campus and early careers recruitment is your on-site engagement plan As noted above, career fairs are crucial for pipelining talent. But developing campus-specific and creative approaches are what separates top-performing organisations. Companies need to leverage partnerships with student organisations, bring alumni into classroom presentations and panels, and mentor students. Each of these is definitive examples of engagement that have proven to grow company brands and reputation across various campuses.

Another crucial piece of a campus engagement strategy is considering diversity organisations. When developing campus-specific planning, collaborating with your internal diversity and inclusion goals is a great place to start when considering which organisations to focus on. Women in Business, NABA (National Association of Black Accountants) and LGBTQ* organisations are all excellent examples; aligning these with your diversity and inclusion investments and branding efforts can elevate your diversity hiring for the long term while showing students that diversity and inclusion matters to your organisation.

You may already be heavily invested in diversity and inclusion, but you need to illustrate this actively across campuses to achieve the results your organisation desires.

Today, organisations have many more opportunities to get involved and grow their campus and early careers recruitment strategies virtually. For example, utilizing Google Hangouts, facilitating virtual case competitions (i.e., in which willing participants strive to develop the best solution to a business or education-related case study within an allocated time frame) and holding virtual “office hours” with your leadership team to chat with students are a small sample of successful approaches an organisation can take when constrained by travel, time and/or budget. Gamification is another great way to engage with students as it’s a fun way to test skills.

3. Ambassador programs and early identification

In today’s competitive environment for talent (especially for business, technology and engineering roles), early identification strategies are crucial to creating and growing your talent pipeline. Companies are beginning to develop specific events, hire targets and diversity and inclusion goals for students even in their freshman and sophomore years; making pipeline development a top priority in these industries. Conducting summer leadership programs, leadership summits and getting into classrooms to provide introductory courses are all examples of ways to tap into early talent pools.

Another strategic example of pipelining is leveraging ambassador programs in order to generate referrals and grow your brand on campus. For example, a company ambassador could be a recent intern who accepted a full-time offer. Find someone like this to attend campus events, share branding materials and illustrate first-hand their journey from student to intern to a full-time employee; it can dramatically impact your recruitment efforts.

As millennials and Gen z continue to take hold of the workforce, campus and early careers recruitment needs to be a priority for organisations looking to be proactive in their talent strategies, build extended pipelines, and set their businesses up for 2020 and beyond. 


For tips on how to build a successful ambassador program, check out this blog post.

Paul Dodd

By Paul Dodd

Paul Dodd is the Head of Canadian Engagement for WilsonHCG. Paul helps organizations, across a spectrum of sizes and industries, realize their unique talent needs by combining global knowledge with specialized Canadian expertise. He is a recognized thought leader with more than 20 years of practical experience. Under Paul's leadership, WilsonHCG has developed a range of customized, strategic recruitment solutions that shorten the recruitment life cycle while driving value for for each client. Paul continues to push for greater innovation in recruitment solutions development, while emphasizing the need for customer service and comprehensive support.