Attracting university students is a fine art. Time on campus is resource heavy, and not always as effective as you had hoped. Once you account for train tickets, taxis, freebies, collateral printing, not to mention the hours you spent away from the business… was that handful of applications really worth it?
There are many alternative ways to attract the graduates you’re looking for, without all the expense and effort, and they’re not just for smaller firms. Some of the UK’s largest graduate recruiters, such as one of the Big 4, don’t go to any careers fairs. Instead they use social media, on-campus events, on-campus student headhunters and sponsor many teams and societies on campus too.
We’ve compiled a list of our top 10 most effect methods for attracting graduates below, some of which you may or may not already use.
From improving diversity to targeting students with the right interests, societies are a fantastic way to raise awareness of your brand and opportunities with large, targeted groups of students. Gender-focused societies, such as the Women in STEM, Girls Who Code and Women in Business often have memberships of 300+ female students with interests in the respective areas, which they may not be studying.
Cultural societies such as the Asian, Afro-Caribbean and Indian societies often also have huge memberships of several thousand students and will often help employers to attract more students from ethnically diverse backgrounds through mailers, newsletters, events, shout outs and more. They know what works for their members, and they can advise you on how best to target them.
Although sponsoring societies is a very effective method, they can be quite expensive, particularly the larger, more in demand societies such as Capitox (Finance & Investment society at Oxford), and quite a difficult piece to manage each one individually, to make sure you’re getting the most out of your investment.
Although, strictly speaking, giving guest lectures is going onto campus, it is a much more targeted and effective method of attracting specifically the students you’re after, compared to some careers fairs which can be a game of ‘relevance roulette’. If you can’t get the right students to come to your stand, why not go to them? At least this way you can guarantee the audience will be 100% suitable students (subject and graduation year).
Pick the right university and course and you could have an audience of 100+ students (just make sure it’s not a 9am!). Lecturing is also much cheaper. No stand fee, no freebies or flyers, no huge team required to sell the roles and all the expenses that go with it. Just a slick, interesting presentation that will make candidates drool at the idea of working for this “amazing company”, doing all this “cool research”, with all these “expert legends”. Boom! You’ve got them. Hook, line and sinker.
The only downside to giving guest lectures is that someone still has to give up their time away from the business to prepare and deliver the lectures, as well as make sure the delivery is catchy and interesting.
Years of research has concretely proven ‘consumers are 92% more likely to trust their peers over advertising when it comes to purchasing decisions’** and the exact same principle applies to students choosing their future career path. Students are 92% more likely to trust their peers – friends, flatmates, lecturers even – than a mailer or job advert.
Don’t have a brand on campus? No problem. There isn’t a better way to go from zero to hero in a matter of seconds than via the viral power of social media and it’s so simple. All you need is good content shared by the right people at the right time, with a sprinkling of hashtags for good measure. Find out who the influencers in your industry are, make engaging content (videos/GIFs/memes/games etc.), and get it shared as far and wide as possible. Many employers such as Lloyds Bank and BT have already tuned in to some of the latest tech, such as virtual reality and augmented reality, to give them the attraction edge.
It goes without saying that having good PR and a squeaky clean brand will help any company to hire great people, but it can be particularly useful for attracting diverse or hard-to-find talent. Many of the big four are well known for their diversity and inclusion policies and this no doubt helps them to appeal to students from diverse backgrounds. Similarly, companies who have won awards for being leaders in their field will find it much easier to hire students interested in that area.
Another really great way to target specific students is via academic contacts within their departments. On occasion, certain academics may refer individual students who may have already expressed an interest in your industry sector or send an email to students studying the right subject and in the right graduation year detailing the opportunities you’re offering.
Although this may not be the right option for all graduate employers, sponsoring courses and/or projects can be a really effective way for companies to attract niche, often technical, talent. Particularly for smaller employers that don’t have a large brand presence on campus, where attracting this type of technical talent can make that even more difficult, sponsoring the right candidates through the research you’d like them to complete before joining your organisation not only secures your future hires, but also helps raise awareness of your brand amongst their peers on campus too.
Many of the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers already offer paid internships for students in their penultimate year and this is a brilliant strategy which you should adopt for 3 main reasons:
Posting regular opportunities on University Careers Service Portals is a fantastic way to show students you are a reputable employer which is growing and regularly hiring graduates. Most careers portals are free to post on and some can even feature your ad or send it out as a mailer to those who have opted in.
However, some careers services are more helpful than others, and it is a long, time-consuming task to create 20+ log-in accounts and post on each one individually.
Another approach many employers take is to host events and invite the students to come to them. We recently delivered 80 females (40 for investments and 40 for technology) to a global Asset Manager’s gender-focused insight events in central London and mechanical and civil engineers to an event at Arcadis’ Glasgow office. Although events like this may take some organisation and a little expense, you can almost guarantee that the attendees will be more committed and stick with you in the long-term as a result. If they’ve made all the effort to travel to meet you at an event, then they’re much less likely to drop-out later on in the hiring process.
** Joey Little. (2015, March 24). Who Do You Trust? 92% of Consumers Trust Peer Recommendations Over Advertising [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/who-do-you-trust-92-consumers-peer-recommendations-over-joey-little/?trackingId=dPBxAl5NygUPK%2BMRHerfvA%3D%3D