Not Business as Usual—the Future of University Recruiting at MPACE14

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You’re not lost… are you? Nah. You glance at your phone just to confirm, but the scent of incense mingling with freshly pressed Ben & Jerry’s waffle cones indicates that you are quickly approaching your destination: the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets in San Francisco.

Suddenly, in the midst of all the trendy clothing and skate shops, a single storefront catches your attention. Bursts of color line the window—tie dyed onesies, T-shirts, socks, and dresses.

You step inside, pick out your favorite shirt, and bring it to register to pay. “That’ll be $35.00,” says the clerk.” (Hey, no one said being a hippie was cheap!)

You hand over two twenties and wait while the clerk neatly folds your shirt and asks you if you’d like a bag for ten cents. “No thanks,” you respond, “but… um, where’s my change?” The clerk looks at you meaningfully and says, “Dude, change comes from within.”

Whoa. That was deep. And you have to admit that this hemp-wearing sales clerk may have a point. Where does change really come from and how do we deal with it?

Welcome to San Francisco and to MPACE14, where this year’s theme was “Not Business as Usual.”

University recruiting and college career services professionals from the Mountain Pacific region (and beyond) gathered from December 10–12, 2014 to explore the theme of change and how it’s being experienced from the student, university, and employer perspective. And as some of the panelists reminded us during the closing session, the current landscape of change gives us the opportunity to simply be reactive—or to influence the direction of that change.

Here are a few of the highlights—and what they might mean for your university recruiting program.

  • In the keynote address, Dave Evans from Stanford University discussed his mission to “apply innovation principles of design thinking to the wicked problem of designing your life after college.” Some of the biggest takeaways from Dave’s keynote were that everyone experiences anguish during their twenties and thirties, and this is not just a symptom of our times. We need to stop telling people entering college that they’re beginning the best years of their lives, because that simply isn’t true.
  • In today’s rapidly changing environment, we shouldn’t be preparing students to land a job; we need to teach them the techniques so that they’ll be able to do this over and over again.
  • Dave provided one excellent example of how students and employers can reframe one of the usual suspects in the university recruiting game—the career fair. “Instead of going as a buyer or seller,” Dave suggests, “go as an adventurer or learner.” He urges students especially to “invest in latent wonderfulness,” to try to discover some cool project or issue this organization is working on.

What this means for employers: We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—in university recruiting, storytelling is paramount! Think about what’s going on at your company that students could get excited about. How can you make sure that those stories get shared, even in the frantic environment of a career fair?

And even if you know a student isn’t a fit for your organization, how can you engage with them in a way that helps them develop their skills as a career adventurer? How can your interaction help prepare them for their future job searches?

  • Sheetal Patel, Director of Branding & Digital Communities at Stanford’s Career Development Center spoke about adapting career center and recruiter brand strategy for the coming generational shifts.
  • Are you still thinking of college students as Gen Y or millennials? Guess what—in another two years, that will no longer be the case. Sheetal was joined by Lauren, a current high school sophomore and member of Generation Z. Sheetal and Lauren shared some of the defining characteristics of Gen Z (and how it differs from Gen Y).
  • One big point—social media is used by both generations, but on totally different platforms. Gen Y may still be updating their status on Facebook and sharing their witty remarks on Twitter, but Gen Z is much more interested in visually driven platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. Lauren shared the following anecdote from her own life. A freshman girl was talking to a teammate who was a junior and asked her if she should open up a Facebook account. The junior turned to her and replied, “What are you, 40?” Ouch.

What that means for employers: We’re in the midst of a generational and social media shift. It’s important to be aware of this when creating your social media strategy. One participant asked, “How can we entice students to be on the social media platforms where we are?” Sheetal responded that you have to figure out where people are and then go there rather than try to get them where YOU are.

It will become increasingly difficult to get students’ attention as they’ve grown more accustomed to a constant flow of information coming from multiple sources. But not all hope is lost! Meaningful personal interactions still matter (in fact, maybe more than ever), so you still have the opportunity to get your message across when you meet students in person. You just need to consider how you can make sure that your personal interactions are significant.

  • In “New Recruiter Boot Camp,” Katie Flint, Senior Associate Director of Employer Relations at Colorado State University and Rebecca Lupp, Talent Acquisition Manager, Enterprise Holdings shared some best practices for recruiters when collaborating with career services offices.
  • One of the biggest tips was understanding the structure of each career services department since this varies widely depending on the institution.
  • It’s also essential to have clear goals from your participation on a particular campus, to communicate these clearly to the career services office, and to be prepared for success (be able to handle the influx of applicants in a timely manner).

What this means for employers: Katie and Rebecca suggest that you conduct a thorough examination of your own program and your goals before contacting a career services department. Also, be sure to do your research about the structure on that specific campus—is career services centralized? Decentralized? Coordinated/networked? Or some blend? Will you have one point of contact or several? And finally, it’s important to be realistic in your expectations—the more effort you put in on a campus, the greater the rewards that you’ll enjoy.

  • In “Employer Insights—How Effective is Your Branding Strategy?” a group of current students from Golden Gate University and the University of San Francisco spoke about the job search and recruiting process from their perspective. One student will be joining EY in the fall, another will do an internship and then a full-time position at KPMG, and the other two are still studying and continuing to look for internships and full-time opportunities.
  • One of the main takeaways here was that personal connection is one of the most important factors when considering an offer. All students said that they wanted to work for someone they got along with.
  • All participants agreed that the only social media they used in their job search was LinkedIn and that they didn’t mind receiving phone calls and emails from recruiters, but it was sometimes excessive. (One student explained that he received four reminders for an upcoming interview and he was quite confident that one would have been sufficient.)
  • Both students who had received offers said that they especially enjoyed the occasional emails they received from their future employers since it helped convince them that the employers hadn’t changed their minds.

What this means for employers: Having a comprehensive communication strategy (and a good CRM system) should help you to avoid sending duplicate emails and also ensure that you don’t let future employees go too long without hearing from you. Do you already have a communication strategy for students who have received an offer but have several months until they start? If not, think of a few ways you can keep them in the loop and get them excited about starting with you.

A little bonus: Get even more of the MPACE14 experience by following along what was happening on social media throughout the conference. I compiled some of the highlights in a Storify story. Find it here.

Were you at MPACE14, too? Have any thoughts or observations you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

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