Meet Mackenzie: Fashionista. Top of her class. Fan of bad British sitcoms (and all the slang she learns from them, innit?). And most importantly, a perfect fit for your company. The only problem? She’s never heard of you, and therefore she’s only applying to jobs at your big-name competitors.
It’s a fact: Students and recent grads tend to stick with what they know. They also trust their friends above most other sources of information out there.
Let’s say you’d like to increase your chances of hiring Mackenzie and other recent grads like her. If that’s the case, you’re going to have to start making some serious efforts to establish your employer brand on campus.
Now all this might be making you say, “Crikey, how am I supposed to do that, guvnah?” Or, in regular American parlance, “How do I do that?”
We’ve got one word for you: internships.
(Slight caveat: You probably can’t rely on internships alone, but building your on-campus brand through internships and incorporating them with a few other recruiting practices is an excellent way to stand out.)
Internships are an especially important part of a well-balanced university recruiting program because they give you the opportunity to establish your brand presence on campus and provide a positive work experience for students (which they can then share with their friends and classmates).
Let’s look at a few ways of maximizing your internship program and establishing your employer brand.
Asking interns to maintain or contribute to a company blog gives them the chance to reflect on and share what they’ve been working on, keeps other employees informed about their progress and experience at your company, and has the potential to attract potential applicants to your program in the future.
Ask interns to write or record a short testimonial about their experience. Encourage them to give specific examples of what they did every day and what some of their favorite aspects of the program were. You can put these testimonials up on your website or even send them out to your talent network to promote an upcoming internship deadline.
Career Center Spotlights
If you’ve had an intern who was just brilliant (as they like to say in old Blighty), you can reach out to their career center and ask them to do a profile on the student and their internship and post it on their website or blog. Even if your intern’s alma mater doesn’t currently have a feature like this, it’s definitely worth asking if they’d be interested in starting. It’s great PR for the career services center and your organization.
Looking for some specific examples? Reed College asks all participants in its externship program to write about their experiences on its “Works and Days” blog, and UC Berkeley’s Career Center publishes “Success Stories.”
Make the most of the interns’ time with you by asking them to weigh in on the entire internship process, from your marketing materials and on-campus presence to the structure of the program.
What did they think about the application process? What do they wish they had known before they started?
Use this information to adapt and learn—remember that interns are your target audience for any of your university recruiting initiatives.
We mentioned earlier that individual referrals tend to have more power over our decisions than anything else. Another way to use this to your advantage is to get interns (either current or past) involved in your on-campus recruiting events. Can they come along with you to an info session or classroom presentation? If so, they’ll be able to share their personal experience and make the idea of working for your company more relevant to current students.
You might also consider integrating your internship program with a student ambassador program. Turning former interns into student ambassadors does double duty for you: It makes it easy to maintain contact with former star interns and helps you build your brand on campus throughout the school year.
Also—do you have an established channel or any incentive for personal referrals? You might want to consider ways to include interns in this program as well.
Now you’ve got a few ideas of how you can use your internship program to strengthen your on-campus brand and your overall university recruiting strategy. Remember that any time you can make it about one specific person’s story, you should. Use that strategy and you just may be able to tear Mackenzie away from the TV—and get her to apply for a job at your company.
The next step: If you already have an internship program up and running, choose one or two of these elements to focus on. How can you share their experience with a wider audience? If you don’t have an internship program yet, look for ways you could apply some of these practices with your recent grad hires.