Social media—it’s so hot right now. But does it really have a place in your university recruiting strategy? And if so, how do you decide which platforms to use and what to do on them?
Unfortunately there’s not really a “one-size-fits-all” answer to these questions. You’ll probably need to experiment with platforms and content based on your unique audience. But if you’re looking for a place to start, look at what some of the industry leaders are doing and see how you might be able to apply some of their techniques to your own offering.
We caught up with Christopher Carlson, a Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition at Booz Allen Hamilton to discuss university recruiting, social media, and a few pointers on creating a strategy that works for you and your organization.
Can you give us a brief intro to Booz Allen Hamilton?
We’re a management and technology consulting company that’s just over 100 years old. We have nearly 23,000 employees worldwide and our headquarters is located in McLean, Virginia.
We like to say that we hire for everything from A to Z, and that encompasses Accounting to Zoology. We’re looking for candidates who have strong achievement academically, professionally, and those who have held leadership positions in extracurricular activities. We often hire computer science, computer and electrical engineering, mathematics, finance, economics, and business administration majors. We look for people who have a passion for solving problems with both a qualitative and quantitative mindset.
What is your role at Booz Allen Hamilton?
My team is responsible for setting firm-wide best practices and coordinating across business units where there are multiple interests. We also drive pipelines of candidates and manage the firm-wide internship programs.
We have a decentralized recruiting approach where each business unit recruits both professionals and entry-level candidates for their unit.
What type of recruiting schedule do you work on?
We have a year-round strategy, which is inclusive of our internship and early identification program. We offer two types of internships. One is the cohort, which is for a specific capability or function. For the cohort program, we offer specific training for those individuals so we can hire them out of school and fulfill our staffing needs where we see gaps.
We also have project-specific interns, but they’re not driving to a specific capability or function.
Our internships take place primarily in the summer, and recruiting can go from November to April. Our fiscal year starts on April 1st, so a lot of hiring managers want to know what their fiscal year will look like before hiring interns or full-time employees, which means a lot of hiring happens after April.
College hiring is continual, year-round. We hire about 50–60% of our hires for the next fiscal year in the fall and the remaining 40–50% of hires are made in the spring.
What types of recruiting activities do you participate in during a typical year?
We try to participate in events that are going to be supportive of students, e.g. co-teaching classes, sponsoring colloquium series, guest lecturing, serving on advisory boards, supporting student groups and associations, etc.
We do some traditional info sessions and on-campus interviews, but we don’t do as many career fairs.
We do a lot of virtual and social media outreach—we offer a webinar series that’s available to students to provide insight into our value proposition and help them with instructional content like how to apply and how to network. We put on several of these webinars a month. We align the webinars to the recruiting season, and we’ve had as many as eight to ten a month for students. We’ve engaged internal people within the organization, including recent grad hires, to build out content for webinars and allow for that personal touch.
We also offer a webinar for career services offices to help them understand our value proposition.
What is the Booz Allen Hamilton philosophy when it comes to recruiting and social media?
We want to ensure personal engagement in a scalable and sustainable way so that we’re transparent in the recruitment process, flexible enough to build a robust pipeline of talent for the firm’s short-term and long-term needs, and we remain an employer of choice across the university community.
In one of your articles, you used the analogy of using social media as a “side dish” rather than the “main course” of your recruiting efforts. Can you break that down for us?
Webinars are the main course; the way we’ve been able to scale personal engagement and focus on a variety of topics.
Social media is the method for marketing the webinars as well as additional engagement and outreach, so for example we might tweet live during the webinars so there’s additional engagement. We can use social media to drive people to the webinars, but also to our videos, Tumblr, etc. to supplement what we’re doing in the webinars.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned in your various experiments with social media?
You have to make the content compelling. You have to allow for personal engagement. You have to really be prepared to respond to just about anything, like technology glitches or being asked about any and all things that are happening at your company and be able to respond in a genuine way.
What advice would you give to someone who’s just delving into social media for university recruiting purposes?
Really understand your objectives as to why you’re doing it and align your activities to those objectives.
For example, we’ve outlined our objectives as:
(1) further personalizing our value proposition
(2) enhancing candidate engagement
(3) being scalable and sustainable
(4) building a long-term talent community
Given our structure, the size of our teams, and what we could do, we built out a strategy that aligned to those.
The next step: If you haven’t already, outline the overall strategy of your social media efforts. What are you hoping to accomplish? How will you measure your success?
Read more about Booz Allen’s approach to social media recruiting in Christopher Carlson’s posts on the NACE blog, “Am I Mashed Up or Just Fried? A Journey Into Social Recruiting, Part 1.”
Have any thoughts you’d like to share about social media and university recruiting? Let us know in the comments section below.