It Takes a Little Blood to Win the War For Talent

red cross recruiting

People often talk about the “war for talent,” but we’re not referring to actual bloodshed… are we?

Well, the answer is yes, today we are—but not in the violent scenario you might be imagining. No, we’re not talking about intimidating your competitors with physical force and wreaking havoc in the career fair, but asking potential recruits to donate blood in the name of disaster relief.

This probably won’t work for every employer, but the American Red Cross has the unique positioning and expertise to be able to run blood drives in tandem with some of their on-campus recruiting events. We catch up with Adrienne Alberts, Program Manager, College and Workforce Inclusion Programs at American Red Cross and former president of the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers, to learn more about American Red Cross’s university recruiting strategy and how you can apply some of these ideas to your own activities on campus.

Who are you responsible for recruiting? Are you in charge of a geographical area or particular type of position within your company?

I manage all college and diversity recruiting programs enterprise-wide. The American Red Cross has operations in each state and supports international operations. I am based in our national headquarters in Washington, D.C. The college recruiting function at the American Red Cross is just over a year old so we are still building our programs and relationships with colleges and universities.

How many graduates do you tend to hire in a typical year? What type of recruiting schedule do you work on?

The majority of our hiring is at the internship level. We start advertising our major internship program in January and finalize hires no later than April. We also have smaller internship programs that hire interns in the fall, spring, and summer.  We hire more than 100 interns annually.

We launched a selective MBA rotational development program this year called Reach and we target a small class of no more than five a year for that program.

What types of recruiting activities do you participate in during a typical year?

The American Red Cross is working to build our brand as an employer of choice with college students. To that end, we participate in traditional campus activities that include:

  • Presentations in classrooms and to student organizations

  • On-campus recruiting

  • Job and internship postings

  • Hosting student groups in our national headquarters

  • Participating in select career fairs

  • We are also active as an organization on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

Because of who we are, we are also able to engage in some non-traditional outreach activities including:

  • Advertising through our American Red Cross Clubs that exist on many college campuses

  • We are also able to participate in Blood Drives that are hosted by our Biomedical Services organization at colleges and universities throughout the country

How many school campuses does the American Red Cross visit in a year?

We have made full-time and internship hires from more than 30 universities. We also have student clubs at many colleges and universities and we utilize those organizations to help build our relationships with campuses.

What are some of the challenges associated with university recruiting? How do you address them?

The biggest challenge I find with university recruiting is keeping students interested and engaged throughout the hiring process (from initial recruitment to on-boarding) and throughout their educational experiences (freshman through graduation).

We are working to build ambassadors through our interns and student clubs so that we have a consistent presence on campus. We also believe that peer to peer influence is strong on college campuses so we want students to be able to connect with one another to learn about the American Red Cross. We have also built a strong social media presence and are working to remain connected to students through social media channels as well.

One of the other areas that is challenging is making sure to partner with the right universities to source talent without spreading our team and resources too thin. When you have operations in each state, there is an interest in having a university presence to match that footprint, but based on our hiring activity, we still have to be selective with how we use our resources.

You mentioned that you’re working to build ambassadors among student clubs and interns. Could you describe this process in a bit more detail?

We don’t currently have a formal training program for ambassadors, but we reach out to them when we are on campus. We are working towards a more formal program, but for now we are sharing information with former interns and club leaders and having them share the information in their networks.

We also invite former interns to engage with us when we are on campus. We haven’t built in specific incentives to date. Once we grow we will definitely build a formal training program for ambassadors but are small enough now that we can connect with students directly.

What do you wish you’d known about university recruiting when you’d started?

I wish I realized that each year the students would remain the same age and I would get older!!! While this industry is invigorating because there is energy on college campuses, it also reminds me of just how old I am getting—LOL!

The next step: Adrienne mentions that the American Red Cross has some unique opportunities for “non-traditional outreach activities,” like the blood drives. Does your organization have any unique positioning or relationships you could take advantage of in a similar way? If not, how could you enhance your participation in traditional outreach activities?


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