Why You’re Missing Out If You’re Not Recruiting at Small Colleges


I recently had the opportunity to chat with a recruiter from a smaller company, and I have a feeling that our conversation might resonate with you, too. She said that she feels a lot of pressure from her coworkers and management to visit all the top-name schools, even though the competition there is fierce and convincing students not to go with a big-name employer is a constant uphill battle. She said that the dominant belief in her organization is that it’s better to get the “B students” from a top-name school rather than the “A students” from a lesser-known school. Any of this sound familiar to you?

If you have a sneaking suspicion that you might be better off going to a smaller school or one that doesn’t have as much of a brand-name appeal, I have two things to share with you. First of all, be sure to check out Malcolm Gladwell’s Zeitgeist presentation where he discusses “elite institution cognitive disorder”—in other words, how we let brand names and elite institutions fool us.

Gladwell goes through a few examples (math and science dropouts, PhD economists) and points out that relative position matters much more than absolute position. It’s much better to be at the top of your class at a lower-ranked institution than it is to be in the bottom of your class at an elite institution. Gladwell even ties this into recruiting practices: “When it comes to hiring, it means you should hire on the basis of class rank and you should be completely indifferent to the institution attended by the applicant. In fact, we should have a ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy for the name of your undergraduate institution—it’s hurting us to know that!”

After you’ve watched Gladwell’s talk (and perhaps forwarded it on to a few of your colleagues), I’d also urge you to read the interview below with Neepa Parikh, Associate Director and Career Consultant at the Office of Career Planning at Golden Gate University. Neepa shares some of the advantages and benefits employers can enjoy when recruiting at small colleges like Golden Gate University.


Can you give a brief overview of Golden Gate University?

Golden Gate University (GGU) is a small private school in the heart of San Francisco serving students in the Schools of Business, Law, Accounting, and Taxation. We have a large graduate student population and a growing undergraduate class. Many of our students come to GGU with significant work experience and are ready to contribute their knowledge in the classroom and learned skills in the workplace. Our most popular programs are taxation, human resources, business administration, and accounting, with students entering those respective fields.

Which types of employers do you tend to work with?

The Office of Career Planning at GGU serves the Schools of Business, Accounting, and Taxation. We work with any employer who is looking to hire students who can make an immediate contribution to their organization. We develop relationships with companies of any size whose hiring needs match our academic programs. Many of our students are interested in working in consulting, finance/accounting, and tech.

What are the main events employers take part in on your campus?

Employers looking to fill accounting and taxation positions participate in the annual career fair and may present on various topics during the summer lunch and learns organized by our Schools of Taxation and Accounting.

For all other employers, we offer a variety of opportunities to meet students through information sessions, participation in industry or recruiter panels, providing résumé feedback during our drop-in résumé hours, by joining us at our Career Meetups, or participating in our online networking events.

Our private LinkedIn group, Golden Gate University Employer Connect, is an additional way to interact with students. Our focus is on building connections between employers and students, regardless of whether the employer has open positions or not.


Can you give a few examples of how you personalize the services you offer to different employers?

We want to support employers in their recruiting efforts and ensure that they are getting the best return on investment at GGU. Depending on the employer, time of year, and target programs, we will work with the employer to identify a service that will best meet their needs.

While an information session may be ideal for a well-known company, this may not be successful for a smaller company. In that case, we may invite this employer to an already established networking event to meet students and increase their company’s brand on our campus.

What are some of the advantages for employers who participate in events at small schools like Golden Gate University?

A smaller school means smaller class sizes, which ultimately enhances student learning. All GGU students get plenty of opportunities for group work, presentations, and significant academic projects. Students are taught by professionals in the field and are equipped with up-to-date skills and knowledge. Employers also have the opportunity to build more meaningful connections with our students, given that our events may be smaller in size than those at bigger schools.

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What advice do you have for employers who are considering working with the career services office at a school like Golden Gate University?

I think when working with any school, it’s important that employers review the offered academic programs to see if it’s the right fit for their needs. Most of our students are interested in entry- to senior-level positions in business.

In addition, we have a significant online population and regional campuses in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, and Seattle.

The students that employers meet on campus are not necessarily representative of our total student population. Given this, we are increasing the opportunities for employers to meet with students and alumni online through virtual networking events and webinars. Lastly, GGU offers classes year-round, so our students are available for internships at any time.

Which types of on-campus activities tend to be most successful from your/the students’ perspective? How can employers apply this knowledge to their future campus visits?

Our panel events followed by networking tend to be the most successful. This gives students an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of what employers are looking for in candidates and an opportunity to network with both panelists and attendees. It’s also valuable when employers present on a job search topic such as interviewing, networking, or business etiquette.

Is there anything we haven’t covered in the questions above that you’d like to add with regards to employer relations at Golden Gate University (or small schools in general)?

Since we are in the heart of San Francisco close to several companies both old and new, we are happy to bring a group of students for a tour of the company. It’s always great when a student can get a feel for what it would be like to work at a specific company. [Editor’s note: For more information on hosting this type of “career trek,” be sure to check out our interview with Amanda Hansen, Assistant Director of Employer Relations in the Career Development Office at Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado.]

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The next step: When evaluating your target schools, be sure to consider some of the points that Neepa mentions. Would your organization benefit from more interactions with students or the types of activities that are easier to participate in on a smaller campus?


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