A Guide to Digital Campus Recruiting Strategy

image of auditorium for digital campus recruiting guide from uncubed

How We Got Here: The Evolution of Campus Recruiting for Companies

It’s a poorly guarded secret that recruiting students from campus has changed dramatically. Today’s approach requires a sophisticated digital campus recruiting strategy to at least supplement–or better yet replace–on-campus efforts. 

The ROI of on campus visits has declined steeply. Student job seekers aren’t found where they used to be. An effective diversity and inclusion strategy strategy requires a focused digital effort. And there’s almost limitless efficiency available in a digital campus recruiting program.

For most traditional companies, the campus recruiting strategy for early professional hiring is made up of these components:

(I) A heavy on-campus investment made in a group of designated “core schools”

(II) Investment in community-specific events,

(III) An internal digital strategy, built around attracting jobseeker traffic to the career site

(IV) Investment in established digital partners  

Almost categorically, the on-campus effort is the biggest use of campus recruiting budget. This is a mix of in-person events (campus recruiting job fairs) and other sponsored activities. Spread across a large group of schools, the spend gets astronomical when the full cost of in event participation fees, sponsorship costs, travel & entertainment, staff time allocations – and the ancillary costs of then processing all applicants sourced on-campus – are all factored in.  

How companies come to formulate their core school campus recruiting approach is a mix of standard practices and a bit of randomness. National rankings of schools are a driver; it’s an oversimplified directional arrow for companies to follow to simply go after the schools thought to be desirable. 

A second consideration is region, grounded in the two-fold logic that nearby schools are less expensive to visit, and more likely to yield hires. They certainly can yield more hires, partly because the company is likely to have more brand equity at nearby schools than those further way, and partly because it either takes the relocation factor out of the equation for a candidate or at least makes it a less daunting and expensive proposition. 

And then there are the random darlings. These are the arbitrary inclusions, usually because someone senior in the company gets their alma mater into the mix (i.e. the CMO went to Blue Mountain State so it makes the list), or because of some other connection to the school. 

The core school formulation not only can hamstring a company’s ROI, it also is one of the biggest drivers of the diversity and inclusion shortfalls in the early professional ranks at most companies. This is because the top schools are not typically diverse cross section of student jobseekers. Effectively, there’s a structural problem here. Companies using traditional core school on-campus approach to campus recruiting are inherently limiting the diversity and inclusivity of their collective pipeline. 

In addition to the diversity and inclusion shortfalls, there’s a built-in cost ineffiiciency; core school investment tends to have high fixed costs and are often not subject to the most rigorous ROI analysis. The fixed costs are travel and entertainment spend, along with any other event participation fees and other sponsorship costs–and these are committed to year-after-year, even if the results aren’t there. And wasting lots of money: as outlined in Harvard Business Review‘s article Firms Are Wasting Millions Recruiting on Only a Few Campuses

This is where a digital campus recruiting strategy comes in. Having an effective digital campus recruiting strategy either provides a supplemental balance to the limitations of the on-campus approach–or can replace those efforts altogether. 

A Fortune 500 company hiring thousands of grads each year, could easily and efficiently fulfill all of their hiring demand through a digital campus recruiting strategy–without a single trip to campus. That said, 100% digital campus recruiting strategy would carry certain sacrifices. There is still significant benefit in physically going to campus, in terms of employer branding, sourcing, and also in terms of what students gain from engaging with companies in person.

Interestingly, the ROI for campus recruiting has been in decline for many years (here’s an article from 2013 detailing the inefficiency). 

The counterpart, of course, is digital. Below are the key components of a modern digital campus recruiting strategy. 

Strong employer branding 

The job search has become an experience rather than a transaction. Students now look for far more than static information; they want to know what a company stands for, what kind of people work there, and what problems a company is trying to solve. The good news is that you already have an employer brand–every company does. It’s a question of how you invest. You’ll likely need video and smart, engaging copy, and some hard work. See our guide to employer branding.

Candidate experience

This is obviously a broad topic, but everything that happens from the start of an application to the time of a decision heavily impacts a candidate’s choice and even the long-term brand of the company. By far the biggest variables here are the ease of application, otherwise known as how many clicks it takes to complete the process, and how long before the candidate hears back from an employer. As you might have guessed, long application processes that require students to be glued to their screens for hours followed by impersonal auto replies are the stuff horrendous Glassdoor reviews are made of.

Digital marketing infrastructure for inbound and outbound sourcing

An inbound and outbound sourcing strategy that resembles a digital marketing lead generation approach takes time and resources to build, but the payoff is extreme–particularly for digital campus recruiting.

Leveraging digital partners

Leveraging established digital partners is a critical part of every digital campus recruiting strategy. These can include sites that attract large numbers of candidates for immediate application volume, targeted talent networks that can facilitate access to particular demographics or skillsets, or platforms that both attract and pre-qualify.

Of course, building an effective digital campus recruiting strategy is a long process, which takes executive level support, a resource investment, and a commitment to making incremental steps in a long-term process of continuous building and improvement.

Once a digital campus recruiting strategy is up and running, a key question, of course, is how to measure success. Here’s a look at return on investment for digital campus recruiting: ROI of Digital Campus Recruiting.