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Campus Recruiting: Advice from a Campus Pro on how to do it well

(Note: I’m going to do two blog posts on this topic this week. The first will be aimed at the HR and Recruiting community; the second at college students seeking internships.)

It’s a beautiful April day here in Seattle, and in Springtime many hiring managers–and recruiters–turn their thoughts to campus recruiting.

I’m sure that the in-house recruiters who read my blog will have lived a variation of this dialogue–most more than once:

Hiring Manager: “Hey, it’s mid-April. Are we doing any campus hiring this year?”

HR: “Well, when we asked about that in December, you said there wasn’t money in the budget. So no, there hasn’t been any campus recruiting this year.”

Hiring Manager: “I said that? Huh. Well, we have some funds and need a couple of interns to do some small projects for us. Can you go out and hire, say, 5?”

HR: ” *bangs head against desk* ”

This is a typical occurrence for a lot of companies, unfortunately. Recruiters can usually dig up a few interns–but both the quality of available talent, and the intern experience they receive, is variable at best.

I spent many years on both sides of the campus recruitment and employment world, most recently in campus recruiting and talent management for an F100 company. Working for a much smaller company now, I know not every company is large enough to have a formal campus recruiting program. But there are some ways to ensure successful campus hiring:

  • Ask early and often. If you think there is any potential that your hiring teams will want interns, ensure you are asking up to a year in advance. Most firms start their intern recruitment in Fall of the academic year, so the best talent is recruited–and off the market–earlier than some people might think. This gives you time to plan and budget.
  • Educate. Help your business clients understand how campus recruiting differs from regular incremental hiring (aligns to the campus calendar, lots of competition for top talent in targeted majors, rigid recruiting/interviewing/hiring schedule). This will help you get confirmed headcount before you need to recruit.
  • Build a business case. According to NACE, college hires can be reasonable in terms of cost per hire (around $5000/hire on average) and have high retention (90% after 1 year, 69% after 5 years). While the cost seems high, it pales in comparison to spending 20% of first year’s comp to a headhunter for a mid-career professional only to have them leave after 2 years.
  • Don’t just go to big name schools. Your business clients will often tell you, “We only want Stanford/Berkeley/MIT/CMU talent.” Guess what? So does everybody else. And unlike you, they have BIG budgets, big recruiting teams, and a very long head start on you (by decades in some cases). Instead, think about starting small/local with under-rated programs closer to home. When I worked for an F100 financial services company, we found a small Business school that produced graduates that equaled–and in some cases outmatched–those from big-name B schools. It was our secret weapon, and the business leaders, initially skeptical, soon thought we were geniuses.
  • Plan your work, and work your plan. Do the research to figure out what schools–and majors–you want to target, and then identify a few channels of building your brand with those students. Often, large campus-wide career fairs are not a good use of your time if you are targeting a specific major. You will be better off engaging with the TA’s in that department as well as the student group for that major in addition to any recent alums you might have working with your company.
  • Get the hiring managers involved. This shouldn’t be (only) about cheap labor; rather it’s an opportunity to develop–and evaluate–potential future hires. Get them excited about being part of it and they will become your champions with other teams.
  • Don’t get hung up on GPA. Yes, a student’s GPA is one indicator of their abilities. But in my experience, hiring only the highest GPA students leads to problematic outcomes. That student may be exceptional in an academic environment, but may be wholly unable to succeed in the dynamic, multi-faceted work landscape. Look for students that balance solid academic performance while juggling other activities like leadership positions in student organizations, or working part/full time. Those are the people that are likely to be more successful in the ever-changing world of work.
  • Information Sessions are boring. Let’s face it: No student wants to hear a recruiter talk about why their company is more awesome than the giant multinational software company across the lake, or the uber-cool cloud storage startup that just asked them to go rock climbing. Think of a way you can engage students with some hiring managers and high-caliber recent college hires in a more social environment. Give them something to do together; they’ll learn more about each other that way.

Even if you can only put the first 4 ideas above into action, you will be FAR ahead.



Hello World! And happiest of Fridays.

What’s going on? Been a busy, BEAUTIFUL week in Seattle. Sad to say the sunny 70 degree weather is apparently leaving us just as we approach the weekend.  Good thing I got most of my gardening done earlier this week.

One of the unique things about working on the Seattle waterfront, and living here in general, is that you have an ever-changing landscape just beyond your window that reflects global trade and commerce. I’ve previously posted photos of the plane train:

plane train

Boeing moves 737 fuselages between their factory in Everett and the final assembly plant in Renton 1-2x/week depending on the production schedule for global customers.

Here’s one I bet you wouldn’t expect, though. Yep-that’s coal. It’s just passing through en route to British Columbia. There are three export terminals in British Columbia that ship coal to Korea, Japan, China, and Europe. Last year, coal shipments were a $5.6 Billion commodity export. There are plans to create a coal shipment terminal in Washington state near the B.C. border, but that plan is being  protested by multiple constituencies.

coal traim

Seattle is also a major commercial port city, having the 6th busiest seaport in 2011. The photo below is a container ship coming into dock to be unloaded at the Port of Seattle. The tugboat alongside its stern is captained by my uncle; he’s at the wheel in this shot. (Occasionally he’ll bring the tug into the slip between the two piers across from my building and call me on his mobile to harrass me while I’m working. This is not something that would happen to most people.)


What happened this week?

References: How to ensure they help get you hired.

At some point in the recruiting and hiring process, you will likely be asked for 2-3 professional references. Over my years as a recruiter, I’ve come to realize that people generally treat professional references one of two ways:

  1. Having forgotten that this might be part of a hiring process, the candidate hurriedly thinks of a few people that they’ve worked for/with at the last minute and hope they can reach said person before the company contacts them.
  2. The candidate understands that this can be a defining part of the selection process, and carefully selects the best possible people for the job (providing an honest account of their skills/abilities/accomplishments/development opportunities).

Here are a few quick tips about selecting your references:

  • Don’t use the same references for every position to which you apply; instead, choose the ones that are most relevant. Do the duties of this position include project managing a major payroll system transition? Then ask the person with whom you worked who can speak most clearly to how you successfully managed a similar project in a prior position. This may not be the same person who can speak to how well you understand SOX controls.
  • You don’t have to pick your manager or supervisor. The best reference is someone who knows you and your capability/accomplishments well. That person may not be your current/former manager/supervisor; instead it might be your co-worker. Or a manager of a different team/department with whom you worked closely on your most major accomplishments. I never use one of my former managers as she didn’t have strong insight into my work; instead, I use the two program managers from the business with whom I worked closely on all of my major projects.
  • ALWAYS ask permission. Never assume that someone is willing to be a reference for you–or anyone. They may have concerns about providing a reference for a former co-worker while still employed at that company. They just may not be comfortable doing it for anyone–not just you. Always ask.
  • ALWAYS have a prep conversation before you submit them as a professional reference. Hopefully if you are managing your network well, you won’t have lost touch with someone you want to be a reference for you. But even if you are still in contact, it’s a good idea to ask them to coffee and revisit some of the highlights of your time working together–what did you achieve/accomplish/learn? What is your current area of professional development? (Good idea to ask them what they see as a potential area of development for you–after all, it’s likely what they’ll tell the reference.)
  • Give them a heads up. BEFORE you submit their name as a reference, ensure you give them a heads up, reconfirm they are okay with being a reference, give them some insight about this particular position and why you’re pursuing it, where you are in the hiring process, what they might ask, etc. If you have an idea, let them know who might be contacting and when. It’s awkward getting caught out by a reference call when you’re not expecting it/don’t have time to answer.
  • Thank, Thank, and Thank Again. Your references are, in essence, your advocates in the employment selection process. They can make or break you in getting that next job. ALWAYS make sure that you do something to thank them–even if you don’t get the job. When you ask them to be a reference the next time, they’ll remember that nice lunch or bottle of wine and likely be more willing to say yes.

Vendor-Neutral Companies & ‘Recruiting’ Companies that serve them: How they fail

I just received the following email in one of my personal inboxes:

“My name is Jeff and I’m a recruiter at ___ Corporation.  We have your resume on file and I thought you may be interested in an opportunity we currently have available for a Program Manager with a major telecom company located in PLEASANTON, CA and REDMOND, WA. This is a W-2 contract position requiring the contractor to work onsite in one of the two listed locations. Rates will only be discussed over the phone.

Please review the job description below.  If you are qualified and interested in pursuing this opportunity, please call me at (123) 333-6074 ASAP.  You may also send me an e-mail, if you do respond via e-mail please include a daytime phone number so I can reach you.  In considering candidates, time is of the essence, so please respond ASAP.

If you do not feel like you are a good fit, but you know someone, perhaps junior to you, who is looking for a temporary assignment without a heavy skill set required, please feel free to forward this email onto them.  I also encourage you to visit our website at www.vendorname.com for all of our job openings

Title: Program Manager

Project Name:

Project Description:
The LTE Market PMs as they relate to the program to deploy LTE as ~20,000 cell sites in 2013. There is projected to be a total of 45 LTE Market PMs managing the work required to launch clusters of LTE sites. “

And here are a few of the position requirements (the must haves):

• LTE deployment experience
• RAN deployment experience
• Knowledge of telecommunications network infrastructure Project Management structure and lifecycle, cellular network deployment and cellular network infrastructure including ability to assimilate complex technical interdependencies that may drive project requirements.
• Telecommunications Network knowledge
• Wireless / Cellular Network deployment experience
• Expert in Wireless Engineering Principles
• Strong project/program management experience
• Understanding of Network Equipment/Architecture systems and operations
• Minimum 8 Years’ experience managing large complex Network Technical projects

Before I launch into my rant, let me explain to the job seeker readers what this email is about. Certain larger corporations engage an outside company to manage their contract staffing needs. This company has a list of approved contract staffing vendors that must respond to a request for resumes within a certain period (often 48 hours). In order to accomplish this, they use systems that source candidates by pattern matching keywords on resumes/LinkedIn profiles and auto-generate emails like the example above to prospective candidates.

Nothing in my LinkedIn profile would suggest that I have experience managing technical wireless networking projects. So why am I getting this email? Because their system is auto-matching my information based on the words “program manager” which are in my LinkedIn profile.

I get 1-2 of these emails every week or so. Many other recruiters I know do too, especially if their LinkedIn profiles list the technical skillsets for which they recruit.

To me, this is the antithesis of good sourcing. I cannot imagine it produces much in the way of viable talent for these companies, but given the ubiquitous nature of these emails it must produce some results.

Job Seekers: I wish I had better advice for you on how to deal with these.

Corporate Recruiters: Do you work for a company that uses a vendor-neutral system? If so, are you aware of this phenomenon? Have you heard about it from your candidates?

TGIF and this week’s tragedies

Happy Friday, everyone.

It has been an emotionally wrenching week for our nation.

It’s always difficult to comprehend such tragedies. In the case of the bombing in Boston, we immediately look for who would do it–and why. Allegedly, the who is now known–but the why is still a mystery.

In this time of national sorrow, and having more questions than answers, I want to share something with you all.

This was written as a Facebook status update by a good friend of mine on Monday. She lived in Manhattan on 9/11 and was a firsthand witness to the abject horror that occurred there.

“While it’s tempting to think “it could have happened here,” tonight we should not be thinking of ourselves.

Yes, the unimaginable happened in the world and impacted people from around the world. It happened in America and impacted Americans. But most of all, it happened in Boston and to Bostonians.

There is a level of violation that is unimaginable when it happens on the streets you walk on every day and to the people who could have been standing next to you at the coffee shop the day before.

That’s why today we should all embrace Boston [ed: and Newtown, West, Texas…etc.] and keep on doing so in the months and weeks ahead. This year, root (a little) for the Red Sox, visit Boston, send cookies to a police station or a fire house or just keep sending messages of support.

Your words and actions will matter more than you’ll ever know.”

I can’t add anything further to that. She says everything that needs to be said in regards to both tragedies that have happened this week.

I hope all of you have a safe and enjoyable weekend. Make time for the people that matter to you most.

April 2013
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