The fight for top talent is heating up and recruiters are becoming increasingly focused on catching the top talent as early as possible. This means organizations must hone their campus recruitment strategies to stay ahead of competition.

184 - Beginners Guide to Campus Recruiting

This guide will explain to you 1) what campus recruitment is about. We’ll explore the 2) best practices of campus recruiting as well as share 3) insight into the key strategies you should be using.


Campus recruiting is becoming an increasingly important strategy for organizations, as the competition to find the top talent increases. Consider, for example, the fact that in the US, college students amounted to 21 million in 2015. This is above two times to levels in 2000. Furthermore, the number of college students could increase by 500,000 annually in the next few years.

Reaching out to the best students within this crowd will be important. Recruitment has become slightly easier with technology, but technology has also made it easier for candidates to share experiences. The power to choose has moved slightly to the candidate, which means an organization must reach out to these graduates as early as possible. Creating a positive impact from an early on can increase the organization’s chances over other competitors.

Learn about the key trends in campus recruiting.

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The job requirements, as well as demographics are also changing. Jobs are becoming increasingly specialized and more jobs require academic qualifications. To find the right person’s for organization’s demanding roles, businesses must be tapping into campuses for talent. The specialization also means many current positions are better learnt on the role, meaning businesses would want a fresh talent, with the ability to learn on-the-go for these roles – the perfect option is a graduate.

The earlier the organization can discover emerging talent the better. By creating strong links with the career services and student unions, organizations can learn more about the future talent and the future demand. After all, the campuses are the places for the influencers of the future. Gaining access to these future influencers can help a company stay on top of the trends and adjust to the future demands.

Naturally, a strong presence on a campus can also be an important part of strengthening your brand image. It gives you the opportunity to network among the students and craft a positive image of the organization. Being involved in the university creates a positive image and tells the student you care about the community. This can be an essential factor for students when they start picking internship placements or future careers.

In terms of the demographics, the fight for top young talent is also increasing, as many countries are experiencing a drop in younger generations. The birth rates in many Western countries mean organizations won’t have the same kind of talent pool available than in the previous few decades.

The above, together with the fact that today’s young people expect different things from the future employers, mean campus recruiting should be something organizations take seriously.

Below is an interesting video of campus recruitment at RBC University:


Since students’ expectations have shifted, organizations must implement certain changes to their approach in order to improve their campus recruitment. Below are some of the best practices your organization should keep in mind when devising a recruitment strategy.

Have realistic campus recruitment goals

It’s important your organization doesn’t just set up a presence on a campus and hope for the best. Campus recruitment won’t be a success unless you define goals that can be measured to determine whether your approach is working or not.

Recruitment goals will equip you with more focus in terms or strategy development. You’ll be able to direct attention to the sectors that work the best and adjust your plan accordingly.

Ensure the goals you set are realistic. This means that you must base the goals on supply, demand and other related statistics. You shouldn’t, therefore, set just a number of recruits you want without basing them on facts.

You should understand the graduate pool you are working with through:

  • Examination of the potential candidates
  • Understanding the competition you have for attracting these candidates
  • The strengths of the particular campus (in terms of skill set, for instance) and the weaknesses of the campus (lower diversity levels, for example)

You then need to measure your goals. It’s auspicious to consider the following factors when measuring the effectiveness and appropriateness of your strategy and goals:

  • The number of hires you are making on campus
  • The rate of interview to offer
  • The rate of offer to acceptance
  • The retention rates of the hires

If you start experiencing problems in any of the areas, you should examine your strategy and see what changes can be made.

Learn more about campus recruiting metrics in this presentation.

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Find the target campuses

With the above in mind, it’s important to understand that not all campuses and institutions are alike. Certain campuses might be more suited to your organization.

Overall, since you most likely won’t have the resources to be present properly in every campus of your county, you should focus your efforts on the best options for your organization.

When considering the target schools you should focus on, consider the following points:

  • The quality of the school and the course – Look at the overall quality of the university and focus more specifically on the quality of the courses that are most important for your organization.
  • The experience and contacts you might already have with the institution – If you already have good links to certain institutions, these could work in your favor.
  • The location of the school – This can be more crucial for specific businesses, but you should always consider it. For example, if your operations are based on the other side of the country, certain candidates might be put off by this fact (due to family reasons, etc.).

Overall, the key is to focus on your organizational needs when examining institutions rather than the country ‘rankings’. The highest ranked schools might not always be the best choices for your business. You should be especially wary of the overall rankings, as certain institutions might be at the top in a specific area while ranking low in the overall list.

Maintain proper campus relationships

The key to successful campus recruiting lies in focusing in long-term relationship with the institution, instead of short-term results. Creating a successful campus recruitment campaign won’t happen overnight, so you’ll need to be patient.

You definitely want to start by fostering a relationship with the school’s career centre. Don’t stay in touch with them only when there’s campus recruitment fair or other such occasion, but have regular communications with the team. Don’t only focus on what they can do for you, but what your organization can do for them.

Once you’ve started building a strong relationship with the career centre, you want to use the connection to reach out to other members within the institution. You should start nurturing relationship with the faculty you are most interested in, together with its administrators.

Overall, try to become active in different campus activities, even when they aren’t directly associated with recruitment. For example, find student groups, which are related to your field of work and offer sponsorship programs for their activities and events. This is a good way of creating a positive brand image on campus.

In addition, you also want to support the university’s research. You could offer students the opportunity to write their thesis with your company or provide access for researchers to your data.

You can do the following branding measures to be present on campus.

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Craft a clear message

Finally, it’s important you focus on creating a clear message. You want students to be able to understand immediately what your business is about and what are the things you are offering them.

Furthermore, you should clearly outline the recruitment process your company uses and the different application routes, as well as required skills, for example.

In order to ensure your message is clear, you should focus on both the staff and the students. You want both of these groups to be on top of the situation, especially in terms of finding more information or contacting your company directly.

A number of companies make the mistake of thinking campus representatives can be almost anyone within the organization, but you shouldn’t make this mistake. It’s important to ensure your campus representative knows everything about your business, its recruitment strategy and the institution in question.

One of the ways you can enhance the chances of improving your message’s clarity is by increasing your organization’s status on campus. Participate in campus activities whenever possible and provide clear leaflets, business cards to provide students and staff access for more information.

Make sure to add social media and other online platforms to your strategy. Students are tech-savvy these days and you want your message online to be the same as on campus.

Finally, stay in touch with the students and their preferences. You want to understand the topics student are the most passionate about and focus on reaching out to them through these channels and topics. Don’t create a generic message about your business and then use it year after year. Tailor your message around the interest of the students and the needs of the students.

For example, some students might be extremely passionate about global warming and you can better reach out to the students by highlighting how your business is doing its bit to stall the phenomena. On the other hand, student might be less interested about salary than they are about the career progression. You would then want to highlight how employees can climb up the ladder and the speed for doing so.

Needs some tips on building a better employer brand? Watch this panel discussion.


Now that you are aware of the best practices of campus recruitment, it’s time to turn attention to the most effective strategies you should be using. By implementing the below three strategies, you can ensure greater outreach and more meaningful recruits.

Using technology to your advantage

Young people today are Internet-savvy and they use social media in a number of different ways. If your campus recruitment strategy doesn’t embrace technology and social media, you are unlikely going to receive high grades for your effort.

When students are looking for information, they often turn to social media platforms and ask for advice and tips from other people. It’s therefore crucial your business is present to provide this information and has a good network of people who can answer students’ needs.

Ensure your social media strategy is appropriate and professional. You don’t want to create a strategy where you actively jump in on students’ conversations on social media, especially if they have nothing to do with recruitment or the field you operate in. You want to be available and engaging, but not be constantly messaging about your business, as this can quickly turn into harassing behavior.

You definitely want to have a focus on different social media channels, as each channel tends to attract job seekers in a different way. An interesting study by Jobvite in 2014 found that 76% of social job seekers found their current job through Facebook. But when it came to asking help and advice, social job seekers went to Twitter. Finally, LinkedIn was the channel most people did their job seeking.

Therefore, focusing on all three can be helpful, with LinkedIn and Twitter offering perhaps the most important communication opportunities.

Finally, today’s campus recruiting has to invest in mobile recruiting. All of your business websites and profiles must be accessible via mobile. This also means making the actual recruitment process available and easily accessible with a mobile.

Innovating and using creativity as strength

As we’ve already mentioned the current recruitment space is quite crowded and competition for top talent is heating up. If you want to stand out from the rest, you have to create a strategy that is innovative and creative. Relying on the methods, which worked in the past, won’t excite the students of the future.

The crucial thing is to focus on empowering the students and providing them benefits to further their studies and the future career. This means offering different scholarship options, creating internship schemes and work experience programs, and generally giving access to resources that can help the student.

You’ll also want to explore diverse recruitment tactics. Thinking outside of the box is not just recommended, it’s necessary. One of the coolest tactics in recent years has been about furthering brand recognition and recruitment with imaginative strategies. For example, you could use puzzles and quizzes are a recruitment strategy.

The intelligence agencies in the US and the UK have used cryptographic puzzles as part of a recruitment strategy. They have created the puzzle and simply asked ‘Are you smart enough to work for the MI6?’ This is an effective, innovative and fun way to reach out to potential graduates.

Similar strategies could easily be used by other businesses. For example, an accounting firm could use math puzzles and a journalism organization could create a competition to write the best story and so on. Don’t just send out an application form and say ‘Apply here’, but make it fun, challenging and creative.

Since campus recruitment is largely down to creating a strong presence and brand image, you should also look into enhancing this through other activities.

For today’s socially conscious students, volunteering can be a great way to reach out. It’s important to show your business is part of the community.

You can offer students the way to participate in your community or volunteering projects, which can be useful in making that first connection with a student. For example, create a book donation event to help a local community centre or organize a clean up event to clean around the campus area.

Focusing on students rather than soon-to-be-graduates

Finally, your campus recruitment strategy should move away from simply focusing on the graduates and start reaching out to the near-graduates instead. Don’t start communication with the student once they are in their final year, but forge relationships as soon as they enter that campus as a fresher.

If you highlight the benefits your business can provide to career investment for these students, they can start thinking about working in your company earlier on. This not only helps you tap into talent earlier, but helps the ensure students focus on the skills your company values the most.

To achieve this, you definitely want to start focusing more on internships and training programs. Even short programs can be a good way to improve brand image, talk directly to future employees and create networks and relationships.

You could provide the internships for the most talented students of the first year and even organize seminars or dinners for the top students, with guest speakers inspiring the new generation.

The key is to provide students hand-on experiences with the field they are studying, as well as get to know your organization.


Students are focused and often have dreams about the direction they want to head their careers. It is the recruiter’s role to understand these dreams and provide the student with the guarantees they are looking for your organization to fulfill these dreams.

Campus recruiting isn’t impossible, but it takes time and determination. You should have a clear idea of what you are looking for and where, as well as a clear message of what you are offering for the top talent.

Recruiting is about highlighting the ways your organization can help these students to achieve their dreams. You therefore need to forge strong relationships, find the channels and ideas students are most interested in and build a positive brand image.

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