Missing the Point: College Recruiting

Scott Francis
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The Wall Street Journal published another article about college recruiting.  It seems to reflect how a lot of companies approach college recruiting and think about college recruiting.  And it is also, in my view, completely wrong.  Let’s touch on the college recruiting don’ts:

1.  Don’t encourage College kids to drop out.

For Maxwell Hawkins, a computer science and art major at Carnegie Mellon University, the moment came in March. A technology recruiting firm sent him a letter by FedEx urging him to drop out of his junior year and take his talents to work for a start-up.

 

“I work for the founder and seed investor in PayPal, Palantir and Facebook,” wrote Peterson Conway, a recruiter with Carmel, Calif., firm Goodwyn/Powell. “I have been asked to help identify the founding team of a new venture.”

Look, this is just tacky.  Flattering, but tacky.  And founding teams don’t need talent scouts like boy bands.  Founding teams ideally find each other and work together because of their working chemistry and compatibility. Any college student worth his or her salt would consider someone trying to convince them to drop out a con man.  They have an agenda, and they’re trying to convince you to do something for they’re benefit, not for yours. 

Sadly, the recruiters and companies that employ these tactics think that college students are as gullible as the reporters who write these stories.

2.  Don’t let Money be the only Reason They’re Joining your Company

The next line of discussion was about the huge salaries for top schools.  I’m not saying that students won’t take the highest paying offer. And graduates will typically shun what they perceive as a “low-ball” offer.  We’ve all seen the companies predicated on just paying more.  It usually doesn’t work out for the best. Do you want to build a company of people who are only there because you pay more?  Or do you want to build a company based on people who share your mission or vision?  Or people who fit in really well with your team?  You know the right answer.

3.  Don’t Go Too Corporate

This sort of thing has a half-life to it:

Google Inc. (GOOG) is particularly active on campus. Brian Yee, a master’s student at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science, is one of the search giant’s 400 “student ambassadors” at top universities around the world who get paid to assist with recruiting and spreading the word about Google products. In February, Mr. Yee rounded up 100 students to eat free pizza and hear a Google developer give a “Tech Talk” about YouTube.

“For the Tech Talk they sent 100 pairs of Android pajamas,” he said. “Those went really quickly.” Starting this fall, Google will more than double the ambassador program to over 1,000 students world-wide.

When you hear things like “ambassador program” and “student ambassador”.  A company like Google? They’re product(s) should be their ambassador.  And once upon a time that’s exactly how it worked.  So instead they’re going to pay someone (a student) to represent them on campus and give away schwag.  I guess this is better than the older firms that just want to OCR-scan your resume, but this kind of program isn’t a genuine connection with students, it is artificial, and it looks fake. Google has 400 of these ambassadors. Growing it to 1000.  Sounds really personal.

4. Don’t Fish in the Wrong Pond

If you’re a small company, you have to marshal your resources (time) and interview populations of graduates that are likely to produce results for the jobs you’re hiring for.  If you spend too much of your time interviewing the wrong majors, or at the wrong schools, that time is stolen from interviewing the right kinds of majors, and from developing your business.

5.  Don’t Expect them to Know Everything

Too many times you see companies recruiting candidates who will have all the skills to do the job on day 1.  In college recruiting you’re hiring for potential as much as for current skill set.  Be willing to give them time to learn and grow into the role.

 

So what works?

Really Caring about the People You’re Recruiting

If you care about the team you’re building and the graduates your recruiting, it will show.  You don’t pay them to evangelize for you – they do it because they believe in what you’re doing, and want to talk to their friends about it or even recruit them to the company to work together.

An Efficient and Respectful Interview Process

Make sure your interviewing process is efficient – you don’t want to do 6 interviews if 3 tells you it is a hire (or not).  But you also want the process to be respectful – even the candidates you decline can be advocates (or the opposite) for your firm.  If you care about the people you’re recruiting, being respectful to their needs and perspectives will come naturally.

Get Involved with Interns

Take the long view.  Your first year of college recruiting is going to be hard to find the people you want – limited resources and time, and the college graduates don’t know who you are.  Hire interns.  Invest in them – and in their career development.  Do the same when they join full-time a year or two later.  Don’t expect them to know everything you want them to on day 1 – the whole point of internships is to expose them to real world work, and give them a chance to grow!

I’m not saying BP3’s college recruiting is flawless – we’re only in our second year of internships, after all.  But we’re committed to it.  We’re passionate about our business, technology, and team.  And we’re passionate about process.  I’m hopeful that college recruiting will help us really build on our business and bring new talent to the BPM space.

 

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