5 Trends Disrupting Campus Recruiting


Nathan Parcells

Nathan Parcells is VP of Marketing and co-founder of Looksharp. He has spent the past decade helping students launch their career, researching best practices for hiring millennials (including running Looksharp's annual "State of College Hiring") and sharing these insights with employers. Nathan's work has been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, Business Insider and more. Outside of work, Nathan is an avid rock climber, back packer and Bob Dylan fan.

Webinar Transcript

Woman: Nathan Parcells is the VP of Marketing at Looksharp. Looksharp is the largest online site for students looking for internships and jobs with over 11 million students and 30,000 employers using the site every year. Nathan writes about millennial trends and millennial hiring in a number of periodicals, including Forbes, The Huffington Post, and more. Looksharp also runs the State of College Hiring survey, an annual survey that over 50,000 students participate in and looks at numerous data trends in hiring this younger audience. Please welcome to Elevate 2015, Nathan Parcells.

Nathan: Hey everybody, my name is Nathan Parcells. I'm the VP of Marketing here at Looksharp, and today we're going to be talking about five trends that are disrupting campus recruiting. First and foremost I want to say thanks for joining into my session and thanks for joining the Elevate conference. Really excited to share some data and insights around how campus recruiting is changing. And yeah, this is a really major topic for not just university recruiters but anyone in HR right now.

As many of you know, there's a high volume of baby-boomers retiring. This younger audience is the future DNA of your organization, all these young intern and entry-level hires that you make while on campus. And yet this younger audience is also changing really quickly and dramatically, leaving a lot of challenges for companies who are trying to look to younger hires to help fill in their workforce, figuring out how best to engage and compete for the best talent, and that's what we're going to talk about today.

Just a super quick background on myself. I'm the VP of Marketing here at Looksharp. We are an online job site where students search for internships and entry-level jobs, and also we help companies hire great entry-level talent. We have over 10 million students using our site. We've been doing this for about 7 years and in that time period I've written about the topics of how to hire next-gen talent in Forbes, Huffington Post, VentureBeat, and more. We do tons of data and surveys to the student audience so this is really our area. Millennials and hiring millennials is our area of expertise.

In terms of agenda, just a quick look at what we're going to talk about today. Everything will be very action oriented. Lots of tidbits and insights that you can immediately use to improve your campus recruiting and college recruiting programs. Start with a quick intro about the topic and about us, then we're going to talk about career fair alternatives, which is a big trend and change in how people are hiring on campus. Next we're going to talk about just some little tactics and ways to deal with the increased competition that exists on campus today. Next we're going to talk about using technology to support your campus hiring goals and some of the new technologies out there that can really make you more efficient as a recruiting company on campus. After that we'll talk about pre-promotion of events, which is another new way to get ahead of the competition. And finally, analytics and reporting, an essential part of any recruiting program, including those on campus.

I like to start every presentation and topic that I cover with a quick quote that helps set the stage for the conversation. I thought this one from Tony Robbins was really cool where he talks about, "Change happens when the pain from staying the same is greater than the pain of change." And the career fair and the campus recruiting process is kind of facing this question right now of is it time for an evolution or a full revolution of how campus recruiting is done? Career fairs have not changed dramatically in the last few decades. It still requires recruiters putting together an awesome booth and cool schwag and takeaways, going to campus, spending a really long day of talking, shaking hands and talking to students. And yet there's all these new opportunities that exist to hire students online, to do things a little bit differently on campus including doing info sessions or hackathons, stuff that we'll talk about. So the big question is, is it time to do something entirely different to attract students, or can you still be successful with career fairs?

This data is, I think, one of the most interesting ways to look at millennial hiring. This is something that came from over 50,000 students sharing their insights in our State of College Hiring report, which Looksharp does every year. So what you'll see here is that Google search is now the #1 way in which students look for jobs, entry level jobs and internships, so being really strong and having a strong online presence is now actually the most important thing you can do to help get your brand out there to students. Other things like posting on internship sites and general job sites, which I think a lot of companies already do, are also quite important. But career fairs do remain #2 in terms of how students are looking for internships and jobs. That number is moving down, and so over time it really makes sense to start intermingling your career fair efforts with other types of campaigns whether they're cool social media campaigns geared at college students, whether it's about figuring out how to show up first on Google for student internship searches like marketing internships in San Francisco which you might want to rank for. But in the meantime, career fairs and on-campus events still remain important. So for me, what this hints at is that we're really looking at an evolution...how can we make the career fairs better, how can we get the most out of them while they remain an important part of recruiting students? And then how do you start thinking about other things to add into the mix that will make sure you don't get left behind as more and more of these younger students move away from doing campus events and doing things, looking for jobs entirely digitally.

Last, just a quick last look at who we are at Looksharp. As I mentioned, the company started formerly under the name InternMatch in 2009, so we've been in this space for over six years now, and this graph just shows how our audience has grown over time, now being the largest online site for students and millennials looking for jobs with over half the college market using our site over the course of a year to search for internships and jobs. And as well, on the employer side we help companies do two main things, and that is branding themselves to this college audience, and converting those hires through posting organic job postings as well as doing targeted campaigns with emails and other types of outreach to students. As well as we have a mobile app that helps companies hire and recruit more efficiently on campus and we work with really a broad range of companies in every single industry and all across the country.

Okay, so diving into the topic "Five Major Trends that are Disrupting Campus Recruiting." The first one we're going to talk about is one that's been happening over the last 5 to 10 years and it's becoming more and more common so it's a great place to start, talking about alternatives to career fairs. So the first and really most major alternative that's become extremely popular recently, and for good reason, are hackathons. So, these alternatives are all about hey, it's still worth it to get on campus. You want to get your brand in front of the students at the schools you care about most. But, career fairs, being a little bit old school in their model and approach and students don't love career fairs, what are some of the more innovative ways to get in front of students? And when we surveyed our employer audience, the response back was hackathons, hackathons, hackathons. These events really work and they're extremely effective at getting top engineers to learn about your brand and company and potentially apply and come on board.

So just a quick recap. What is a hackathon? Hackathons are these either day long or weekend long events where students are given a coding challenge to help build an early prototype of a website, and as an employer, you can attend those events, you can provide mentorship and guidance to students as they're hacking on their projects. It's an incredible way to see live which students are...how they work in a team environment building a prototype, how they are in their various coding skills. And so it's this really cool organic way to evaluate candidates, to talk, to mentor students, and therefore bring your brand to the forefront of their mind as they're working on these challenges. Through that, most of these events end up putting together all the students into a resume book who attended the hackathon that you can then recruit to after the event is over. The other ways to get involved with a hackathon so you can sponsor the prizes typically, you can just buy the resume book, you can be a mentor. But the goal for a hackathon for those who haven't gone to many before is to not be overly recruit-y and sales-y, but to actually engage with the students from a very helpful peer level and to use the goodwill that you develop in those situations to then ultimately establish your brand and hire great talent. So most people do not send the recruiters to hackathons. They send their engineering leaders, people who can really relate to the students while they're coding, and that ends up being the most effective strategy for hackathons.

Also, up here on the slide there's a couple of top hackathons that are worth checking out. Some of them are really big, like MHacks and PennHacks are hackathons that have grown over time and often have hundreds of students attend them, so they're really competitive for sponsorships and can be costly to attend, but they're big and there's a lot of students there. Things like Pearl Hacks are all-women hackathons, so you can also use hackathons to make your diversity hires, which is a great strategy as well. And then there's some companies that host their own hackathons, which can be extremely expensive, but means you get to own the party, and you really can brand yourself to every student who comes. You're not competing with other sponsors. So Facebook and Microsoft do a lot of those fully-run hackathon events on campus.


Then the last quick note here is that hackathons aren't just limited to engineering, and my prediction is that in the future, every major will have events like this where you can assess talent in a really organic way. So there's code-free hackathons where marketers and business people go and they put together a business plan over the course of a weekend and then present the results. It's a great way to evaluate those people and in those types of events, if you're someone, a company to host non-coding hackathons, you would really be on the cutting edge, which lets you track the best students who are really interested in doing something fun and innovative with their business skills. So it's a great strategy to get ahead of if you are interested in hiring top-tier non-engineering students.

Next up in these career fair alternatives is another approach that we're seeing become increasingly common where some of the most established, like the consulting companies, the Ernst & Youngs of the world, have been doing this for a long time, but going to a career fair and not just having the career fair be the only event you do during that trip. You're sending all these recruiters out there, it's expensive. So is there a way to host a VIP dinner for your top candidates that you meet while on campus? Or even, a lot of companies who have developed relationships with clubs will...and talk to professors and will say, "Who are the best candidates in your class," and they'll pre-invite those students to a dinner, and then they might find a few other really hot candidate leads at the career fair itself, and they'll pull all those people together to a hosted dinner after the event. Some of the benefits of bringing students to dinner is that obviously it's a more relaxed environment. You can really get to know candidates better and they get to know you better. This has a really high impact on your conversion rates of people that you meet on campus to them coming to your interviews and eventually being hired because they've gotten to know your whole team better, they've gotten to know your culture better, you've built a real relationship with them and those things all pay off when it comes time for them to choose between multiple offers that they might be getting.

Next up is another interesting strategy that we highly recommend, which we call bringing the students to you. When you go to a career fair, you're setting up your booth next to all of your top competitors and many other companies that are all recruiting the same talent, and so you're spending a lot of money but you might not be getting that much value out of it. Whereas students are highly interested in what your work environment looks like, what your employees are like. They're really curious about the professional world, and so there's this win-win scenario where you can invite students to come tour your office, do a brown bag lunch with one of your executives or at some kind of info session, and through that process you'll get this incredible brand exposure. They'll see how exciting your office environment is in person, and you'll get a lot of students who might not normally go to a career fair because they might find that boring interested in coming to your office and checking it out. So putting together this kind of event is incredibly valuable.

Some of the challenges that exist with this approach might be you might not have access to all the students you want to invite, so some ways to work around that. You can work with your career center to potentially send out an email to students inviting them to come. You can work with professors or clubs, again, to do something similar, and nowadays, with sites like Looksharp out there, there's a way to really target email campaigns to a broad swath of students at the campuses you care about through partners like that. You can send an email to candidates that's branded that's inviting them to come check out your office, and you can build up a list of top-tier students through online channels like that in a way that you couldn't in the past.

Next up, one last strategy that we've seen some companies do effectively are virtual career fairs. Virtual career fairs, they are really hard to pull off well. Students are online chatting, you don't get that face to face interaction that your recruiters probably crave in making their assessment of candidates. That's one of the big reasons why going on campus works. That said, there's a million great candidates that are not at your core campuses that you go to because they're the ones that you know those are the best fit for your particular hires. But there's all these other schools out there where students might go to because they're local to them and they're saving money, or that are just hard for you to get to because they're not near a major city that you typically recruit at. And so hosting the occasional virtual event can be extremely effective. We've partnered with companies like Nestle Purina to host a Google Hangout where they talked about all the different roles in a digital setting, and they got hundreds of their target candidates to come and learn about their brand through that event, as well as learn about how to apply for their positions online. So as a one-off kind of campaign, something online can really help you tap into all those other schools where you and your competitors might not be targeting and find some of those needles in the haystack of those really talented students who are not at the traditional schools you recruit at.


So that's it on some of the alternatives. Next we're going to just talk about some...a very simple tactic that matters right now. Competition is on the rise. If you've been one of those companies who goes after hiring tech talent as well as the other business talent you will know how competitive hiring the best new grads can be. We've seen intern salaries at $35 to $45 per hour for top STEM candidates. That's not unusual in the west coast in the bay. Everyone who is hiring IT and tech students is competing with those same salaries because those companies are hiring all over the country.

When it comes to competition, when it comes to getting on campus, you need to bring schwag in order to stand out. It's par for the course now at a career fair, and so we want to quickly talk about what's some of the cool schwag that's out there that you might incorporate into your recruiting program. I remember when we were at the Stanford Computer Forum, which is one of the most competitive hiring environments out there, it's trying to hire the top tech Stanford grads, and there's a lot of smaller companies who don't have a big brand who are trying to stand out. We saw one company bring out Chipotle burritos that they sliced in half. That's definitely a guaranteed win. There's no student out there who doesn't smell a Chipotle burrito and want to come over and learn more about your company and what you're doing and enjoy that.

Not every event you do you'll be able to invest that much money in schwag, so some other cool schwag that we see really winning are...in this top right here you'll see these rubber speaker amplifiers that students can use in their dorm room or in their home to get some sound out of their phone which are cheap and really cool and easy to brand. These credit card holders that can be attached to the back of a phone, we see our interns using those and they love them because they're simple and allow you to minimize what you have to carry around and millineals want everything attached to their phone and this is a good way to do that. Lastly, down here, mini footballs is another thing that is...those never go away. You'll see them hanging out on the lawn of a campus quad and your brand will be consistently sitting in front of students if you can get some mini footballs distributed at a career fair. So just some little ideas to help you spur some creativity for your next campus event.

Next up, and this one is one of the most major trends and changes to take notice of. Technology is now being used directly at a career fair to take away some of the manual work of the process and make the whole campaign more effective, convert better, and just really improve the experience for both the students and recruiters. So technology at campus events. Something you'll see if you've gone on campus recently is this proliferation of iPads and iPhones being used to collect student data. These things are incredibly valuable because oftentimes if you've been to a campus event, you're going to get this big line of students waiting to come talk to your recruiters. So with tools like this, and Looksharp provides a free version of lead capture using a mobile app, that is one of these many tools that are out there for doing this very effectively. You can pass a tablet or phone back to people in the line and get them to pre-enter information so that when they come up and talk to your recruiter, that conversation...a lot of the basic info is already captured and it's much easier to have that conversation. Beyond that, you can have students pre-register for events like info sessions, again, putting in a lot of their basic data so that before you go to the event you know who you want to talk to and you also already have all of their core information so again your recruiters can focus on talking and assessing candidates.

Lastly, with Looksharp at the very least, we allow for automated email follow-ups after you basically register a student using the mobile app, and that again allows you to go deeper and ask coding questions, other assessments that you might use in your evaluation process to help filter down your candidate pool at events like this, and you can automate that whole process. Last but not least, you get to stop collecting and worrying about paper resumes. Paper resumes are a hassle in a million different ways. Scanning them after events, making sure you don't lose them, taking down notes and piling them up in different piles during an event, are all some of the more painful parts of the career fair process. Again, this isn't a revolution type change, it's an evolution. How do you take the current process, add some technology to make it that much more efficient for you and your recruiters, and for students.

Next up is how do these mobile apps then allow you to do the next part of the process which is again incredibly time consuming and important for recruiters, which is following up more effectively with students. Students are such a fast paced generation, the millenials and gen Z's that you're now recruiting on campus, and they don't expect to meet someone and then not hear back for two weeks about what the next steps are on a role. They expect to hear back immediately. And so, one, that little automated email follow-up that I mentioned earlier is a great way to do that. But two, top companies are trying to figure out, okay, if we meet great engineers on campus or great business candidates who are really any role, how do I follow-up that night and say, "Hey, we like talking to you, we want to get you in for a quick interview?"

One of the things you can do with these mobile tools is you can rank students in a way that they don't see while you're talking to them. You can say A through F or one through five, whatever ranking system you use. Then all that data gets pulled into a CRM or back-end candidate management system, which then you can filter down and say show me all of the A candidates who are interested in our engineering role and within an hour of an event you can follow-up with all of your best students with either a pre-written email or something that you quickly customize and invite them for interviews. This speed of turnaround is becoming one of the ways that companies are competing for the best talent. They know that if they can get in touch with a student quickly, it increases the odds that they'll get the interview. And if they can make an offer quickly, because they've talked to their hiring managers ahead of the event and they're allowed to do that, they know that they can make great hires quickly. And if you wait two weeks now, a lot of the best candidates will be off the market by the time you even start interviewing with them. So this is not only a better experience for the students but sort of a critical way to get the most value out of your campus events with quicker turnarounds.

Next up is a quick thought on another way to use technology to make your events more effective. A lot of career fairs and info sessions are a bit like casting a net and hoping that some great candidates will walk into that. You set up your booth, you stand out in front of your table and you try to grab students who are walking by to say hey, here's what we do. And then you spend a lot of that time talking to some candidates who are fantastic and others who are never going to be a great fit, and that's sort of the nature of career fairs. There's a little bit of the hit or miss aspect to it. What we're seeing companies do now is use pre-promotion of their events to help target who stops by and the level of quality of candidates that they get coming to their booth. You can shoot an email out in advance using tools like Looksharp or other places to...using your career center contacts, using club contacts that you have at a school and saying, "Hey, we're going to be on campus at this date. We'd love you to pre-register for our booth so we can see a little bit more about you before you come by, or we'd just love you to stop by our booth. We think you'd be a great fit for our company and here's a little bit about what we do so you know about it ahead of time." Students really...a lot of them go to career fairs not knowing who they want to talk to yet, and so if you're a small company with a growing brand, or if you're a company like Amazon that has a great consumer brand but not every engineer knows how technical of an organization you have, doing stuff like this that helps get your brand and company top of mind before an event really helps increase those conversion rates and the value of spending the time to travel to campus.

You can also use these same exact tools to host very personalized events, so if you want to do an info session on your own where you have one of your company leaders talking about finance and the future of finance and you're using that as a recruiting type event, typically it's really hard to fill those events. You'd need to work with clubs and the career center very closely and you still don't always get great turnouts, unless you have pizza and other things that help attract college students generally speaking. Doing some pre-promotion can really allow you to increase the attendance of your events. It's a new strategy that not a lot of companies are tapping into, and so it's a great way to, again, compete for getting that best talent to come to your events and convert to hires and to win on campus.

You can also do some stuff on social media. We've found some companies are more effective at that. Tweeting at the clubs on campus, tweeting at the school in general and getting that event out there, in means that other companies are not.

Lastly, and this is a topic that I know everyone is extremely interested in, but analytics and reporting. Typically, going on campus has been a little bit hand-wavy in terms of the value. You know if you go to certain campuses that you always get two or three great hires, and that helps fill up your program and that helps your program continue to succeed. But, a lot of companies don't know which events am I getting the most value from, which events are bringing me diverse hires versus other hires, which events bring me interns that are most likely to convert to full time. Some schools might be great at producing a lot of interns, but they're not actually the culture fit that you're looking for to then get great hires out of it, and that's the goal of every intern program is hires, right? So, analytics and reporting is evolving in a really incredible way right now that helps you address a lot of these questions.


I want to point to two things that we see companies doing the most to analyze their campus recruiting efforts. One is just using a basic spreadsheet. If you want to be low-tech with your approach to understand how much you're spending at every campus you're going to, how many candidates you're talking to, so what does your pool look like after that event. How many of them are ranked highly? How many high-qualified candidates or leads do you have? How many do you eventually hire, and then how many of those interns become full time hires, so to retroactively go back a year later and back-fill that data. It's a fantastic way just to see, okay, costs per hire at the Berkely campus is X and one at the Carnegie Mellon or University of Maryland campus is Y, and maybe we should invest more money in Maryland, or maybe we should invest more in campuses that are like Maryland because we're seeing such great results there.


That's always the cool thing with data is that it tells a story and sometimes that story is not the one you expect. Sometimes there's schools that you think would not be a great fit for you but end up being really strong. A lot of campus recruiters are forced to go to particular campuses because their higher-ups say, "Oh yeah, I went to this school, I think we should recruit there." Or, "We've always had success here, why don't we recruit there?" It's not always the most data-driven model and so this is a great way to empower your team to make the business case for going to more schools or other schools because you have the data to show what's working and what's not.


Really quickly, here at Looksharp, we've built a tool that's free to use that's really, really simple where you can actually just basically input your recruiter costs, your manager costs, your schwag costs to calculate a cost per hire at different campuses you go to and then print it out to an Excel file that you can use to make this business case. It's a free tool, so it's just at looksharp.com/employers/costperhire. A great tool to help you bootstrap this process if you haven't really been doing it before, and it makes it really simple for your recruiters to enter in their various costs. So check it out at employers/costperhire.

Next up is just these more powerful tools that are out there for metrics and dashboards. Again, these types of campaigns rather than an Excel spreadsheet allow you to really dig deeper. You can get a dashboard that looks at how many candidates did I hire from every different school in different years. You can look year over year and compare this data. Again this is a Looksharp dashboard that we use for helping employers analyze their different campus events. You can look at how many majors did I talk...what are the different majors I talked to at different schools. You can say hey, Maryland is a great tech school, whereas University of Florida is great for business and finance. Again it's just all about digging deeper and understanding these insights.


Another thing that you can do with some of these tools is understand how you stack up against the competition. How many students did I talk to at a particular career event versus other Fortune 500s who attended that event. On average, how many did they talk to. So some really cool ways to start getting deeper and better insights into your program, how it compares, and where you should be spending your future budget.

You can also look with a lot of these tools, including Looksharp, at how different recruiters are performing on campuses. Oftentimes we send out hiring managers to help with our recruiting process. Some are better than others. Some get the elevator pitch, some don't. You can see who talked to the ones initially who ends up converting into interns and new-grad hires. And then you can say hey, you're really doing well at these campus events. How do we get you out to a couple more because you really seem to have a knack for selling the company and getting our best candidates to get excited and come on board going forward.

If there's one major takeaway from this presentation, it's that technology is really improving career fairs and that you need to be data driven to understand which events are working for you and where to invest.


So yeah, that's it for this topic. A quick summary here. One, I just want to reiterate. Career fairs are still a critical part of hiring students. Students are going to Google and other online tools and they're listening to their friends a lot more as millineals do, but career fairs remain the #2 way that students are finding jobs and internships, and so you need to be there and you should be taking advantage of some of the new stuff like pre-promotion to let students know you're going to be there, as well as hosting your own events that maybe help you stand out a little bit more.

At events themselves, I didn't cover this but this is an important one, it's all about attitude and energy. Make sure you bring recruiters and hiring managers that are really energetic. They'll help sell your company. And make sure to stay as high energy with the first candidate you meet on a long campus recruiting visit as you do with the last one you meet, because they might be that one that you are...they're a great fit for your company and you want to hire.

One of the biggest changes in campus hiring is the speed at which students expect to hear back from campus recruiters. No longer is it okay to email people three weeks later and expect to get a good response rate. Those students will have already been poached by other companies who are responding faster. So if this isn't something that you do in your program, make sure to improve your response speed.

Lastly, it's critical to explore career fair alternatives like hackathons. These things are not the bleeding edge, they are becoming the norm. It's a great way to get your brand in front of the best talent who is excited about these kinds of events and wants to come out to them. Info sessions, non-technical hackathons, reverse career fairs where you bring students to your campus, your office. If you have a campus, if you're Fortune 500 and you have a big cool campus that you want to show off to students, great, great ways to stand out, to woo those really top-tier candidates and to be a little creative in the recruiting process.

Cool. And last but not least, the font here's a little bit bright and hard to read so I'm going to read it off for everyone, but again, my name is Nathan Parcells. I'm the VP of Marketing at Looksharp. I love talking about how to hire better on campus and how to hire the best college students. If you have any questions about materials in this presentation or about building an intern and entry-level program broadly, email me at nathan@looksharp.com. Happy to help answer your questions. If you're interested in learning more about our branding solutions for online and promoting your intern and entry-level program, or if you're interested in using a mobile technology to help improve your campus recruiting process, which as I mentioned is free right now to start using, email us at sales@looksharp.com and we can talk more about those things as well.

Last but not least, if you just want to explore our website, it's looksharp.com/employers. You can learn more about all of our products there as well as the many, many resources we have on intern compensation, cost per hire calculation, and we have a ton of other free templates and resources that you can use to get your intern program up and running or further up to speed. So check out all those things, thanks so much for listening to me. I hope there's a lot of helpful advice here. And best of luck hiring the best college students for the remainder of this fall and going forward in the spring. Look forward to hearing from you and helping you out on campus. Thanks so much. Bye.