What began with recommendations from campus career centers nationwide that students and recruiters avoid shaking hands during spring recruiting season quickly evolved into the cancellation of all onsite events as colleges and universities were forced to close for the semester.
Since then, organizations that depend on college students for both critical internship programs and full-time early-career roles have been working tirelessly to revamp both their programs and their methods of recruiting students. Among the notable examples, Microsoft published details regarding how it will transition its traditional onsite internship program into a remote experience, while PwC announced plans to switch entirely to phone and video conferencing for student job interviews.
At the same time, not all employers see these alternatives as viable options. According to HR Dive, both Yelp and the National Institutes of Health have canceled their summer internship programs. Similarly, the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ latest poll of member companies finds that 16 percent are rescinding summer 2020 intern offers. So far, only two percent of employers are revoking their full-time offers, an early indication of optimism among employers.
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Five Strategic Considerations for College Recruiters
Even as the economy begins to reopen, social distancing practices are likely to remain in place for the remainder of 2020. Given this, as well as the considerable effects the coronavirus outbreak has had on students’ lives, employers should assess their college recruiting strategies with a focus on the following:
1. Rethink your target schools. As expected, the impact of COVID-19 on student attitudes and preferences is dramatic. Numerous anecdotal reports find that students are changing where they plan to attend school next year with an emphasis on proximity to home and costs. State colleges and universities may see greater interest among both first-year and transfer students within their own backyards. Similarly, graduating seniors may be less tempted to accept job opportunities far from home now that they’ve experienced firsthand the extreme challenges associated with a global pandemic.
2. Have a virtual recruiting plan in place for the rest of 2020. While everyone is certainly hoping that campuses will reopen for the fall, there’s still uncertainty around what that will actually look like. Schools may reopen for in-person classes but avoid hosting large-scale onsite events. As such, talent acquisition teams need to make sure their fall 2020 recruiting initiatives include the ability to quickly and easily implement virtual events and interviews if needed. In addition, plan to take advantage of relevant college career fairs that are being shifted from onsite to online.
3. Support personal connections. Busy recruiters looking to do more with less may be tempted to rely solely on a handful of large virtual recruiting events in order to fill their pipelines with qualified student talent. Yet, this can result in a lack of personalization and, for students still reeling from the crisis, the perception that they’re just a “number.” Host smaller, more targeted virtual events, such as roundtables or information sessions that offer students interaction with current employees and greater insight into the organization.
4. Pre-screen virtual recruiting event attendees. With fewer internship and full-time opportunities available to students now, organizations that are still hiring will see a surge in attendee interest. Implementing a pre-screening mechanism benefits both employers and students. On the employer side, pre-screening ensures that invitations to virtual recruiting events go to students who are the best match for your opportunities, leading to better recruiting outcomes. For students, those who aren’t strong matches won’t waste their time attending irrelevant events and can focus their efforts on identifying opportunities for which they are better suited.
5. Put your recruitment messaging under the microscope. Successful virtual recruiting events depend on effective pre- and post-event communications. However, the messages you used to recruit students before the coronavirus outbreak won’t resonate if they appear out of context. Review your messaging to make sure that it reflects the complexities of the current recruiting environment. Include details about how your hiring process has changed, as well as any changes to upcoming internship programs or full-time opportunities. Develop an online FAQs page for students, too, as this will make it easy for them to find answers to common questions, which also frees up recruiters to focus their efforts on more meaningful conversations with students in the pipeline.
And finally, even if your organization currently has a hiring freeze in place, make sure you stay in touch with top prospects. Talent CRM software is a good option for managing the student-focused nurturing and engagement activities that lead to a strong pipeline of qualified, interested and available candidates you can tap into as soon as your organization begins to hire again.
Want more tips and strategies for effective virtual recruiting events? Download our GR8 Guide to Virtual Recruiting Event Management and get the 10 most essential best practices.