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university recruiting

The Best Tips For University Recruiting

Table of Contents

What is university recruiting?

University recruiting is the process by which a company sources, makes contact with, and hires college/university students and recent graduates for internships and entry-level positions. Certain sectors depend greatly on university recruiting: technology, engineering, finance, and consulting. Frequently used approaches to campus recruiting include attending career fairs to connect directly with students, collaborating with campus career centers, and social media marketing.

University recruiting for Gen Z

To effectively recruit Gen Z job applicants on university campuses, focus on their skills, outlook/mindset, and values. Gen Z is:

  • Tech-savvy: Gen Z is more tech-savvy than any other generation; social media platforms are integral to their personal and professional lives. For Gen Z, the Internet is a tool for work, research, and connecting with people.
  • Risk-averse: Studies show that Gen Z is more risk-averse than previous generations, as they grew up during an economic crisis and political uncertainty. For many, stability and security are more desirable than risk-taking. 
  • Looking for companies with a strong moral compass: Gen Z is open-minded and expects a similar attitude from an employer. They look for purpose-driven companies, from both a consumer and employee brand standpoint. Gen Z is focused on authenticity and cares about ethical consumption.
  • Value diversity & inclusion: Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation to date; almost half are non-white. They care about working for diverse companies that provide fair and equal pay and promotion and want to feel seen and appreciated at work.
  • Cares most about salary and work/life balance: They seek freedom and flexibility in a role.

To engage in university recruiting for Gen Z applicants, do the following:

  • Emphasize job security and growth opportunities.
  • Focus on flexibility and ownership.
  • Recognize hard work and provide regular feedback.
  • Be genuine, honest, and authentic.

Components of a university recruiting strategy

Your recruiting strategy for Gen Z should include:

  • Campus recruitment: Forming and maintaining solid relationships with colleges/universities is critical to connecting with Gen Z.
  • A compelling career site: A company’s career page is the cornerstone of its recruitment marketing strategy, especially for tech-savvy Gen Z applicants. The most important information should be easy to find, and the company website should be current.
  • A personalized communication strategy: Ask university students to join your talent community before applying, and share content based on their interests. During the interview process, send updates to let candidates know their status. 
  • An employee influencer network: As Gen Z relies on referrals when looking for a new role, utilize current employees and alumni networks to attract talent on campus.

How to conduct campus recruiting events in-person

For in-person campus recruiting events, such as career fairs, assemble a team of well-informed, personable, and enthusiastic employees who can answer questions. This group of employees should include both recent graduates and older individuals. While having students talk with young professionals who recently graduated from the university can be a productive approach, seasoned, higher-level employees have vital information to share with college students who want to learn about a potentially long-lasting career at a company.

How to conduct campus recruiting events online

Online (virtual) recruiting reaches more candidates, particularly for smaller companies without a sizable recruiting staff devoted to sourcing prospective talent. In addition, online job fairs or open houses require less time and fewer resources than in-person events.

To create an online recruiting event, follow these steps:

  • Promote the event across digital platforms: Advertise the online event on your careers website and social media pages to optimize candidate engagement.
  • Follow-up with participants: Reach out to all the attendees via email or direct message to thank them for attending the event and let them know how to contact you with any questions they may have.
  • Use metrics to track success: Track the number of registrants and attendees and calculate conversion and offer acceptance rates of the attendees.

University recruiting for diverse talent

A well-designed recruitment strategy will help you effectively market to, connect with, and recruit minority students and graduates. Incorporate these elements in university recruiting:

  • Establish your diversity brand: Showcase the company’s efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. Display relevant employee resource group activities on your company’s career page. Host the CEO’s diversity statement on both the career page and various social media platforms. 
  • Develop strategic relationships with HBCUs: Strategic partnerships at historically Black colleges and universities will attract diverse talent and lead to future opportunities to reach highly educated talent. 
  • Work with student groups: You can build your employer brand in diverse communities through strategic sponsorship, thought leadership, and events aimed at diverse student organizations. 
  • Frequent virtual career fairs for targeted student groups: Look for virtual events that reach diverse groups such as women, veterans, and people with disabilities.
  • Use employee resource groups (ERGs) to increase recruiting efforts: Members of your employee resource groups can act as representatives for university recruiting and outreach efforts to campus organizations. 
  • Elevate your company’s employee referral program: Include an intentional message about the company’s need for a diverse workforce in your referral program. Highlight the importance of diverse referrals to your company, and explain how you address inclusivity at your company.

Social media and mobile recruiting for university talent attraction

For tech-savvy college students who live on their phones, your social media and mobile strategies help build your company’s employer brand and allow you to identify and target candidates. 

  • Mobile-friendly job application process: A simple application process that can be completed on a mobile phone eliminates the barrier to application for candidates, wherever they are.
  • Use QR codes in signage for job postings: College students are particularly mobile phone dependent; QR codes should be embedded in all aspects of college recruiting. QR code readers come pre-installed on most smartphone devices and there are many free apps for users with a device not pre-installed with one. 
    • A QR code for job recruitment at a retail site or a campus event represents an opportunity. By clicking the link, potential candidates will be immediately sent to careers page or a job application form. 
  • Post jobs on social media: With a mobile-friendly landing page and application process, you can link to jobs in Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Google, and Twitter ads. Adding social media to your recruitment strategy can attract active and passive candidates, target your ideal talent pool, boost your employer brand and company culture, and save on recruiting costs.
    • According to GlobalWebIndex, the average internet user has over five social media accounts. As of this year, Instagram has over 1 billion users, and Twitter has over 300 million — and those numbers will only continue to grow.

University recruiting best practices checklist

These are steps that all university recruiting efforts should include to attract and engage the student community:

  • Curate a list of primary & secondary school choices: Start by creating a primary campus list and a secondary campus list. The primary schools are where your company will focus most of its efforts. This list is often based on universities with programs that match a company’s required hiring qualifications. It may also include schools from which the company’s outstanding employees graduated. The secondary list should include other schools that are a good source for high-quality applicants. While these schools may have great talent, the number of potential candidates might be lower for various reasons.
  • Engage in early recruitment: The best employers start reaching out to students in their first year at university. Some companies are now targeting high schoolers for the early promotion of their employer brand. 
  • Build inspiring relationships: It’s not enough to be active on campus. Your company should build inspiring, ongoing relationships with university career centers. Clubs, associations, athletic teams, and faculty members can help promote your company and reach top talent.
    • Find a professor who will invite a company representative into their class or a lecture series in which the company gives a presentation about a topic relevant to the class. This can help raise awareness of the company and generate interest in the profession/field.
    • Identify a recent intern to serve as a campus ambassador who can be a conduit between the company and the school. Students and recent grads know their campuses well and can help spread the word about opportunities at the company.
  • Connect with students on and off-campus: University recruitment strategies can include a mix of on-campus and off-campus initiatives and tactics to appeal to your student target audience.
  • On-campus: In addition to recruiting students for positions, career centers help facilitate introductions of students to employers. They coordinate career and job fairs, student job programs, graduate school expos, information sessions, table displays, and networking events — all opportunities to meet future talent. Further, schools have departments and/or students who manage online and offline advertising located in academic and high-traffic campus areas — communication channels that should be leveraged.
  • Off-campus: Include a clearly defined content strategy on social media and mobile devices. Consider hosting an open house at the company or a career fair. Invite current employees to participate in the fair and share their experience working at the company. Current students can meet potential future colleagues and get a glimpse of what a career at your company might look like. 
  • Show new applicants you understand them: Gen Z isn’t interested in micromanaging or monotonous work. They want money, job security, and rewarding experiences. They want to be mentored in an environment where they can advance quickly. An employer who understands what is important to their target student audience and communicates it effectively will be regarded as an employer of choice.
  • Use storytelling to attract and engage talent online: Give the company a human face. Develop an online personality via sharing employee testimonials and case studies of prior hired students who have grown and thrived at the company. Consider showcasing photos of corporate and social events. 
  • Offer internship opportunities: Create attractive summer, co-op, and intern programs that will allow the company to hire the best talent. Expose students to the company’s brand long before other employers and long before students seek their first full-time career opportunity. 
  • Deliver an exceptional candidate experience: The candidate experience is crucial to how the student community regards a company’s brand. Gen Z applicants want to be acknowledged and respected while interacting with a potential employer. You can count on them to share their experience with peers and on social networks. Make sure your hiring processes and applicant tracking system facilitate experiences that leave candidates with a positive impression of your company.
  • Measure your results: It’s not enough to put a campus recruitment strategy in place and hope for the best. You need to measure your results to know what worked and what failed. Set goals and KPIs, and assess your results. Over time, you’ll discover the best universities to source talent and most effective channels to communicate your brand. Metrics will also help you understand the types of content and initiatives that attract and engage top-tier talent.

Jackson Hille

Senior Marketing Manager at SmartRecruiters