Year-round college recruiting takes a front seat

Saturday Jul 1st 2000 by Jeff Daniel
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To get a jump on the competition in the race for talent, forget about the recruiting off-season.

Still in shock from that bumpy ride you took on the college recruiting circuit this spring? Well, you're not alone. A lot of companies did their due diligence and handed out great job opportunities, only to be turned down by college students wielding a fistful of competing offers.

But don't plan on taking the summer off just yet. College recruiting is now a year-round activity. While the rapid advance of technology is creating more jobs than the workforce can fill, more and more companies are using the off-season to recruit that limited pool of tech-savvy college grads.

So, to be on the winning end of the talent war, here's a little summer schooling:

What's another 90 days? Give summer graduates more consideration.

It is estimated that 10% of IT jobs go unfilled each year, costing the country as much as billion annually in lost production. And right now it can take up to four months to fill a job in Silicon Valley--the place where IT talent is most heavily concentrated. That's roughly the same amount of time it takes a summer college graduate to finish school. Are you devoting enough energy and money to this pool of candidates? If not, it may be worth your while.

Spring graduates and December graduates, in that order, tend to be the two primary targets for college recruiters because of their sheer numbers. But the dynamics of current supply and demand have made it imperative to reach all potential candidates, which now means that summer is sizzling like never before.

Is your next hire already on the payroll? Turn your summer intern program into a recruiting boot camp.

Summer interns are a captive audience, yet employers sometimes consider their graduation dates too far away for serious consideration. That is quickly changing. Everyone from freshmen through seniors, and even some high school students, can show potential as summer help. That raises the question: Why aren't you treating them better?

If you can give 90 days' probation to evaluate a new hire, why not spend that same amount of time screening summer interns for future positions? And rather than relegating them to work that noone else desires, give them creative projects that will excite them about the possibility of a full-time career with your company. Loyalty is easier to earn when interns are immersed in your company's culture. Once they get back to campus, your message is just one in a crowd.

Jon Kolko, a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, will become a visual design specialist with Austin, Texas-based Trilogy Software Inc. in January 2001. But recruiting him to the company began all the way back in 1999 when, as a summer intern in Trilogy's Human Computer Interaction (HCI) Group, Kolko got an offer to join the company.

Kolko was only a junior at the time, but his research for the company gave him an early indication of the exciting work he could be part of as a full-time employee. During his internship, he was given the task of examining how the HCI Group would fit in Trilogy's overall move toward e-commerce software production. He ultimately presented his findings to hundreds of company employees.

Recruit and re-recruit until you see them show up for work.

"If you can give 90 days' probation to evaluate a new hire, why not spend that same amount of time screening summer interns for future positions? "
Getting candidates to finally commit, however, isn't always as easy as it looks.

Have you ever had a college student accept a job but never show up for work? It happens. Students are bombarded with offers even when recruiters know that they have accepted a job elsewhere. It is best to assume that when you are not in touch with a candidate, somebody else might be. A good recruiter's job is to continually secure a candidate's loyalty.

Before Kolko accepted Trilogy's offer, he interviewed with many other companies, as most college students in an attractive job market would. Meanwhile, Trilogy made sure it remained in front of him, naming Kolko a campus consultant to assist when the company was at Carnegie Mellon to recruit other students. Trilogy also gave him work on a consulting basis, deepening his interest in the job offer and its many advantages. When Kolko finally accepted, he said his decision was as much about the people as it was about the offer itself.

Sometimes your senior executives can help influence those decisions, too. It was recently reported that Microsoft president and CEO Steve Ballmer gave his home phone number to target candidates this spring, showing just how high up that corporate ladder the college recruiting function plays.

I, myself, am a big supporter of recruiting from the CEO's seat. When I came across one student from Wake Forest University of Winston-Salem, N.C., I saw an amazing talent that stood out above the others. I actively lobbied the student, a summer intern at my company when I first noticed him, to return the following summer for a second internship. Finally, when he was ready to become a full-time employee, I was there to make the offer. Although I am the CEO of my company and not the hiring manager, there are times when I want to go the extra step to influence someone to join my team.

Today, that former intern, Adam Ward, is a campus recruiting specialist with my company. "It makes a world of difference to know the CEO wants you there and tells you that you'll be a value-add to the team," Ward acknowledges.

Finally, don't forget Christmas in July.

Everybody has that one relative who finishes Christmas shopping early. But you never appreciate the wisdom of that forethought until you're stuck in a crowded store on Christmas Eve, pushing your way to the cash register, right?

Well, apply that same theory of starting early to your college recruiting plan, and you will be that much more ahead of the game. The earlier you shop for candidates and the longer you work to establish communication with them, the stronger the relationship becomes over time. By Christmas, or in this case, when they sign the W-2, you'll be enjoying the celebration while everyone else is still in line, fighting for the leftovers. //

Jeff Daniel is the CEO and founder of CollegeHire.com, which recruits IT students online and in person at universities across the nation. For more information, visit www.CollegeHire.com.

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