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  • Writer's pictureLindi Engelbrecht

A balanced digital-first approach to recruiting : Early Talent Recruiting

Digital-first Successful graduate Recruitment

The idea of life without the pandemic went from seeming bleak in the beginning of the year to becoming a not-so-distant glimpse into our promising future.

With millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered daily, production to fight the pandemic has only accelerated.

We surveyed hundreds of recruiters and learned that nearly everyone is rethinking their campus recruiting strategy — but many are unsure about how to move forward. Four key areas emerged: Sourcing & Diversity, University Relations, Candidate Experience, and Technology.

Companies are rethinking their campus recruiting strategies from top to bottom. After quickly implementing virtual processes in response to COVID, organizations are taking a step back and figuring out how to optimize both in-person and virtual/digital methods to create more streamlined, high-tech; low-touch hiring.

Working on early talent acquisition can be hugely exciting. But it can be high-pressure, too.

We can expect early talent applications to peak at certain times of the year — around graduation time, for example. And yet the sheer quantity of CVs and cover letters can be overwhelming to get through.

Volume is only half the challenge

It’s not just the volume — it’s having the time and/or resources to sift through those applications to find the best talent.

As anyone who’s been confronted by 200+ leads for a single position will tell you, as interest in a job surges, your stress levels follow suit. You may find yourself wondering how you’ll manage the process without making snap, irresponsible decisions.

We know we shouldn’t filter applicants by searching for Ivy League or Russell Group educations, or any other (arguably biased) parameter. That does no favors to your business or the candidates you’re selecting from. But streamlining the selection process without heuristic shortcuts adds time and complexity — unless you have the right tools.

As schools prepare to reopen their doors and welcome back vaccinated students, employers are begging the question, How do we best recruit early talent safely and equitably beyond the pandemic?

Once a largely in person process, campus recruiting is mostly digital today. And with conversations around social equity taking center stage, digital has become a reliable way to increase an employer’s reach to more talent, including from underserved groups—especially as skilled labor shortages lead to increased competition among employers looking to fill their open headcount.

Higher education institutions set their intent to reopen

Colleges and universities, which are reeling from Million Rands loss, see the prospect of an in-person return as a beacon of hope and opportunity to more deeply engage with their students.

Budget cuts this past year associated with declining enrolment, tuition discounting, and athletic suspensions have compelled schools to prove their value. And while they’ve worked tirelessly to overcome these obstacles, they’re now eager to get back on campus with robust plans.

Meanwhile, employers are keen on learning just how their partner schools plan to reopen to make an informed decision about their own recruiting strategies. But just because the majority of schools plan to reopen, doesn’t mean all activity will be centered on campus. “Normal” will look a little different.

As pandemic-related travel bans remain in place throughout the rest of the world, international students will face logistical hurdles in entering the country. And students with serious medical conditions may be unwilling or unable to return, putting their traditional college journey at greater risk and placing a damper on equitable experiences.

For students who are planning to return to life on campus, building capacity, public health, and safety measures, including wearing masks, distributing hand sanitizer, and allowing for social distancing in and outside of the classroom, will be strictly enforced. Students may even be placed on alternating schedules in order to limit on-campus exposure.

To better accommodate the needs of all students, a recent poll of 246 higher ed professionals found that 47% will adopt a hybrid of virtual and in-person programming, 17% will opt for virtual-only, and 2% will opt for in-person programming only. Less than one third remain unsure.

In response, employers are turning to networks like DIGGER, to ensure fair employment opportunities for all students by expanding access to their job opportunities and reaching qualified students anywhere, regardless of their visa, health, or socioeconomic status. They’re also leaning on platform analytics to inform the ROI of their school partnership and career event strategies.

Preparing students for the future of work

The discussion around reopening and returning on campus may be at the forefront of campus recruiting agendas, yet a larger conversation around the skills gap is still brewing. Today’s college students and recent grads, largely composed of Gen Z, are entering a job market largely reminiscent of the one their predecessors joined 13 years prior.

The Great Recession contributed to the underemployment of millions of millennials back in 2008, and today, about 40% of the youth is unemployed —a figure that is slightly higher for underrepresented groups. The difficulties of finding a job are magnified in an economic downturn, especially for emerging professionals with limited work experience.

If the employment challenges resulting from the pandemic aren’t addressed, the next few years could have detrimental effects on Gen Z’s purpose and mobility. Compounding this reality, students now have to also consider collaborating and operating in a far different world and work environment than what they’ve spent their whole lives preparing for.

The real question isn’t about whether you should return on campus. It’s about preparing students for the future of work, and creating programs that mimic the environments they’ll need to adjust to.

With nearly a quarter of students hesitant to return to the office in 2021, Gen Z doesn’t only want to hear about your approach to reopening—they need help from employers to build the necessary skills to succeed in today’s hybrid work environment. In the likelihood of continued remote work, digital collaboration will remain paramount.

The preferred recruiting model beyond the age of reopening

Paired with proprietary network data, Handshake’s expertise is reliant on an ongoing series of conversations with our partners to help employers address and navigate trends and accomplish their hiring goals.

In order to drive the most data-driven, equitable, and qualified outcomes, 80% of employers will prioritize a digital-first or hybrid approach to recruiting this fall and beyond to reach a larger pool of students.

A digital strategy ensures employers reach students regardless of disability, visa status, or reason for not being on campus. More broadly, a digital-first strategy extends an employer’s network reach, helping them recruit a more equitable workforce while preparing Gen Z for the future of remote collaboration.

This 2nd half of the year, employers will look to democratize access to their jobs by participating in digital activities, like school-sponsored virtual career fairs or employer-hosted virtual events, at the top of their recruiting funnel, allowing them to expose their brand to students nationwide and bring in the most talented into their pipeline.

Due to the complexities associated with on-campus travel and entertainment (T&E) and the nature of dedicating team members on the ground, in-person engagements, which tend to be costly and limit reach, will be reserved for qualified candidates who progress down the recruiting funnel.

Whether by way of smaller, more intimate gatherings, or 1:1 “walk and talks,” employers will rely on data to prioritize schools with the most relevant talent pools and pre-schedule in-person interviews to save time on campus.

It is also for these very reasons employers are choosing to prioritize smaller, on-campus engagements at nearby schools while continuing to maximize reach and equitable recruiting by way of digital.

Take your campus hiring strategy digital

When it comes to targeting early talent and Gen Z, there’s huge value in digitizing elements of your campus recruitment strategy, contact us here to schedule a conversation. Specifically, there are four key areas that will benefit most from the power of tech:

  1. Marketing your campus recruiting opportunities

  2. Increasing your reputation and relevance

  3. Building an application process fit for the future

  4. Using AI to optimize results

With a balanced digital-first or hybrid approach to recruiting, employers can ensure that millions of Gen Z students and graduates enter a more equitable job market, regardless of who they know, where they go to school, or what setbacks life may have put their way.

After all, the most diverse generation in history, Gen Z, is banking on you to help them emerge from adversity with a promising shot at opportunity.

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