This spring is expected to be the most competitive recruiting season on college campuses since the hiring peak of 2001. Mary Scott, founder and president of a recruitment consulting firm in Connecticut surveys college students each year following the recruitment season. In 2005, the average number of interviews each student received was 5.7, and the average student received 1.5 offers. This year, Scott says she wouldn't be surprised to see an average of three offers per student.
With so much competition, companies need to be aware of what students are looking for during the recruiting process. Scott says that students say that how they are treated during the recruitment process and the feeling that they get from the people that they interact with is extremely important in influencing their final decision. Students gravitate toward companies that convey the feeling that their work will matter and that they will be valued. Job content, fit with the culture, and salary are the top three things that students say are important. Companies that have replaced human interaction with technology on campus will find themselves behind because the human connection is irreplaceable.
Word-of-mouth and reputation among students and faculty can also help to give an employer an edge in a highly competitive market. Chicago-based Grant Thornton LLP, the fifth largest accounting firm in the world, has consistently recruited on college campuses in spite of the economy. Now, with Sarbanes-Oxley, competition for accounting staff is even more fierce than ever. Grant Thornton's consistent presence has paid off for them. The firm has a "campus champion" for each location that builds relationships with students and professors. These champions come from all areas of the company and often volunteer to be personally involved as recruiters on campus. Recruiters are thoroughly screened and trained. The firm expects an 85% conversion rate from offers to hires.
General Electric follows another path by consistently hiring interns each year. Of the 2,000 interns the company brings on board, about 800 to 1,000 are offered full-time positions within the company. GE also puts line managers on campus to do their recruiting. These managers are put through extensive training so they have the right soft skills to relate to the students and make the right impression.
In the "buyer's market" for graduates right now, companies need to consistently get better at how they position themselves on campus and as a potential employer.