As a little background for this post, I should tell you that in the past few months I have graduated with a computer engineering degree from a good university, drove a startup into the ground, and have just accepted an offer for a “real” job. In these past few months, I have experienced and heard tales of a number of different recruiting techniques, and have developed an appreciation for what works and what does not.
The most important thing is to believe that college recruiting is important. It is important. Making an effort to get good college students not only helps get the best recruits, but will help improve your reputation. With a good reputation, the best candidates come to you. That’s a good thing. Young talent can energize the company in way the best management cannot, and it is a lot cheaper than the best management to boot.
So what can you do to get the best talent to come to your company?
- Make sure they will be interested in their day to day work. Even if the company makes boring products, people interested in technology will hear you out if you convince them that they can work on the technology they want to work on at your company. Find out what they are interested in and put them in touch with the people who do that in your company. Make sure HR is familiar with the technologies your company is delving into.
- Make the offer competitive. One of the easiest ways to get a candidate is to offer more money. That’s rather obvious.
- Make them excited about the team. College students are used to being around college students and are a bit scared that Office Space describes real life. Make sure your recruiters are young, a relaxed work atmosphere is emphasized, and interns come back raving about how much fun they have.
- Make it obvious that you have your act together. Have every question answered quickly, and make sure the people who are in charge of answering questions answer promptly. When offers are flying in from every direction, the company that takes three days to get back to its candidates is the company that has already been forgotten. This is especially important for startups. If there’s a question about whether your company is going to make it, present a face that is overwhelmingly professional, dynamic, and, well, proud. You need to show that you can do anything the bigger companies can and, since you’re so small, you really want this candidate. Make sure every detail is in place.
- Have them talk to people who are calling the shots. Even if it’s not for very long, college students are impressed by executive power. For a small company, make sure the CEO is contacting every candidate.
- Go the extra step. This is the most important. College students are so easy to influence, and when you are paying them tens of thousands of dollars a year, it’s worth it to throw a few perks their way to make it obvious you are on their side and you really want them. If a candidate makes a comment about a particular product they think is cool, give them one, on the house. Take them out for drinks after an interview. For instance, if the candidate might sign with the iPhone team but starts chatting about a side interest that deals with Apple TV, send them an Apple TV. It sets you back a few hundred dollars, but you’ve won a loyal candidate. If you fly them out to interview, get them a room with a view. Even just giving them a nice shirt is enough to win you some points.
That’s the kind of recruiting that works. It might seem base to those that have been in the industry a while, but for college students, this is a whole new game, and love is easy to buy.