There are two leading schools of thought at the moment on how to approach campus recruitment. The first believes the current pandemic situation is temporary and is effectively holding its breath until everything goes back to normal. The second consists of those who are ready to adapt to what might very well be the new normal.
For that second group, the ones who aren’t going to wait until “things get better,” here’s a checklist on how to get ahead of the campus recruiting games and adopt a “digital-first” strategy.
1. Evaluate your spending. Anything that requires a physical presence needs to get cut ASAP. So what kind of budget do you have? Assume there is no new money to spend, and focus on what you can do with what you have now. Next year, when you show what you were able to accomplish with a neutral budget, you’ll have the credibility to ask for more.
2. Time to trim. Look at your existing digital platforms and spending. What’s not currently working? Every team has pet projects they love that simply aren’t performing. This is not the time to coddle those projects. You will need the money to shift to a more digital-first model.
3. What is your core platform? Are you committed to integrating all your digital comms and work with your existing applicant tracking system (ATS)? If so, that will limit what you can do; instead, it is key to establish those limitations early. If you’re able to build outside the ATS, is there a CRM or other platform that you must integrate with? Great recruiting and branding needs to feel as seamless to the outside world as possible, which means focusing on well-integrated tools rather than a best-of-breed mindset. The best and coolest tool won’t feel useful if it doesn’t integrate well with your day-to-day systems.
4. Define your strategy and targets. This isn’t a time for broad, wholesale branding. You need to create as much focus on what you are trying to accomplish as possible. This means prioritizing markets and segments, being willing to ignore some roles and teams if it means achieving better outcomes in others. Remember that the core of the strategy is deciding what you won’t do, so be judicious and specific.
5. Research. Once you know your targets, it is time to do your research. Who are they? What do they want, both in a new job and from a recruiting standpoint? Where do they hang out online? What would they hear that would make them notice you and listen to you? What other content are they seeing (what are your messages competing against)? Brainstorm with your team to understand your targets and where your opportunities might be. Consider opening up the conversation to people in the company who do those jobs, to get a more boots-on-the-ground perspective.
6. Pick your plan and stick to it. If you decide it makes sense to go all-in on Tik Tok, do it. Don’t water down your messaging or split or focus across five or six channels because you want to cast a wide net. Go become an expert on that channel. Spend time on it personally and professionally. Learn the customs and tribal knowledge that exists in that channel. Learn the inside jokes and memes to learn how to speak that audience’s language. Trying to send an email on Twitter doesn’t work. The same with trying to send a tweet on Snapchat or Tik Tok. Don’t try to be everywhere. Instead, be amazing in your own space.
7. Gut check time. Before you launch your strategy, spend a little time writing down everything that could go wrong and what you can do to resolve it. What will you say when a stakeholder suggests you change your strategy or add a new channel (“because that’s where all the kids seem to be”)? How long will it take to see successes and validation? Who will be your biggest critics? Plan for the worst and you’ll be well prepared for any situation.
8. Get engaged. No matter what channel or strategy you choose, you have to embrace the fact that the digital world is predicated on two-way communications. If you put a message into the world, you need to listen to see how it is heard. This is more than monitoring comments or measuring “engagement.” If you are putting a message out, you are telling the world that you are there and are ready to listen and respond. So be 100% ready to engage. Respond to people. Talk to other brands. Talk about what’s really going on around you. Stop limiting yourself to the press release copy. Become a citizen of that space and engage as any other person would.
9. What are you prepared to reveal? Remember that, ultimately, what candidates want to see on digital and social channels is what’s behind the façade your comms, marketing and even recruiting teams have built. They want to see what the work is really like. They want to get to know the people who do the work and why they show up and stay. It may seem strange to say, but the digital channel is far more people-driven than having a recruiter show up at an event. Digital allows you to connect a prospective coder or salesperson or nurse to actual coders, salespeople and nurses, rather than funnel the conversation through a recruiter who is none of those things. Embrace this aspect of the digital space and help create connections and conversations between humans.
10. Success breeds celebration, which breeds opportunities. Let’s face it: Recruiting and TA teams are not always seen as the most agile and flexible in an organization. Pivoting to a digital-first model is cause for celebration, helping to change the company’s perception of you, which can lead to bigger opportunities. So show off a little and let people know how well your program has gone so far!
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