1. Play the Long Game College recruiting is a long-term investment. Unlike traditional recruiting where we only look for people when we need them, college recruiting can’t be turned on and off willy-nilly. However, college recruiting done right, can be the foundation for predictable organic growth. With some upfront planning and execution, an agency’s college recruiting efforts will result in gaining access to the best new talent as you build relationships with schools, professors and students. Like a flywheel, as your college recruiting efforts get going it will require less effort to maintain momentum. Your agency’s ability to find and develop new talent will become a key competitive advantage.
2. Gather the Troops Assemble the young folk and brainstorm how to connect with the school. The “recruiting committee” can take active steps to grow relationships and connect with students. Young alums will be excited to go back to their school and find the next wave of talent. The committee can plan, execute and maintain the strategies below.
3. Brush Up the Website Go to the “Careers” section of your website. Does it make you want to work at your agency? Probably not – it is likely boring and uninformative. For a few hundred dollars you can have your careers page spruced up with, at the very least, a few nice pictures, job paths, and testimonials from current employees. Any solid candidate is going to do their due diligence on your website – if it’s lame then you miss a great opportunity. Ideally, bite the bullet and have a professional videographer put together a few videos of your best employees talking about their careers, the rewards, challenges, and opportunities of the industry. Keep it fresh and be genuine.
4. Know Your Employer Reviews You need to know what your potential talent will see when they “Google” your agency. Make sure you’ve looked up your agency on Glassdoor.com, Indeed, Google and other online sources. Glassdoor.com is the most popular employer review site and it’s free to create an employer page. Invite your best employees to write candid reviews of the company. In the mind of a savvy candidate the employer who cares about their online image is likely better than one who doesn’t…obviously.
5. Build Relationships Pick the schools that make the most sense and stick with it. Do some due diligence with college career centers and find out the average starting salaries for the best students from each school’s respective business, finance, sales, marketing or risk management programs, i.e. know what it’s going to take to play. Network with career counselors and professors by simply reaching out and asking how to get involved – they will generally welcome the interest of a potential employer.
6. Post the Jobs Seems obvious, but somehow this gets missed. It is FREE to post jobs at virtually every college and university in the country so why wouldn’t you! Post two entry level jobs at each of your target schools, one for entry level Account Managers and one for entry level sales. Simply posting a job does not obligate your agency to hire anyone. I regularly receive applications from graduating students with customer service and/or direct sales experience. Graduating veterans are also great hires fresh from school and they come with added maturity and discipline. Make sure job posts are not just a laundry list of duties. Good job posts communicate the vision of the role, the opportunity to make a difference, and the career path.
For sample job descriptions please reach out to email@example.com.
7. Host Events Work with the target school’s career center to host an event. A lunch-and-learn is an inexpensive way to sit and talk with a group of prospective hires. More importantly, your agency builds brand recognition at the school and among the students. The key to hosting events at schools is to make it value-added. The event should not be a commercial but an insightful conversation about the industry, job paths, career preparation, and other topics that students will find relevant and interesting.
8. Ask the Right Questions Vetting college candidates is different from experienced hires who have a decade or more of work experience to draw from. Look for three key ingredients, work ethic, personality and applied intelligence, or in other words “grit, fit and wit”. Use an interviewing process that systematically uncovers these attributes - don’t encourage free-styling with college recruiting interviews. Just like having a systematic process for servicing clients, a good process will create better, more consistent, results in college recruiting. Ask a few key questions about every college grad, review transcripts for every college grad, etc. – pick a process, stick to it, and improve it over time.
9. Don’t Use Bad Words Most college recruits, as well as their parents and professors, will be turned off when you start talking about “commissions” and “unlimited earning potential” and “eat what you kill”. Rather, get their interest by focusing on the fact that your agency is a meritocracy, that you work with the C-suite at your clients, and that few professions will give them a deeper understanding of how businesses really work. Lessen the focus on “sales” and heighten the focus on “consulting”. That said, being candid about the challenges, as well as the upside earning potential, is critical.
10. Get Mentors Going Recently, the director of a premier sales program at a prestigious university told me that the main advice he gives sales students is to make sure they ask potential employers about training. More important than starting salaries, he advises students to put the quality of the training as the top consideration in selecting their next employer. Implementing a formal mentoring program is the easiest way to institutionalize quality training. A good agency doesn’t need to spend thousands on a fancy training program, but they do have to ensure that new talent gets the time and attention of good mentors. Consistent mentoring and coaching by the best senior staff, as imperfect as it might be, will do far more to ensure the success of a candidate than a once-and-done training program.
Atlante Partners is committed to helping independent agencies grow by finding and developing the best new talent. We would love to talk with your agency about beginning or expanding the agency's talent attraction and development efforts.