college recruiting techniques


College recruiting is a unique facet of talent acquisition, dedicated to attracting and engaging the emerging workforce – before the competition. That’s the high level, professional-sounding take. The reality is actually much, much different. We’ll skip the particulars on what college recruiting looks like and get into what this talent pool really wants. Or at least what they think they want. Now, I don’t know about you; if asked around my graduation date what I wanted in terms of a career, I probably would have answered “a job.” But times have changed, and today’s emerging workforce is a touch more sophisticated. 

It’s here that it becomes necessary to call the current slate of college graduates what they are: Generation Z. I know we’ve been down this road before, and if the recent OK Boomer meme trend tells us anything, it’s that the Millennials have yet to recover. Recognizing these previous mistakes, it’s important to learn about and understand college graduates as they are today, hoping to find the way to the right opportunity, and doing so requires baseline knowledge of Gen Z. Subject to rapid development and evolution, here’s what that means today: 

  • According to the Pew Research Center, the post-Millennials, also known as Gen Z, were born between 1997 and 2012, meaning the oldest around about to turn 23 while the youngest hasn’t quite hit age eight. While not the only definition, it’s a solid enough point of reference and gives Gen Z the same number of years as their predecessors (1981-1996). And that’s pretty much where the comparisons between Gen Z and Millennials stop (finally a break for the full-fledged adults!). 
  • The same study found that among those no longer in high school by 2017, 59 percent were enrolled in college, the highest, recorded rate to date. At the same time, these 18-to-21-year-olds are less likely to be employed, probably due to their enrollment in school. Even seasonal employment is out for teens and young adults reveals the Brookings Institute. That’s good news for college recruiters (and bad news for students tasked with writing their first resume). 
  • Doesn’t mean they don’t have goals though, with a report from Indeed indicating that these students demonstrate a strong interest in “future-proof” jobs. Translation: they’re going full tech. That’s right, they know technology, walking amongst us as the world’s first digital natives, unable to remember life before the internet. As a result, they’re going for developer and engineering titles, along with evergreen career options like dentists and daycare providers. 
  • Today’s student population spends more time on YouTube than Netflix, clicking, tapping and swiping their way through the day, so they’re hip to marketing and appreciate creative visuals. Brand recognition counts with this lot, and something Universum proved with its annual “World’s Most Attractive Employers” list. Whether working in business or engineering/IT, there’s not a single company that doesn’t have global brand recognition. And even with all the negative press, Google still ranks at the top. 
  • Even so, they’re all a bit uncertain about that whole economy thing. Maybe it’s because those currently attending college would have lived through (and remembered) the Great Recession. Maybe it’s because all of this trade war and tariff talk is impacting their ability to purchase Parmesan cheese and their favorite items off of Amazon. Either way, they’re eager to find stability – but not how you might think. They’re eager to avoid what happened to their parents and siblings in favor of entrepreneurship and disruption
  • They’re coming in with expectations. Look, the dialogue about work is bigger than ever, inside and outside of the talent acquisition space. It’s in the newspaper and on TV, and college students know it. They’ve heard the grumblings about work-life balance and desire for remote work, growing cost of health care and pitfalls of insurance, demand for pay equity and call to end workplace misconduct, and being young and idealistic means they’re not ready to settle. They want potential employers to meet them where they are, even in communication.

College is an interesting time in life, one that allows exploration and ideation at every turn, because, or perhaps in spite of this, college recruiting needs to remain equally agile and open-minded. That doesn’t always jive with formal talent acquisition, overly reliant on set strategies and processes. To overcome this mindset, it’s worth reviewing the research, polling recent grads, talking to current students, and getting a first-person sense of what they want from a potential, what they bring to the table and how you can recruit them into your organization. Their answers might surprise you. 


Ryan Leary

Ryan Leary helps create the processes, ideas and innovation that drives RecruitingDaily. He’s our in-house expert for anything related to sourcing, tools or technology. A lead generation and brand buzz building machine, he has built superior funnel systems for some of the industries top HR Tech and Recruitment brands. He is a veteran to the online community and a partner here at RecruitingDaily.