Companies scramble to recruit students in a booming job market

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Kristin Williams, Executive Director of Career Exploration and Development at Kent State University, noticed an immediate change in recruiting activity when she and her team returned to campus full-time this fall.

“Everyone was knocking on our door for all types of positions,” she said.

This includes part-time roles, internships and full-time concerts. The commotion isn’t just in Kent either. Employers are turning to colleges and universities in Northeast Ohio in droves to tap into talent amid the burgeoning job market. Williams said she hasn’t seen anything like it in her 15 years in the industry.

Baldwin Wallace University, for example, receives around 250 new job and internship offers every day on its online platform. Recruitment activity is up about 10% from pre-pandemic levels. Officials from Lakeland Community College said its job site was also “inundated,” adding that there was particularly high demand for those in fields like nursing, respiratory therapy and CNC programming.

In many ways, the ball now rests in the students’ court, leaving companies to differentiate themselves to stay competitive and recruit the talent they need.

Part of Williams’ job at Kent State is speaking to employers to advise them on the best way to connect with the students they are courting.

“Students want to have these relationships,” she said. “They want to understand the culture of the company, if you have the flexibility – they want to know what the benefits are. So it’s important to do your best and talk to applicants about what this “best and final” (offer) might look like, because things move so quickly. ”

Campus job fairs, many of which have moved online amid the pandemic, have long been one of the most common mottos when it comes to connecting students and potential employers. This is changing, however.

“Because Gen Z is native to digital interactions, the shift from old ways of recruiting (eg, in-person interviews, job fairs, campus and employer networking events) is not something to be said about. which today’s job seekers linger on, ”reads a line in a recent trend report from Handshake, a popular digital recruiting platform.

Most young people want to meet representatives more than once and in different ways. Kent State recently hosted a “networking for good” event where employers worked on a service project with students. Sending company representatives to campus for lunch or as class speakers are other ways that businesses are looking to make inroads.

Fall has traditionally been a busy time for recruiting as companies look to recruit talent to start after graduation in the spring. That schedule can be difficult, said Julie Gutheil, associate director of the postgraduate planning and experiential education office at Case Western Reserve University. Some CWRU students, especially those in engineering, report having received multiple offers already.

Gutheil sees an increase in the number of students making appointments to discuss offer negotiations. She said the biggest challenge they face is when these arrive early.

“For some of them it’s, ‘I kind of want to see what’s still there, and I’m still applying for different opportunities, but I have to potentially give an answer,'” she said. declared.

She advises companies to give students until November or December to make a decision. But the school cannot impose this. It’s common for Case students to find themselves in this situation when employers want students to turn an internship into a full-time position.

Gutheil helps students reflect on their experience: Does the time you spent there during the summer match your long-term goals? Are there things you didn’t like? What are you looking for in an organization?

“Over time, your brand as an organization will impact your value proposition for new team members,” said Jim Livingston, director of human resources at Rock Central, a company that supports growth. within the Detroit-based Rock Family of Companies, including Rocket Mortgage.

The pandemic has reinforced the importance of offering empathy and listening to those they recruit, Livingston said. The company is looking for its family of companies at several universities in the area, including Cleveland State University and Akron University.

Outreach ranges from partnering with student organizations to offer professional development sessions to sponsoring sales competitions to find new talent. About 20% of corporate events this semester remain virtual.

Online events allow recruiters to reach much larger talent pools. Women, people of color and neurodiverse students said they found online events and interviews to be “less anxiety-provoking, easier to balance and more accessible,” according to additional results from Handshake – and nearly 90% of students surveyed said they wanted some level of virtual recruiting to continue in the future.

All of the college recruiting efforts of insurance giant Progressive Corp. are online this semester. Gabe De León, a hiring manager overseeing college and MBA programs, noted that engagement for available full-time positions has declined slightly. He understands.

“I know students are tired of getting emails or another Zoom meeting or a Teams meeting (invitation),” he said.

They strive to create more consumable posts. Job descriptions are more and more detailed. Videos are embedded in some publications.

“It’s hard to show them what’s inside Progressive when we’re obviously still working from home, so it’s kind of bringing the Progressive culture to them,” he said.

The company added more PTO days to its benefit package and increased incentives such as virtual fitness class offerings. Students aren’t just interested in their salary, according to professionals in college career services. Educational benefits, such as student loan repayments, are attractive, as are flexible work options. Paid parking, welfare incentives and childcare support are also important.

KeyBank officials have tailored specific virtual events for students this year. These highlighted the company’s benefits offerings, its culture and the team members who have grown within the organization, said Megan Lallo, Campus and Diversity Recruitment Manager. of Key.

“The feedback we received from candidates is that they felt a lot more connected to Key as a result of these events,” she said. “And then ultimately what we did was create a talent pool that generally fits our organization better.”

This year, the company brought forward its college recruiting cycle by three months in order to remain competitive. Jobs for 2022 were published in May 2021. Interviews began in September.

Officials made the move, Lallo said, doubling down on market research. This idea is a big part of how the company designs its college recruiting efforts.

“By completely removing COVID from the game, the campus recruiting industry is not an industry that you can copy and paste from year to year,” she said. “We always need to evolve our strategy, to grow and to change the way we present ourselves in the market and to differentiate ourselves in different ways.”

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