Defining & Targeting a Campus Recruiting Program For Your Firm

For the last decade, the one commonality among all firms that I have consulted with has been the rallying cry “we just can’t find good staff.” Those firms with a campus recruiting program designed to fill this void often focus on answering the question “who can we get?” rather than “what do we want?” Many local and regional firms believe that their efforts are best spent aiming at second tier students, assuming there are no other alternatives and that the top recruits will naturally opt for national firms.

If this is how your firm has approached campus recruiting in the past, I’ve got two words for you: “Think again.”

Campus recruiting can be a challenging, exciting, stressful, fun and rewarding experience. Firms of all sizes can – and do – benefit from campus recruiting efforts which can often result in the Grand Prize – quality professional staff – and many additional prizes, if approached properly.

A campus-recruiting program is not a one-week-a-year activity, and should not be entered into as such. Similar to a professionally developed advertising/marketing campaign, the elements of a recruiting program include (1) a well thought-out approach; (2) an understanding of your firm’s goals and future growth needs; (3) a commitment to being visible over an extended period of time; (4) a targeted, pre-defined audience; (5) a clear understanding of specific measurable objectives; and (6) an offering that will match the needs and desires of staff prospects.

Let’s explore some of the questions you will need to answer in each of these elements.

A well thought out approach – Who will do the recruiting? How many people from your firm will be involved? What is your budget? Which colleges will you pursue? What activities can you do before, during and after the initial interview process? What staffing positions are you trying to fill? How many? Who are your immediate competitors? What type of campus exposure does your competitors have?

An understanding of your firm’s goals and future growth needs – Are you only looking for new staff? What about interns? What about gaining professors awareness? What about gaining alumni awareness and possible business? What are the short-term and long-term goals and needs of the firm?

A commitment to being visible over an extended period of time – Is this a one-shot deal or a relationship that you are trying to establish with colleges in your target area? Can you commit to ongoing activities throughout the year, i.e. job fairs, recruiting assistance, meet the recruiters activities? Can you commit to a multi-year approach? Are you prepared to accept the consequences and diminished returns of once-a-year activities?

A targeted, pre-defined audience – Are you looking for seniors? Juniors? Sophomores? Interns? What about high school students? Are you seeking only accounting graduates? Are professors/educators part of your audience? What about alumni? Which colleges will you focus on?

A clear understanding of specific measurable objectives – How many students have you shared your message with? How many positions have you filled? How many professors are recommending your firm? How much business have you obtained from alumni? How often is the school inviting you to speak? How many firm-written articles have been published in the school paper? How many students are inquiring about your firm?

An offering that will match the needs and desires of staff prospects – What do beginning staff/students want? What motivates them? What concerns do they have about your firm? What concerns/preconceived impressions do they have about the profession? How closely will your firm align with their needs?

Understanding your firm’s goals is key to the success of any campus-recruiting program. You need to identify what you want to accomplish – everything else flows from there.

Most firms start with the premise that they are trying to fill entry-level staff positions and are looking for the best and brightest prospects to attract. So, with that as a primary goal, how do you “properly” approach a campus-recruiting program? How can you “get into potential candidates heads” to identify what they are thinking, what they are looking for, and how you can best position your firm in front of them? You know what your motivations were when you graduated and started your accounting career, but times have changed somewhat and today’s accounting graduates may be approaching things differently.

The rewards of a campus-recruiting program are plentiful and can be a valuable part of your firm’s strategic plan. Knowing what you want to accomplish is critical, and is the first step in creating a successful ongoing program. Understanding the mindset of students is also critical. With proper planning, understanding, and execution, your firm can successfully reap the rewards.

Michael Platt shares his insights as a frequent speaker at accounting conferences throughout the world. Check out our catalog of training and presentations, or give us a call at (317) 733-1920 to inquire about bringing Mike out to your event.