7 Takeaways From NACE 2013

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NACE 2013 just wrapped up and what a fantastic conference it was! Huge kudos to the entire NACE staff, the committee members, and all the speakers and attendees.  Like any good conference, the insights gained came from both workshop sessions and informal conversations with peers.  It was exciting to see how many vendors were introducing new technologies to help students and employers with the process of finding meaningful employment matches.

Below were my top 7 takeaways from the event:

  1. Your next university recruiting hire should be a data scientist.  This is a concept I have written about in the past, which was further solidified during my time at NACE.  Prudential gave a fantastic workshop on diversity and inclusion and stressed throughout the presentation that Tarek, their data specialist, was key to their program’s success.  Tarek helps Prudential track everything they do, from the success rates of Facebook ads to the impact of sharing program updates in their LinkedIn community.  This means Prudential can take risks experimenting with marketing strategies without the fear that they might be wasting money on new programs when they could be getting better returns elsewhere.  Some strategies might fail, but with concrete data ineffective programs can be quickly identified and changed. It’s hard to understate how important this is—Prudential knows exactly which channels send them the most candidates, which sends them the most diverse candidates, and which are most likely to convert to interns and eventually to full-time employees.
  2. The time to hesitate on mobile is over.  David Spector did a great job covering this subject in his keynote speech.  Companies that don’t have a mobile ready site stand to miss out on 25-35% of total possible applicants.  Mobile is becoming a student’s default Internet browsing method, even at home (powering on a computer was sooo 2011).  While having a mobile friendly application process is fantastic, even more critical is having a mobile friendly content site to engage students who are browsing from their couches or classrooms.
  3. For career centers, consistent engagement is a HUGE problem.  It’s not news that most students wait to the last minute (if ever) to utilize their career centers.  Traditional tactics like email blasts, fliers, and freshman orientation announcements have done little to make students aware of the career resources they have at their fingertips.  While some universities have found creative solutions to get students to come to their office, many still struggle with this problem. Without a solution, all the new software tools in the world can’t help because students remain unaware and disengaged from the hiring process.
  4. Many students are having difficulty adapting to the pace of the digital world.  I thought this point was interesting because the conversation around Millennials typically focuses on them as being arrogant and tech-savvy, not intimidated and scared.  However multiple career center directors shared with me the belief that a number of their students are facing information/technology overloads, making them nervous about their futures and uncertain how to even start the career process.  Employers who show empathy to students will build stronger relationships with Gen Y and attract more candidates.
  5. Don’t lower your bar for diverse candidates.  This was another insight from Prudential’s diversity and inclusion workshop that deserves to be highlighted.  Diversity is on everyone’s mind, from career centers to employers.  I spoke to a number of companies who admit that lowering their GPA qualification is the only way they are able to reach their diverse hiring goals.  Prudential challenged this as short term thinking that may actually turn away the most ideal candidates who want to be challenged by their peers.  Instead, companies should look at diversity as a long-term commitment: maintain a high bar and get small wins upfront, grow into an elite program over time.
  6. Millenials are more tenacious and entrepreneurial than in the past.  David Spector talked a lot about these student traits in his keynote presentation.  Even more interesting was the conclusion he drew from it.  Students want authenticity. More than ever before students feel empowered to discover information about your company and to make decisions on their own.  Rather than selling students with bold language that is only half-true, take an honest approach and be rewarded with trust and respect.  If your company is a suit and tie kind of workplace, say this proudly on your career site and on campus.
  7. Budget and resources remain slim.  Employers focused on college hiring continue to face the challenge of having to hire huge amounts of students with small teams on razor thin budgets.  With widespread recognition that social media and online tactics are an important part of a university recruiting branding mix, it is important to find partners. Whether universities, student groups, or vendors, partners can help amplify the messages you want to send out in this increasingly noisy space.

Were you at NACE?  What were the thoughts and insights that truly got you excited?

Photo credit: Anne Helmond via Compfight

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Nathan Parcells

Nathan Parcells is VP of Marketing and co-founder of Looksharp. He has spent the past decade helping students launch their career, researching best practices for hiring millennials (including running Looksharp's annual "State of College Hiring") and sharing these insights with employers. Nathan's work has been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, Business Insider and more. Outside of work, Nathan is an avid rock climber, back packer and Bob Dylan fan.

  • Crystal Ruth

    Great post, thanks for the update for those of us who couldn’t be there. It would be interesting to get an idea of how many students use career centers vs. web resources to find their first job. Do you know where any of that info might be?