How to Improve Student Hiring Through Brand Strategy

Google V MicrosoftThe competition for intern talent typically involves a scramble to reach a constantly refreshing pool of students and new grads. With the proliferation of new online job search tools, students have greater access to opportunities than in the past, and it’s more important than ever for companies to reach out early to potential employees.

Regardless of industry or size, reputation and personality have become critical to draw ideal applicants. Recent studies have shown that financial compensation lags behind other forms of intern compensation, including educational experience and company culture!

Universum, a leading employer branding firm, recently conducted their annual survey to measure employer appeal. For this year’s America’s Ideal Employers Rankings, Universum surveyed 59,643 students from 318 US universities to see who topped the work wish-list in five key industries.

Who are the major players?

Amongst engineering majors, students who landed jobs with NASA, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin Corporation drew the most envy from their peers. Business students coveted positions at Google, Apple, and the Walt Disney Company. Walt Disney Company led the pack again for humanities majors, with United Nations and Teach for America rounding out the top three. Students of the natural sciences gravitated towards the National Institutes of Health, the Mayo Clinic, and the Centers for Disease Control. Last, but not least, IT majors went for the big fish: Google, Microsoft, and Apple.

None of this should come as a surprise, as these companies are household names with solid reputations.

The take-away here is that while these companies typically have large consumer brands, they also have set strategies to promote their employment brand to students–and that helps them stand out when it comes to job season.

Expand your social media horizons.

Nowadays, everybody has wised up to the power of social media to build a brand’s personality. Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and Pinterest boards are fantastic channels for reaching out to students, but they’re not the end-all be-all. Take a page from NASA’s book, for example. They devote a huge chunk of their website to connecting with their fans. The NASA Social campaign organizes events that take their social media followers behind the scenes at NASA facilities and gives participants the chance to speak to the scientists, engineers, astronauts, and managers that make it all tick. At the time of writing, their next event will be a welcoming of the space shuttle Endeavor at the Dryden Flight Research Center in Southern California. Cool, right? Programs like these let students know that the company appreciates its followers and is passionate about sharing what it does.

Craft a compelling mission statement.

Chances are, you care more about what your organization does than its capacity to make money. Students today are more concerned than ever about the impact they’ll be making in their future careers, and your company mission statement should reflect those goals.

The Walt Disney Company, for example, upholds a legacy of creating enchanting and inspiring entertainment experiences, and their programs for potential employees–such as the M.A.G.I.C. program for new graduates–reflect those ends. The Walt Disney Company Campus Hub page also provides students with a more holistic view as to who they are through video, slideshow presentations, a Q&A section, and social media feeds. Sites like this show students and interns that the company’s devoted to finding the right talent.

Give your employees some wiggle room.

CNN’s article on employee freedom reveals how Google’s much-lauded employee benefits (such as their 20% time program, which encourages their workers to pursue special projects) and Googleplex facilities not only pay off in boosted innovation and productivity, but also attract big fish from the talent pool. Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, explains that “It means you can attract and attain some amazing people. People who are exceptional and motivated, and who are driven beyond a good job and a paycheck.” In other words, make it possible for recent graduates to maintain a work-life balance by allowing them the mental space to produce their best work, and more graduates will follow.

This is an exciting time for companies hiring young talent. By following in the footsteps of some of the successful companies above, it is possible to build a strong employment brand that resonates with your target hire and helps you build a fantastic team of students who are the right cultural fit.

Picture by MobileTopSoft

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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.