How To Recruit Top Students If Your Brand Is Viewed As Boring

Last year, Business Insider ran an article titled College Students Want To Work For These Companies When They Graduate. The results? Google, Facebook, Amazon…the usual suspects — those with big consumer brands that students know. If you weren’t on that list, this article is for you.

How to recruit top students if your brand is viewed as boring


Let me start by saying that ANY company is capable of recruiting the very best college students. Right now you might think you need to compete on salary, or rebuild your university recruiting program altogether. I’m confident that if you follow these 5 steps, you won’t have to do either.

1. Compete on Culture, Not Comp

Consider this sentiment by Jason Freedom, co-founder of 42 Floors:

“We can’t compete with Google or Facebook on salary. We can’t compete with being a founder on equity. So the most important thing I have left is my ability to commit to an individual employee’s personal development.”

We’re not saying that compensation isn’t important – it is. Read this article by our CEO Andrew Maguire if you’d like to know why. But it’s not the most important thing to hire interns.

In 2014, we asked a random sample of 9,000 students to rank what they found most important in a job or internship. Check out the results:Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 9.27.25 AM

If you have an entrenched corporate culture and are unable to offer Millennials the perks or salary that large tech companies can, consider offering a once-per-month lunch with a high-level exec, or allowing them to work on a project that interests them outside of their specific role.

2. Co-opt A Millennial Brand (Impermanently)

If you don’t have a brand that Millennials connect with, run a campaign around an event or movement that Millennials do care about.

NetApp – a data storage company – doesn’t have a sexy brand. But as the official data-storage point for the NFL, they’re able to co-opt the Super Bowl brand and hype and market it to their advantage.

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 9.28.09 AM

3. Use Data to Optimize Your Recruiting Efforts  

Data is your new best friend. Take a hard look at where your best candidates are coming in from, where top talent is dropping off (is your time to hire too long? Are you losing people before the 2nd round interview?) and optimize each step of the process.

Maximize your ROI by focusing resources on effective strategies and leaving the ineffective ones behind.

4. Be Proactive and Sell

Brand leaders in any industry can be toppled by superior hustle and niche focus. Before Facebook was a known brand and was simple a startup operating out of a small house in Palo Alto, Mark Zuckerberg used to walk to Stanford’s campus and put up fliers about his company to attract new tech talent.

Most major companies wait for candidates to apply and only go on campus during yearly career fairs and tech talks. If you truly need great talent, think outside the box and come up with creative ways to attract talent throughout the year.

5. Play to your strengths

Dolby Digital is able to hire some of the best engineers in the world by playing to their niche: audio engineering. They built a recruiting brand that showcases the cutting edge audio engineering projects that new hires get to work on. For those interested in this field, Dolby represents an incredible opportunity to work on interesting projects within their field of interest.

If you have a niche you can focus on, you can win by hiring the best talent interested in that niche. Court professors or college clubs relevant to your specific field and turn these relationships into all-star hires.

Bottom line

Recruiting isn’t a one-size-fits-all field – what works for one company might not work for another. It is something that any company can do effectively, however, if they understand their brand’s problem and tailor a solution to fit their specific millennial hiring needs. Check out this article by Andrew Maguire on what different brands can do to recruit top millennial talent if you’d like more information on that topic.

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Zoe Schiffer

Zoe is a Community and Content Manager at Looksharp. Graduating in 2014 from UC Berkeley and having done internships ranging from policy work at Congresswoman Pelosi's office to marketing at a tech startup, Zoe understands millennials and what they are looking for as they launch their career. Outside of work she loves running, yoga and exploring San Francisco.