I recently had a good conversation with one of my co-workers who has taken on the campus recruiting initiative at my company and I was interested in hearing about some of the ideas that he had to boost the campus recruiting efforts. Just a few years ago, nobody had even heard of EY, much less come to our info sessions and we wanted to change that for the universities and colleges in our city.

Side note: It is crazy to think that one of the largest companies in the world is relatively unknown but that was also a problem when I was at Deloitte — in a way, the firms are mostly B2B and not consumer facing like big well known giants like Amazon or Facebook.

Last year, I had sent in a few ideas to our campus recruiters, hoping that one or more of the ideas would generate a spark and that they would run with it but much like lots of other good ideas, the pudding laid in the execution of the idea rather than the idea itself and none of my ideas were tried or tested. It actually got me thinking about one of Dale Carnegie’s principles, which is to influence others, make them think that they came up with the idea (vs. me coming up with the idea and giving it to them) but that’s for another post. Since ideas are a dime a dozen and execution is everything, I thought it would be fun to share a few of the ideas here hoping to inspire others in boosting their recruiting efforts because I know students are difficult to recruit, influence, change brand awareness, etc.

  • At Deloitte, they would have an event called the Summer Social where they invited the top and the best students (identified by profs, students hired in previous years, etc.) to come and learn about Deloitte, enjoy free food and drinks, and network with Deloitte consultants. They would then offer, well ahead of the normal recruiting cycles, jobs to those students that they would were the best fit — this has turned out to be quite successful because they do not have to compete with other firms who may also be offering jobs to the same students.

Question to think about: What are your competitors doing for recruiting? How can you get ahead of the curve and outwit your competitors?

  • At our info sessions, we generally invite as many students as we can through university communications or by guest lecturing classes and gather them into an auditorium where we serve them pizza and talk about the different service lines. My suggestion here was to break out the students into the different service lines so that they could get more focused messaging and service-line specific consultants to answer their questions in a more intimate setting. Think Folk Festival (main stages vs. side stages) but for recruiting.

Question to think about: Are you creating generic messages that are trying to hit the masses? Why not focus on the extremes (those that love consulting, those that do not have any idea what consulting is). From some of my learnings in IDEO courses, looking at the extremes can be an extremely informative way of generating insights for the masses in the middle.

  • One of the challenges in getting students out to the sessions is touting what is in it for them. I speak from my own experience as a student — unless I’ve heard of the company before and they’re offering food, I wouldn’t attend. Even in cases where I’ve heard of the company before, there was, at least not that I could see, any tangible benefit to attending the info sessions rather than just not attending and applying through the website. What secret edge are students going to have for attending the info session? Probably nothing. Rather than trying to do it all in one go, my idea here was to set up a website for consultants to volunteer their time in going for coffees with students who are interested in the work that we do or interested in getting into consulting. Through multiple coffee sessions, the students can learn about consulting, the projects that we do, the clients that we work with and get a sense of what work is like (and at the same time, the consultants can start to identify who the top students may be from these sessions or at the very least have inroads into the influencers on campus).

Question to think about: Do you have one or two major events for recruiting? Why not try to spread that out throughout the year so that you can be ‘recruiting’ and building brand awareness throughout the year?

  • Ask any student if they remember anything out of an info session and I’m willing to bet that they might remember one or two conversations and possibly the food but not much else. To really get through to students, I think we have to do something truly remarkable, something worth talking about. I don’t think we can get there by talking about the services that we have or talking about what ‘work-life’ balance we have at the firm. What are some of the most interesting clients that we have worked with? Where have consultants moved on to if they leave the company?

Question to think about: Are we creating messages and info sessions where we are talking about why we would join consulting or why STUDENTS would join consulting? Those two sub-questions are quite different. I think we have an imperative to make it relevant to the students in some way and while I haven’t attended some of my company’s most recent info sessions, I don’t think we have done as good of a job as we could have to engage them.

Quite frankly, these are tough questions with no easy answers. Organizations also want to make sure that recruitment efforts do not cost additional money or time while at the same time, having a large ROI. I don’t think any of my ideas are innovative or wildly out of the box but I do think that it needs someone (maybe you?) to execute, experiment and pivot as needed. What are some of your great recruiting ideas? What are some things that you have seen companies do?

About the author:

Wang is a management consultant, self-published author, Distinguished Toastmaster, co-host of a podcast, Udemy teacher, former Uber driver and all around hustler. He is also obsessed about books and he reads books so that you don’t have to. Want a list of Wang’s top ten formative books in his life and career? Interested in book summaries and recommendations every month? Subscribe to Wang’s e-mail newsletter!