Recruiters share strategy to snare top students

As companies dive headlong into the autumn student-recruiting seasonin the US, human resources managers are trying their hand at new strategies for snaring top IT talent.

          As companies dive headlong into the autumn student-recruiting seasonin the US, human resources managers are trying their hand at new strategies for snaring top IT talent. These include getting senior executives more involved in the hiring process and handing out fatter signing bonuses.

          Karen Beaver, a college relations manager at Minneapolis-based Medtronic who attended last week's International Quality & Productivity Center recruiting conference in Phoenix, says that her company has increased senior management involvement in luring MBA candidates from top-tier schools such as Harvard University and the University of Chicago. In some cases, the company's CEO has personally contacted candidates when a competitor has done the same.

          That's just part of senior management's involvement in Medtronic's recruiting efforts. This January, the company will launch a mentoring programme that will pair MBA students with top executives.

          Though many companies have been involving senior management in their recruiting efforts for years, managers' participation is becoming increasingly personalised.

          For instance, in an effort to lure students who have been made offers but have yet to accept them, the president of one of Nabisco Group Holdings' operating companies may personally call students to see how they're faring in their decision-making, says Jen Nelson, a recruiter at the food company.

          For some companies, the strategy is to get students to accept job offers before competitors can make competing bids. One internet firm in Silicon Valley recently began offering college students a $US10,000 check if they would agree to sign an employment contract on the spot, according to David Cohen, president of human resources consulting firm Strategic Action Group.

          Susan Runkel, a college relations manager at 3M, says the company has begun offering higher starting bonuses to MBA students who were 3M summer interns. In general, corporate recruiters say, they have the highest rates of recruitment success with former interns.

          Companies are also lavishing students with generous perks and compensation. One major computer company is planning to offer entry-level computer science graduates $US64,000 per year, well above the $US43,000 that the National Association of Colleges and Employers cites as the average starting salary for this year's graduates.

          Other companies are appealing to young employees by offering cover the cost of trips home to visit family.

          But Cohen says that in promoting such star treatment, some firms may overlook the obvious in their recruiting efforts, such as talking about the company's mission and core values. Cohen maintains that in spite of the war for talent, twentysomethings are primarily interested in finding a company whose culture and values match their own.

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