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The Ultimate Guide to Campus Recruiting

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Learn all there is to know about campus recruiting

Campus recruiting is about building a strategy to hire (and retain) talented college and high school graduates to keep businesses ahead of the curve, and fit for the future.


  • 1: Understanding Gen Z

    Plus, who they are and what they want 

  • 2: Seeking out diverse young talent

    And tips for assessing your workplace diversity and inclusion

  • 3: Nailing your campus hiring strategy

    And what actually works

  • 4: On-boarding your early talent grads

    Are you ready for an early talent workforce?

  • 5: The ultimate campus recruiting checklist

    Actionable steps that every recruiter should take

Recruiting early talent isn’t always easy

It requires businesses to understand young employees, target them, and hold onto them in a job market that’s competitive and forever hungry for fresh ideas.

Overcome these challenges, however, and businesses will be rewarded with diverse workforces that are future-focused, happy, productive, and achieving goals at an unprecedented rate.

1. Understanding Gen Z — and how to win early talent

Getting to grips with what makes this generation tick is central to getting your campus recruiting strategy right. In this chapter, we’ll explore early talent’s love of technology, their high ambitions, and their desire for human connection.

According to Pew Research, Generation Z refers to those born between 1997-2012 — representing almost 70 million 7-22 year olds in the US, of whom are expected to make up 30% of the US labor force in just ten years.

How can recruiters understand this up-and-coming generation?

Understanding — and effectively tapping into — Gen Z’s core values and behaviors are key.

Some of the most important points to consider, include:

Early talent’s intrinsic relationship with technology

From streaming to social networking, Gen Z are the first generation of digital natives to whom technology is second nature. For recruiters, this means taking things online. And building a campus recruiting strategy that’s fit for the lives of early talent.

To do this, businesses should:

Their need for a different kind of connection

As well as valuing technology, early talent also cares about social interaction in the workplace. In fact, 90% of them value human connection, and almost 60% would rather work in a team, than on their own.


How to win Gen Z over

Well, a balance between technology and human-to-human contact is a must. That’s why it’s so important to integrate both physical and digital tactics in your early talent recruitment strategy as well as in your workplace.

Gen Z’s high ambitions

Nearly one-quarter of Gen Z aims to earn a salary of $60,000 or more in their first job, and 75% of them expect a promotion within their first year of joining a company.


How to reach them

For businesses looking to hire (and retain) the best of this generation, an attractive and competitive employment offer is essential. As is a clear trajectory of opportunity and promotion in the future. Make this clear in your campus recruiting materials, and you’re sure to see results.

young talent - ambition - headstart hiring software - gen z flexes

Early talent’s desire for more

It’s not all about the money, however. 45% of Gen Z want work that has meaning beyond profit, and a large majority expect brands to care about social issues, like climate change and gender inequality.


What this means for your business

If they’re serious about hiring the next generation, you need to consider their ethical position in the world, and be vocal about it in their recruitment messaging.

All in all, Gen Z are tech-savvy, ambitious, and looking for more than ‘just a job’. Build your company campus recruitment strategy around these traits, and your business’ future will be in safe, and very talented, hands.

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2. Seeking out diverse young talent

A diverse team is important to young talent. And, if you want to hire them, along with a whole host of other benefits, it should be for you, too. This chapter will talk about the importance of sourcing diverse talent and eliminating bias.

Are diversity and inclusion a priority in your workplace?

The answer to this question matters to young graduates, who come from the most diverse backgrounds yet.

A huge part of recruiting and retaining young talent comes down to diversity and inclusion.

This means building a campus recruiting strategy that’s truly free from bias and making a conscious effort to recruit diverse leaders of the future — not just ticking boxes, or falling into the trap of diversity fatigue.

Attract young talent through your company D&I

Businesses need to ensure that their employment proposition is inclusive, and isn’t putting any barriers in the way of hiring a diverse workforce; both of which require a strategy and system in place that puts inclusivity first.

Proactively seek out diverse young talent

It’s vital, for example, that your campus recruiting strategy makes clear your stance on equality, and that, once it generates applications from diverse candidates as a result, it assesses those in a fair and unbiased way.


Redefine your 'perfect candidate'

At the very least, employers should be expanding the pool of young talent candidates — well beyond what’s typically been done in the past. Yes, Ivy League colleges are a great place to look, but you may end up choosing pedigree over potential.

young talent headstart recruiting software - women in wheelchair smiles at the camera

Eliminate bias with the help of technology

Next, businesses should review their existing recruitment practices, hire diverse recruiters, and ensure that all interviewers have undertaken unconscious bias training.

Then, it’s also worth investing in recruitment software that creates a level playing field for all candidates, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background.

Campus Recruitment Software

Take us at Headstart, for example — we’re the world's first diversity driven application management system, providing an all-in-one platform that boosts diversity by up to 18%, and helps businesses build the most diverse workforces possible.

Why is a diverse workforce so important, exactly?

Well, beyond the role it plays in attracting young talent, the case for workplace diversity is clear.


Look at the stats

Employees who feel truly welcome in their workplace take 75% fewer sick days, exhibit 50% lower turnover risk, and save businesses thousands in lost productivity and recruitment costs.

What’s more, the most diverse companies are 35% more successful than those that aren’t and are 3x higher performing, 6x more innovative, and 8x more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

Sounds good, doesn't it?

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3. Nailing your campus hiring strategy

Up until now, we’ve covered what matters to recent graduates and how you can incorporate that into your campus hiring processes more broadly. In this next chapter, we want to break down the specifics of building a successful campus recruiting strategy.

Take your campus hiring strategy digital

When it comes to targeting early talent and Gen Z, there’s huge value in digitizing elements of your campus recruitment strategy, which you can learn more about here.

Specifically, there are four key areas that will benefit most from the power of tech:

  1. Marketing your campus recruiting opportunities
  2. Increasing your reputation and relevance
  3. Building an application process fit for the future
  4. Using AI to optimize results


Marketing your campus recruiting opportunities

Using the internet and social media is one of the best ways to reach graduates on the hunt for new opportunities.

Beyond just posting your vacancies online — you should also get a little more creative, and share social content that promotes your graduate openings in a more dynamic way.


Ways to optimize your marketing
  • Film video case studies from recent grad employees or a behind the scenes series that reveals what it’s like to join your team.

  • Launch your own Facebook or LinkedIn group and ask campus career teams to invite students to join. You’ll be well on your way to creating a ready-to-go community that’s filled with prospective candidates.

  • Create webinars and podcasts that take a deeper dive into your business’ culture and ways of working.

  • Gather frequently asked questions from prospective candidates and ask your recently hired graduates to answer them. This peer to peer content helps to provide an even more accurate overview of what a particular position entails.

Online marketing isn’t just restricted to social media, you should also consider:

  • Building a specific landing page for graduates on your company website  — that includes Q&As, recent vacancies, and graduate testimonials.

  • Creating a blog solely about your workplace culture. This is a great way for prospective candidates to gauge whether you’re the right fit for them.


Increasing your reputation and relevance

Early talent will want to know, and see, that any prospective employer understands the modern world.  Implement your digital brand strategy correctly, and you’ll be more likely to attract Gen Zers in search of a company that feels at the forefront of its industry.

But, how do you ‘get it right’ online, exactly?

Where to be

Well, a whopping 70% of graduate candidates care about a company's social media behavior.

This group of candidates are most interested in visual content, so Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok should be considered to increase your relevancy.

What to look like

Are your photos high-resolution? Do you have a defined color palette? A vibrant brand identity? All of this speaks volumes about your business to young talent, so it is probably time to schedule a meeting with your creative team.

Making a connection

On top of this, hearing people's voices within your company will help build the human connection that Gen-Z craves. No cold calls are required.

Just consider a podcast as part of your marketing strategy – 70% of Gen Z enjoy them!

Phew. Now you have an appealing presence; a tried-and-tested way to increase your relevance is through a solid digital hiring strategy...


Building an application process fit for the future

Digital strategies aren’t just about marketing your graduate opportunities, however — they should also play a key role in your candidate application process, too.

This goes beyond just an online application form.

Applications that engage

Make sure to build an application system that compliments their technical literacy.

Online quizzes, questionnaires, interviews, and assessments will all be second nature for Gen Z graduates, who will appreciate (and enjoy) a digitally-driven application process.

Tapping into Gen Z’s creativity
campus hiring - headstart - man in colourful shirt looks at the camera

Businesses could also incorporate digital tasks into their application processes to test the creativeness and technical skills of applicants if that’s relevant to a particular position.


Creative ideas

Asking applicants to create an introductory video of themselves, for example, will appeal to Gen Z’s creativity. It will also give recruiters the opportunity to test a candidate’s innovativeness, confidence, and tech-savviness, right from the outset.

Ultimately, technology offers recruiters the opportunity to create truly custom application processes. That will not only appeal to Gen Z, but also test their aptitude in a valuable, relevant, and flexible way.


Using AI to collate and analyze results

And finally, once you’ve targeted and secured applications from young talent, technology should be used to optimize data to deliver the best and most insightful results.

💡 Use Headstart to find hidden talent

Headstart’s bespoke and bias-free recruitment software features a reliable candidate evaluation tool, Match Score; this takes into account their hard and soft skills, as well as the journey they’ve been through in life.

Benefits of using AI to optimize results

By using AI recruiters will guarantee that application outcomes are unbiased, accurately assessed, and well-judged. It can also save millions in time saved, and significantly speed up the application process, which is great for business.

In-person, campus hiring strategies should be neglected, however…

Whilst technology should be used to elevate and leverage a campus hiring strategy, it shouldn’t come at the expense of more traditional techniques.

According to one survey, 32% of graduates found their first jobs via on-campus hiring events, while 21% followed leads from their campus career center.


What to keep

Recruiters should still get on the ground, target new talent at career fairs, and form good relationships with college career advisors.

Offer chances for in-person contact throughout the application process. These will be key to accurately test the aptitude and skill set of candidates. So, keep your assessment days, group interviews, and taster days.

So, all in all, what works for hiring on campus?

Once you’ve built an attractive proposition — which means tapping into the priorities of Gen Z — a successful campus recruiting strategy ultimately comes down to effectively communicating that proposition to new talent, via both digital and physical channels.

Incorporate all these steps into your campus recruiting strategy, and your company will be firmly on the path to bringing in the early talent it needs for the future.

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4. On-boarding your early talent grads

It’s all well and good recruiting Gen Z, but retaining them is just as important, if not more, to the success of your recruitment strategy. In this chapter, you’ll learn how to build a culture and create opportunities that appeal to early talent.

Why early talent onboarding is so important

Businesses need graduates for their fresh ideas, impressive backgrounds, tech-savviness, eagerness to learn, and so much more.

All of this means that businesses also need to consider their long-term propositions for employees, and assess whether they align with the goal of holding onto early talent.


What's at stake

If you don't get this right, all that time recruiting, onboarding, and training your new recruits, is wasted if they resign and take all of that knowledge elsewhere.

Getting your early talent proposition right

Almost half of college graduates plan to stay with their first post-graduate employer for more than three years, however — so, get your proposition right, and there’s a real opportunity to turn early talent into a long-term asset, whilst building a solid (and truly rewarding) reputation as a graduate employer in the process.


What an attractive proposition means

This covers a wide range of factors but is best summarized by the culture of your business, and the opportunities it offers young talent.

headstart early talent grads

Creating the right culture for Gen-Z

As we’ve touched on, your early talent will be from the most diverse background in history. Reflecting that in the workplace couldn’t be more important to creating a culture that fits their attitudes and way of life.


More than ‘just’ recruiting diverse employees

This is about valuing them in the workplace, and being truly inclusive in your approach. Policies that back that up will be essential, such as total transparency when it comes to the gender pay gap, as well as diverse representation at the highest of levels.

Policies that back that up will be essential, such as total transparency when it comes to the gender pay gap, as well as diverse representation at the highest of levels.

Beyond diversity

Gen Z also cares about community, human connection, and their mental wellbeing. This means that creating a culture of collaboration will be key to holding onto Gen Z recruits, as will taking mental health seriously.

Optimising your workplace culture

Mentor programs, daily meetings, team lunches, out-of-office activities — all of this is essential to a work life that’s communal, interactive, and conducive of a happy and productive work environment.

Psychological well being

Offering employee counseling, mental health sick days, and opportunities to work from home whenever possible will each help to keep work balanced with life, which, in the end, is what is needed for a healthy and effective workforce.

A sense of purpose

A broader social mission for your business, and tangibly feeding that into your employees’ workflows, will also create a wider sense of purpose and community. Both of which are encouraging of a positive mental attitude.

Ultimately, creating a culture that’s collaborative, caring, and communal is a must for businesses that are serious about retaining their early talent.

Offering the right opportunities to Generation Z

Alongside the right culture, early talent will also need the right opportunities to keep them performing at their highest potential.

This, primarily, includes having long term opportunities for development and promotion, as well as the pay rises that come with it. We know that Gen Z are ambitious, and so a clear trajectory will certainly be key to keeping them.

Key takeaways for onboarding young talent

Put simply, young talent want the opportunity to: secure work where they can rise up the ranks, work creatively, use technology, and, feel part of a wider mission and community that cares about its people.

Get it right, and recruiters will be able to retain (and inspire) early talent to huge success.

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A little gift from us! Print it out, pin it to your office wall, stay on track.

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