How to Recruit on Campus

5 Tips for How to Hold an Information Session That's Worth Attending

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Kelly Eidson Kelly Eidson
Around this time in the fall semester, my inbox starts to flood with invitations to interview with organizations that are on campus looking for entry-level hires. I know it's only October and it seems way too early to start courting fresh talent, but like anything else worth having, the best gets snatched up first, so the recruiting hunt starts earlier every year.

Having sat through what feels like hundreds of info sessions about agency X or organization Y, I find that a lot of them run together, and fail to deliver anything that doesn't appear on the company website. If you're going to make the investment to recruit on-campus, I have some suggestions about how to attract the cream of the crop and get them excited about the positions you need to fill.

Pitch your business to us
You're selling your brand to us, not shopping for warm bodies. Start with doing your homework. What is the advertising program like at this particular school? How much time will you need to spend explaining what your company does? If you're coming to a school like mine where we're already familiar with the ways of Mad Ave, it's probably not a lot. Please don't make us sit through another description of what it means to be an Assistant Account Executive.

Usually these info sessions are run by an HR person who's removed from client business, so if you can afford to send an additional employee who works in the role you're hiring for, it makes the info session much more successful. Generally, the more junior the speaker, the better they are at talking about the entry-level job, and the more spirited they are about the company. Whoever you send, make sure your recruiter is approachable and enthusiastic about bringing on new blood. If you're bored, you're boring.

Sell us on career development, not parties and perks
We show up to find out how your shop can help us grow into advertising greats. It's nice to know that your agency softball team won a trophy and that you serve free tacos on Fridays. It's better to know what kind of training program you have for new hires, and exactly what the job opportunities are. If possible, tell us how our workday would go if we land the job, not what the standard description of it is. Too often, recruiters gloss over these things so they can skip straight to the slide show from last year's holiday party. We do want you to tell us about the colorful agency culture, but spend more time on the part where people sit down and work.

Case studies
Every recruiter says "we do really great work here at agency XYZ" and then shows the reel. The creative is always fun to see (especially for aspiring creatives) but we also want to know where it came from. Choose one or two campaigns the company is proud of, and walk us through the case from soup to nuts. Talk about the unique business challenges, insights from the brief, and strategy for the media if you can. We like to hear from companies that celebrate team efforts, and seeing the campaign story evolve gives us a sense of who you are and what you're great at.

Tell us what you're looking for, and be specific
If you need to see applicants who have done an internship in a digital agency before, tell us. If you don't plan on hiring someone who isn't fluent in Spanish, tell us. If you have a company policy not to hire students without 3.0 GPA, tell us. Not everyone will be able to match all of your requirements, but at least we know what you're looking for next time you come to town, and we won't waste your time interviewing for a position we're obviously not qualified for.

I find it pretty shocking that most recruiters will spend 50-plus slides and an hour talking about how great the company is, but not leave any of it for students to revisit later. Give us a one-sheet that lists the available job openings, deadlines for applying, and relevant contact information so that we don't need to ask you for it later. It's also great if you can leave copies of your case studies or company newsletters/brochures for people who want more information. If you insist, go ahead and leave swag, but keep in mind that we can't learn anything useful about your shop from a fancy stress ball.

Every talented student has a dream job in a dream company. I won't tell you what mine is, but I will tell you that I first learned about it from a recruiter who came to campus my freshman year and blew my mind in an info session. It doesn't take fanfare to bring us on board, just an idea of what we're looking to hear.

Good hunting.
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