Article: How to design an effective campus hiring strategy

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How to design an effective campus hiring strategy

Mercer Mettl

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Here are some major ways in which HR leaders can design an effective and scalable campus hiring strategy within their respective organizations.
How to design an effective campus hiring strategy

An effective and scalable campus strategy is at the heart of hiring new and talented candidates who possess new-age skills. According to research conducted by Mercer-Mettl, about 74 percent organizations today reported that talent acquisition is still a challenge for them. In 2019, 67 percent organizations said campus hiring is the best channel to source talent.

But companies face a number of road blocks in the campus hiring process. There is a three-part challenge that companies have to navigate – each visit to a campus for a pre-placement talk or to screen candidates requires aligning leadership schedules, navigating logistics and investing time, one campus at a time. In addition to that, companies spend time conducting structured interview and shortlisting candidates. 

In this age of intense competition for highly-skilled talent, HR and business leaders are grappling with the challenge of creating an effective hiring strategy that would also be suitable for the long-term in a sustainable way. In order to optimize their time and effort, leaders need to know which campuses to target and how.

During a People Matters & Mercer-Mettl Webcast on “Getting the most out of your campus hiring programs: Access candidate fit with technology,” Siddhartha Gupta, Chief Executive Officer, Mercer-Mettl, and Vachaspati Saxena, Head Talent Acquisition, General Electrics discussed the ways in which TA leaders can formulate a campus hiring tactic that would be based on four core pillars that can make or break the campus hiring strategy. 

The first steps

“While hiring laterally can help filling the positions faster, campus is really where the organizations get built,” said Vachaspati Saxena, Head Talent Acquisition, General Electrics Technology Center. Siddhartha Gupta, CEO, Mercer-Mettl kickstarted the discussion by noting that the fundamental question that organizations must answer is whether they need fresh talent and for what purpose. 

Understanding which competencies you are hiring for can then determine as to which campuses you want to go to, Gupta added, addressing the HR leaders. 

The four pillars include: 

Building campus intelligence 

Once HR leaders have identified the job roles they are looking to fill and understood the competencies and skills they are looking for, the next step is to build campus intelligence. 

The four Ws can help HR leaders in understanding whether they are ready to go on a selection campaign to a particular campus. 

The four Ws include: Which institute to shortlist, when to approach, whom to hire, and what  to offer. If either of the four Ws are unclear, then the start of the campus hiring season will be dicey and the goal of filling positions with capable, reliable, and dedicated employees would not be possible to achieve. 

Depending on the competencies a particular TA team is looking for, they can decide which campuses to go to, approach the campuses at the right time and keep in mind the budget set aside for the campus recruits. 

“The more campus participations you go through over the years, you understand what job roles you need to hire for. You also get a good heat map of where the quality candidates are and then understand what you need to do in order to appeal to them,” Gupta said. 

Needs of the modern workforce 

The next step is getting an understanding of what the new generation of employees is expecting out of their first workplace. It goes well beyond just having a great salary. More often than not, the top-quality candidates are attracted towards a company if they believe in the mission and vision of the firm and feel that they are going to be working towards a higher purpose, they are more likely to be more dedicated and invested in the company. 

“The overall proposition in terms of the kind of work that they are doing and how they can contribute to the society and the world at large is crucial,” added Saxena.

Pre-placement engagement 

Going to campuses prior to the placement days can help companies get an understanding about the campus dynamics and even appeal to the potential candidates well before the placement days. That’s when firms have the opportunity to build their employer brand and proposition, Gupta added. 

Having a relationship with the students who are the potential talent pool, prior to entering the campus, and building continuous relationships on campus is the key to keep candidates engaged. 

“Most companies are investing much earlier than the placement week. Asking us to help them tell a story on campus,” Gupta said, adding that designing a dedicated pre-placement week messaging campaign can go a long way in not only hiring the right cultural fit but also help build the employer brand. 

For companies such as GE, leveraging the brand name in the right way becomes crucial. If a startup is targeting the most talented graduates coming out of tech and business college campuses, then they would need to develop an employer brand message that resonates with the millennials well before the placement week begins. 

Screening the candidates with the right Assessment Tools

Knowing which candidates would make it to the next round of interviews is the next most important step. And, that’s where leveraging the right technology and assessment tools comes into the picture. Most organizations today are moving away from the rigorous tests that are designed with the principle of eliminating those candidates who might not be good test-takers and replacing the system with a Selection Strategy which takes into account factors such as hiring for the right culture fit in addition to the technical competencies. 

In addition to the technical know-how, especially for the roles related to AI, data analytics, machine learning, etc, softer skills such as the will to work towards solving a problem and finding the solutions by working collaboratively are also valuable, said Gupta. The right assessment tools help you screen for all such behavioral skills as well. said. 

Remote proctoring tools can drastically reduce the time and effort that companies put into testing candidates. It can not only test the students at a time that they are best prepared, AI-based technology can analyze the face of the person to avoid discrepancy. Companies are also innovating with their assessments from hackathons, case study competitions (Like Amazon Ace Challenge –add link) to engage candidates, and shortlist to shortlist the right candidates who are interested in joining the company.  

Conducting effective interviews 

India Inc. relies on interviews to identify the right candidates. However, there is no clear standardization of interviews even within the same organization. Having a clear and precise process for the way in which interviews are conducted, or rather, the parameters by which TA leaders can assess whether a particular candidate is suitable for a particular job role can help in conducting effective interviews that are transparent in nature and also scalable throughout the organization. 

Final steps

Campuses are a repository of new-age skills and the way to tap into this talent pool is to be honest about the company’s vision, keeping an open-door policy, and inculcating the culture of failing fast and learning faster. 

“Be honest about what you are trying to achieve, give them a platform where they can achieve what they want to achieve,” said Gupta. “You need to be there to tell them that it is okay to fail--fail quickly, recoup, and attempt again.” 

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Topics: Talent Acquisition, Assessments, #DecodeTalent

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