Back to School: Fill Your Early-Talent Pipeline by Optimizing Your University Recruiting Strategy (Part 1 of 3)

October 13, 2021
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Author: Lisa Bascom

If your company depends on technical or professional employees, you understand the talent acquisition challenges for those specialties in the current tight labor market. With unemployment rates well below the average for such roles, hiring is fiercely competitive. Whether or not your company has a formal university recruiting program, it’s time to consider how to get the most out of building this early-talent channel into your hiring program.

Part 1 of this three-part series focuses on setting the best strategy for your university hiring. Establishing an optimized university recruiting program can pay off, even if you’re a small company, by producing a full talent pipeline over time. Get the most return for your effort by focusing first on your program’s strategy.

The right strategy sets your university hiring program on track to meet your company's early-talent needs.

Establishing Your University Recruiting Strategy

Setting a solid strategy for university recruiting begins with taking the time to forecast your company’s ongoing pipeline needs, explore the type of program that aligns best with your company goals, investigate existing company resources and determine the level of support from company leadership for these efforts.

Examine Company Pipeline Needs

Understanding your company’s pipeline needs begins with a review of hiring records over the past few years. Look for patterns and typical hiring volume by role and experience level. You may choose to more closely inspect current employees in these roles to identify any unusual upcoming patterns, such as several retirements in the same year, that might cause a future spike or drop in need.

At the same time, you may choose to examine the diversity makeup of the employees in your targeted roles as compared to any company goals in this area, so that you have an awareness of those needs in addition to raw numbers per role, per timeframe.

Next, look at company plans for product or company growth to identify where the following two to five years might require a difference from past headcount demand patterns. If your company already conducts a formal annual headcount planning exercise, you may be able to get a copy of the most recent results. Otherwise, your effort to gather this information could result in a very useful template for your company going forward.

Determine the Company Goal for New Hires

The next step is to think about your company’s future, according to Taylor Franco, university and diversity recruiting director for Celanese, a chemical manufacturing and innovation company based in Irving, TX. Is it willing to provide more onboarding resources to capture and retain promising early talent? The answer is fundamental to the story you can tell when recruiting.

“Make sure you understand what your company wants from the early talent people it hires,” Franco said. “Does it need an entry-level pipeline for jobs that will last two years and result in employees leaving the company to seek advancement? Or is it looking for future leaders for whom a career progression will be provided?”

Assess Your Existing Company Procedures and Resources for Hiring and Onboarding

Has your company previously hired early talent, which is considered zero to three years’ experience? Does it have a formal or informal internship program in place? Does company management agree with employing and supporting early talent employees?

“For a university hiring program to be successful, it is essential that everyone in the company knows the game plan — what the goals and intentions are to support business needs,” said Franco, based on her experience developing the Celanese program. “Company leaders must be involved and make it part of everyone’s success metrics.”

For example, Celanese has a 12-week intern program that targets college students looking for internships the summer before their senior year to provide experience, with the intent to hire them full-time after graduation. The program includes special onboarding, training and manager feedback and performance evaluations in addition to hands-on, real-world project work.

For a smaller company, a more modest yet trackable program for either interns or full-time early talent hires could involve in-depth initial onboarding followed by job shadowing, an assigned mentor for a set time and more frequent manager feedback. Is this something Human Resources (HR) would support and track? Would the targeted department manager cooperate by providing the mentor?

Finalize Your University Hiring Strategy

Now you can construct a strategy that encompasses the needs and goals of your organization as well as the guidelines for implementation. For example, a university hiring strategy might be:

Build a pipeline of early talent that meets the needs of the organization and of the young people we’re trying to attract, through ongoing relationships with identified universities and broad company support for the program.

Review and update your strategy periodically to find opportunities to improve.

Editor’s note: Celanese is a ThinkWhy customer.

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