India will soon have a fifth of the world’s working-age population. Hiring fresh undergraduates who have a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering, Economics, Commerce and Sciences is a great source of talent. The same goes for students who seek employment after doing an MBA.
The educational institutions have largely been slow to embrace changes in the world of work. The curriculum and methodology used in most colleges is slow to change. More than 3000 business schools in India churn out tens of thousands of management graduates each year. MeritTac conducted a study of 2,264 MBA students in the country and found that only 21% of them were considered fit for employment. McKinsey had said that barely one out of four engineers in India would be employable. This really means that campus recruitment is far more complex than we have thought. It is about attracting the right candidate even when employers look at prestigious institutes to hire from.
It is all about the brand
A lot of people view the word brand building as a process of blowing your own trumpet and are put off by it. Some others look at brands as way of presenting a picture that is different from reality. Brand building is in my view finding an interesting way to tell the truth.
What makes this recruitment process different from any other hiring process? The candidate pool is largely undifferentiated. Everyone has the same educational qualification. That is to be expected since the degree is not a differentiator. The negotiation clout of the student is then a factor of the brand perception of the college and of course the brand perception the student can create through achievements and differentiated communication.
In a market when there is information asymmetry, branding becomes important. Most students look at the company’s websites, blogs and speak to seniors or professors about their choice of potential employers. Each of these sources is an “influencer” in the decision making process.
In case of products and services too brands help us make decisions when we are presented with choice. Brands provide a short hand for us to guide us through our decisions of narrowing down options which look similar. Campus recruitment is in that category. Relying on the interview process to make the right choice is a recipe for disaster. It is important for the student to find the right employer and for the employer to find the right fit. Building and conveying the right employer brand requires dedicated resources and a strategy that takes a long term view of the talent building process.
Five steps in building the employer brand
The campus recruitment is a very important source of hiring talent that can be groomed to reflect the values of the organization. So it is important to invest enough time and resources to do this effectively. Here are a few things the employers can do:
1. Brand building is a long term option: Craft a strategy to engage the students of the institutions you wish to hire from. A brand cannot and will not be everything to everyone. So make a choice about the kind of institutions and the kind of students the organization wishes to attract. What will be the forums to connect with the student community so that the employer and employee get a chance to evaluate a fit with the culture of the organization?
2. Have a physical presence strategy: Identify the colleges where the company will invest developing a deep relationship with the faculty and the student community. The engagement model will depend a lot on the brand the employer wishes to create on campus. Sponsoring a rock show on campus or sponsoring a case study competition will have different implications for the employer brand. Evaluate the options according to the brand strategy.
3. Craft a social media policy: The big three of social media are: LinkedIn, twitter and Facebook. Each one has a different strength that can be exploited to connect and create a brand perception. The presence of senior leaders on these three platforms is a great way to craft the employer brand. Remember, the social media route to brand building requires consistency and genuine engagement. I have seen employers create a twitter account just before they start their campus hiring process and flood it with updates about the company that no one cares about. Be prepared to create content that others will find useful. It is different from hiring a full page to place an advertisement. Neither is social media like a billboard. It is really all about having a conversation between the employer and employee based on authenticity.
4. Go visual: Today’s millennials are a visual lot. YouTube is an underutilized medium in campus recruiting. Videos of the average employee describing their workplace environment can go a long way in attracting who would fit that culture. Don’t just put videos that praise everything about the company. They sound like paid ads and don’t generate trust. Talks by leaders in public forums can be a great way of building the employer brand.
5. Leverage internships: The companies that treat the internships seriously can really use this to hire the right talent. The interns get a chance to evaluate the kind of culture the employer has and meet a cross section of employees. The employer too has a chance to evaluate the person over a few weeks. That is a great opportunity for both the employer and employee to make an informed choice.
In a good market, there are several jobs chasing a few good students. A strong employer brand gives the employer an edge. It is easy to attract the right students.
In a bad market, it is even more important to build a strong employer brand. The employer will be flooded with choice. This may lead to a false sense of complacency in the hiring team that they are a much sought after employer of choice. A well crafted employer brand conveyed consistently makes it easy to find the potential employees who will succeed and enjoy working in that environment. This goes far more than just showing up at the campus, screening a few resumes and making an offer. Campus recruitment is about hiring right. Not hiring the best.