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College Recruiting Basics

Kevin Wheeler

Generation Y, or the "Millenniums" as they are called, will change the way almost all recruiting takes place. These are the people born from around 1980 onward, who make up close to 25% of the current and potential workforce. Only the Baby Boomers were more numerous and more influential, and they are in the waning years of workplace importance.

The new rules on how, where, and when work gets done -- and who does it -- will emerge from the technical and cultural experiences and beliefs of Gen Y. Technology is core to understanding this generation. They are technically savvy and connected, and they work virtually much of the time. Almost 100% of today's college students own a cell phone and, according to a study by YouthKnowhow, almost 82% of 15-19-year-old youths have cell phones. A recent Pew study indicates that 82% of those 18-29 go online to get their primary news updates, and cable television reaches almost all of those under 25 years old and most of those between 25 and 40. They do not read much, unless it is online and part of a website or an email. Most books are purchased by Baby Boomers and the most electronic bytes are purchased by Gen Y.

Face-to-face interaction is less and less important to them for social events, for education, and for having fun. The electronic gamming industry has grown significantly over the paste decade and games get more realistic and more complex every year. There are students who date virtually and take part in gamming parties without ever being in physical contact.

Culturally, the Gen Yers are also a diverse group. In the southwestern and western United States, youths of Hispanic and Asian backgrounds are at a majority or close to it. African Americans are returning to the south and reasserting their own culture and traditions. Media, movies, and travel all reinforce the diverse understanding and tolerance this generation has for a variety of experiences. They are looking for adventure and excitement, but it can be offered virtually.

All of these trends are slowly exerting their power on recruiting college students to corporate America. By the year 2010, these forces of technology, culture, and demographics will have transformed traditional college recruiting and will have caused it to re-examine what it does and why and how it does it.

Here is Part 1 of a two-part article on some of what we may begin seeing.


Recruiting will take place all the time, rather than at certain specified times and places set by university administrators and corporate recruiting directors. Specified times for information session and interview schedules will have little or no importance or relevance to students. They are used to having information available on a website all the time. Most professors post homework, example problems, sample tests and often collect and grade the homework all electronically. I ask my own students to submit their homework to be via email and I grade it and return it the same way. All my lecture notes are online along with my PowerPoint slides and other materials so any student can get it wherever and wherever they are.

Students expect to access in-depth material about your organization, philosophy, and even find out experiences others have had with your organization. Recent graduates and newly hired employees are already starting to contribute to their online alumni chat rooms and blogs their experiences as an employee at your firm. Through email, text messaging and blogs, many recent grads stay in touch with those still at school and give them the inside scoop on how to get employed at your firm, which managers to avoid, what to say and do or they offer up reasons to avoid your firm.

The smart organization will have an up-to-date, youth-oriented website for college recruiting and offer a variety if ways to interview, including online and virtual interviews. There will be much less effort and time spent on campus involvement and more with getting students to the website and involved in virtual communication. Next week, I will offer some secrets to a great college website.


These students have been working virtually since high school. They are completely used to working with email, conference calls, with online collaboration tools and with streaming video. Good college recruiting will use these skills to create relationships with the students and recruit them over time.

Leading edge firms will provide ways for students to interact with project managers, hiring managers, and functional experts within an organization. Perhaps students will be offered the opportunity to collaborate on a project virtually or take part in conference calls or online discussions about work issues. Students will be hired based on online interviews and assessments, offered internships that are virtual and be involved in work without ever coming to the corporate site or meeting anyone in person.

This is a scenario that I have tested with many Baby Boomers and Gen Xs (those between 30-45). Generally the reaction is negative and comments fly: "You have to see someone in person to really know them." "You can't judge without a face-to-face interaction." "Being at our site is important to success." And, while I, too, often feel this way, the facts are clear: It is not necessary to see someone face-to-face to have a relationship, to get work done, or to communicate. The Gen Ys have been doing this all of their lives and are quite comfortable with it. We are the ones who need to change and adapt, although I am sure it will be a long and messy process!


The world is getting very small and very flat. People anywhere are potentially candidates for any job. Students are studying and working abroad more frequently and, while language is still a barrier, more and more schools and students are comfortable working in English. And, more American students are from diverse backgrounds and speak two or more languages fluently. It is relatively easy to get a work visa in many countries and many are encouraging young people to come and work for a while to ease the labor and skills shortages that are growing. Australia and New Zealand, as well as China, have relatively easy ways for students to work in their countries.

Given technology, there is less reason to confine recruiting to a handful of key schools. The requirements for a job can be redefined around skills and competencies and students can be tested to see whether or not they have those skills and competencies in the amounts required. Through online screening and virtual interviews, any student could be a candidate. The benefits to the organization are increased diversity, greater variety of students with different experiences, and the ability to ferret out even the rarest skills.


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