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by Carolyn C. Wise and Margaret Davidson | July 21, 2009


One would think that recruiters would have it made right now given the increased supply of talented applicants (and thus the increased supply of high-quality applicants) available to them. It's a buyer's market, right? However, a recent Vault survey of employers who hire undergraduate and MBA graduates suggests that not everything about this season is coming up roses for recruiters either.


Becauseof the limited number of available positions and the high number of peoplelooking for jobs, many companies are receiving more applications thanever.  While this may seem like a goodthing because of the improved applicant pool and potential for greater control,many employers are ill-equipped to manage this many candidates.  Budget cuts and, for about a third of ourrespondents, reductions in headcounts, mean that employers don't have themanpower to handle the influx of applications so they no longer have the quickturnaround and constant contact with candidates they once had.  Moreover, it has been difficult for campusrecruiters to keep company leaders focused on hiring students—with so much elsegoing on, hiring may be low on their list of priorities.  One respondent summarized the problem well:her biggest challenge was “having adequate resources and opportunities to keepstudents interested and company management focused on the goal of building apipeline.” 


With somuch competition and less attention from recruiters, it may be difficult forapplicants to stand out.  So, how do youmake sure your resume stays at the top of the pile when a company postponeshiring? 


1.     Be flexible about the type of opportunity you are willingto pursue.  Even though you may have dreamed of workingfor Lehman Brothers when you decided to major in finance your sophomore year,who’s to say that working in a finance position at a growing technology companywouldn’t be just as interesting? Expanding your search beyond a single industry or company size will giveyou more options and increase your chances of success.  Many of our respondents noted that studentshave taken this advice: applicants seem more open-minded regarding position andlocation than they have in the past. Additionally, some smaller or lesser-known companies have more positionsavailable than bigger firms, and report that more students than ever areinterested in positions. 


2.     Be genuine about your interest in the company.  If you are like our Lehman-dreamer and onlyhave room for one company in your heart, you may have a tough time getting aposition at another company.  Now that ithas become harder for students to find jobs and some are resorting to quantityover quality when it comes to applications, many recruiters questioncandidates’ authenticity.  One recruiternoted that her biggest challenge was sifting through the multitude ofcandidates and “making sure we are making offers to students who want to be atour firm, not students who want to ride out the tough times and jump to anotherfirm when the economy picks up.”  Whenapplying and interviewing for a position, do your research about the company’shistory and corporate culture, and know what sets that company apart.  More importantly, you should be able toclearly express why you are a good fit for the company. 


3.     Don’t count on companies using traditional recruitingtechniques.  In the past, recruiters came to campus toconduct open houses, interviews and other recruiting events.  They covered campus with posters and floodedcandidates' inboxes with e-mails.  Butwhat if you don't see a company on campus? Does that mean it isn't hiring? Not necessarily.  According to oursurvey, companies are coping with their decreased recruiting budgets in avariety of ways, though most are changing their methods.  As recruiting budgets decrease, so doemployers’ abilities to have a "traditional" presence on campus.  One recruiter reported that his company isinvesting less money at each of the schools where they usually recruit.  About 42 percent of respondents are going tofewer schools; however, 11.7 percent reported that they have increased the number of schools at whichthey post positions, indicating that some are favoring more cost efficient “hitech” approaches (e.g., using social networking websites and other internettools) over the traditional “high touch” methods, such as hosting informationsessions and networking events. 


So do not lose hope if you don’t see the same employerson campus using the same techniques they did last year.  In fact, you may see companies on campusyou've never seen before.  Almostone-fifth of respondents said that they would be recruiting from schools thatare geographically closer to their offices, and 12.4 percent said that theyhave been recruiting at “better” schools now that the competition hasdecreased. 


4.     Develop long-term relationships with recruiters.  Because companies are having difficultypredicting their long-term hiring needs, many have reduced or eliminated thenumber of students they interview on campus. One recruiter notes, “Long lead times between campus recruiting cyclesand being able to gauge our needs accurately means we can't participate intraditional campus recruiting (since we need to be able to hire 0 if necessary,we can't extend offers 6+ months out).” Although it can be frustrating to play the waiting game, what you doduring the periods when these companies are notrecruiting may pay off for you once they have an open position.  Something as small as congratulating arecruiter if his/her company gets a shout-out in the press can differentiateyou from the candidates who only come knocking when they have something to gain.  If you maintain meaningful contact withrecruiters over a long period of time, your resume will be at the top of thestack when an opportunity for immediate employment arises a few months aftergraduation. 


Changes to the Schools from which Companies Recruit

*NOTE:Respondents were directed to select all of the options that apply to them.  Thus, these percentages do not add up to 100%.


Question: What changes have you made as a result of the current state of theeconomy regarding the colleges and universities from which you recruit?


“Participatein fewer campus wide events, more campus org partnerships.”


“Changedour focus of what we will do on campus.  [We] will focus more on professionaldevelopment through presentations and teaching.”


“Increasedthe number of schools for virtual recruiting.”


“Reducedamount of recruiting events we're attending based on cost.”


“Be oncampus less often and with a small impact while on campus.”


Question: Have you noticed any differencefrom past years in the attitudes of millennial candidates because of the currenteconomy?

“I thinkthey understand that they should accept a good offer that comes across and nottry to 'collect' as many as they can.”


 “They're more eager for the opportunity.”


“Morenon-accounting majors applying for accountant positions.”


“Itseems that even more candidates for internships are looking for somewhere thatoffers a great opportunity to become a full-time associate after graduation.”


“Morework-life balance, corporate culture and stability are even more important,career growth is key.”


“We findapplicants are much more interested in the jobs and very eager.  We are hiring more and better people and wehave raised the bar on the type of person we hire.”


“[Applicantsare] more focused; [they] pursued roles they were truly interested in; [were] moreconsiderate of their fellow classmates.”


“Themajority of the students understands the big picture and have become moreflexible regarding position and location.”


“Theyare turned off by the fact [that] corporations use technology to recruit andare not out on campus recruiting individuals...millennials need to understandthat business are accommodating their generation with changes to the workforcebut they (millennials) need to modify their attitude and meet us half way.”


Question: What is the biggest challengeregarding recruiting in the current economy?


“How tomaintain relationships (with universities and with students) despite decreasedpositions and budgets.”


“Predictingour needs to hire the correct number of candidates.”


“We wantto ensure that candidates want to join our firm because of their knowledge ofour culture, work, etc. vs. not being able to get into another industry/position.”


“Makingdue with less resources (headcount and budget), yet still attracting the righttalent.”


“Selectingstudents that are interesting in making it a career vs. staying until somethingbetter comes along.”


“Maintainingrelationships on campus even if we are higher fewer students.  Travel is also a big issue as travel budgetshave been cut by almost 50 percent.”


“Doingthe same level of recruiting, since to hire 10 percent less you must do all ofthe same things, with fewer people to get that work done.  Also struggling with students choosing otherindustries outside of financial services.”


“Wecurrently have a hiring freeze and so the challenge is to stay in touch withthe top talent so that when we do begin hiring again, we will have a ‘pipeline’from which to source.”


“Thebiggest challenge is maintaining productive relationships with campuses andstudents when our recruiting numbers are significantly reduced and our travelbudgets are under increased scrutiny.”


“Goingfrom hi-touch recruiting to low-touch recruiting and relying on technology tobring applicants in.”


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