HR gains from knowing how schools prepare students for the job hunt

Employers and students benefit from being prepared
By Jeremy O'Krafka
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/28/2005

For an employer recruiting entry-level talent, campus recruitment can be a goldmine. With more than 260,000 young people graduating from post-secondary education programs across Canada every year, there is no other venue that offers such a significant number of trained and skilled prospects.

What’s more, an effective campus recruitment program can help employers plant the seeds for the “employer of choice” message.

But one of the challenges that employers face is managing student expectations. “Why don’t students get what a great opportunity I’m offering?” is a complaint one hears from employers from time to time.

Colleges and universities need to work with students to ensure they have a clear picture what they want. And employers need to have programs to show those same students where they can go.

It’s almost a cliché now to discuss the importance of stating corporate values, but it’s equally important to understand how an applicant’s values can also make the difference between a successful long-term hire and a turnover casualty.

Often young applicants can’t articulate their values. If they can’t, the recruiter has to either find a way to draw it out of them, or take it as an early warning sign that they’re not ready to make a serious commitment to their careers.

The students who definitely stand out are those who have taken advantage of the programs offered by their career centre. Recruiters may find they have better success with universities and colleges that offer well-developed career planning programs and tools.

Career management programs are starting to appear at a number of universities and colleges as part of the curriculum. Students examine who they are, what skills they possess and what aspirations and values they have.

At institutions that have not introduced such programs as part of their curricula, students can find resources to help them hone career management skills through campus career centres. The services available at these career centres vary a great deal from institution to institution, but students can typically find similar guidance in workshops and information sessions.

Business schools, in particular, are recognizing that it’s a competitive advantage for them to offer students such services, as their reputations are to some degree dependent on their graduates’ career outcomes.

“Those who have gone through a career management program are much better prepared from the outset of the campus recruitment process,” says Vivian Yoanidis, a staffing and development consultant for Hydro One.

“They come to the career fairs ready to ask pertinent questions and you really get the sense that they have done their research. They are persistent and follow up throughout the recruitment process without being too pushy or aggressive. In general they are organized, professional and completely ready for the school-to-work transition. They get it. They understand what they need to do to set themselves apart.”

And because the campus career centre is a student’s first point of contact when trying to define career aspirations, getting to know the people who work in the centres will improve your referrals to top prospects.

TD Bank Financial Group, an organization with 45,000 employees, is a veteran in campus recruiting. “After 17 years in campus recruiting, I still continue to see building strong relationships with the career centres as my most effective source of referrals for new grad hires,” says Nancy Moulday, TD Canada Trust’s recruitment manager for commercial banking and insurance.

Employers also need to understand the importance of career management and be prepared to address this need for new recruits.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car recruits new grads from campuses across North America.

“Many of our top performers knew they wanted a solid business career but didn’t necessarily envision themselves in the car rental industry when they started university or college,” says Marie Artim, Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s assistant vice-president of recruiting.

One of the appealing offerings from the company is a management training program that new hires go through. In it, new hires learn the nuances of the business from the ground up, which enables them to work their way to the top, as consistent with the company’s “promote from within” culture.

“What ultimately attracted these candidates into our management trainee program is the level of business training combined with the amount of opportunity to progress your career at whatever pace you decide. The right people respond extremely well to our ‘Enterprising’ philosophy. And the fact that we rent cars almost becomes a secondary decision-making factor for a graduate — but it’s something they become very sophisticated at and share in the profits.”

Jeremy O’Krafka is the national manager of the Canadian Association of Career Educators and Employers, a national non-profit that provides information and advice to employers, career services professionals and students. He can be reached at (416) 929-5156 or at jeremy@cacee.com.

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