The problem moving job recruiting earlier and earlier doesn’t solve

With a recently announced change of timeline, several major consulting firms have moved their internship recruiting processes, primarily aimed at college juniors, three to five months earlier this year. So this fall, instead of case runs and career fairs, ’tis the season for interviews, then offers.

This change would be more surprising, if it weren’t for the already frantic climate of college recruiting in general. Recruitment has become, over time, a sort of formal but frenzied race to meet, assess and collect the “best of the best.” A select few youth at the nation’s most prestigious schools receive the most coveted offers from “brand-name” companies, all because recruiters have hounded students until they applied and interviewed.

And yet, these offers are being turned down. Almost half of them, to be exact.

Only about 59 percent of student job offers were accepted in 2015, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, even when they came from some of the most prominent firms. The overall offer acceptance rate has been decreasing since 2013, all while the percentage of students who have received offers has been increasing.

The verdict: the most talented students are getting harder and harder to get, and companies need new methods for attracting and assessing them.

This trend extends beyond finance and consulting talent. According to the Manpower Group Talent Shortage Survey 2014, 36 percent of employers globally report difficulty filling jobs, over half of which say the shortage has medium to high impact on their ability to meet client needs. In other words, the shortages of the current job climate are impacting business performance.

In light of all of this, for the employer, moving up the interview process suddenly makes a lot more sense, as do the other most prominent recruiting trends: increasingly relying on social media to distinguish company culture and engage with applicants, utilizing current employees as recruiting ambassadors and conducting virtual interviews more often to make it possible to reach more students. Looking toward the future, employers have expressed interest in expanding online recruiting methods, broadening recruitment opportunities to different majors and even identifying ideal candidates as early as high school.

It’s all part of a race to capture the attention and appeal of the students. The questions we need to ask now are less around recruitment timelines and more around fit.

No matter how early the recruitment process is, how do you know a student will really have the personality, skills and experience to succeed within your business?

As far as we’re concerned at ProMazo, the only way you really know the answer to this question is through giving a qualified student the time to experience the job, to provide you with a work sample and maybe even to fall in love with your company. While the average recruiting cycle, from job posting to offer acceptance, lasts just over 49 days, imagine giving a student a full semester, year or even college academic career to prove him- or herself within your business model, before the recruitment cycle even started. GPA, interviewing skills and resume aside, how much good can they do for your company?

Based on statistics and ProMazo past experiences, these are the four major takeaways you can get from working with students before hiring them. They’re also the distinguishing factors between an offer acceptance and an offer rejection, a lot of the time.

  1. Continuity: working with students for an extended period of time before recruitment

The summer internship experience is invaluable to both the student and the company. Students gain the knowledge, skills and resume bullet that come with real job experience, and companies get educated, enthusiastic youth and a ten-week observation period to decide whether or not they’re fit for full-time. So imagine how much more a 16-week, year-long or even several-year-long internship can provide to both parties. Students can actually take on the long-term projects that they care about, and that they may even want to continue in a full-time position.

2. Rotation: allowing students to explore different jobs within your company

ProMazo’s model works based on a similar concept to that behind rotational programs, which have grown in popularity in recent years thanks to their success in helping employees locate where their skills best match a company’s need for work. About 47 percent of companies that participated in NACE’s survey now have some form of a rotational model, and employees that participated in rotational programs have higher retention rates at both the one- and five-year marks.

The reason why rotation is so important? Students fresh out of college are well-equipped with about 16 years of education, but slim to none real job experience. By providing students with some way to test out different positions within a company, employers increase students’ likelihood of finding jobs that best fit their skillset and interests, not to mention improve their happiness and work ethic.

3. Familiarity: getting to know students before recruitment

Sometimes the decision between accepting and rejecting a job offer comes down to personal connections, and the comfort that comes with them. As Harvard University student and ProMazo participant Owen Mansfield says, “Technology has given us the means to work virtually in a truly seamless way, and the people at ProMazo put in the effort it takes to make that actually happen.” Imagine what video calls, coffee dates and consistent meetings with students over a long period of time before you even start recruiting can do to your acceptance rate; students will not only know your company, they’ll know you.

4. Commitment: fostering student dedication to the company

Students that can work hard for you for not only ten weeks, but ten months, too, show a truly professional level of dedication. “Our engagement with actual companies felt way more real than any project, from meeting and talking to the client, to working with an incredibly diverse and talented team, to building a real recommendation they could actually use,” says University of Notre Dame student Helen Shang, who worked on a consulting project for ProMazo. Spending that amount of time and effort warrants commitment, and once students commit to your company, they’re much more likely to keep working for you.

It’s the same premise behind extending full-time offers to successful summer interns, a trend that as many as 40 percent of companies use as their key talent development strategy, according to the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University. With ProMazo, you get to know these students before any other companies do, and over even longer periods of time.

The next frontier in recruiting isn’t about getting caught in the race for the earliest interviews, but about establishing the deepest connection with talented prospects. Instead of worrying as much about the recruiting frenzy this fall, focus more on developing relationships with students that will provide you with informed, experienced and excited job candidates this time next year.

At ProMazo, we’ve received positive feedback from dozens of companies that have worked with students from our network of schools, and in our two years of connecting motivated students to talent-hungry companies, several of our students have been offered positions and/or hired as interns and full-time employees. A proven recipe of early engagement, on-the-job evaluation and organic connection propels our method.

Contact us to learn more about your next steps.