TweetBack Thursday: Plan to Gain Better Access to Fortune 500 Recruiting

Today’s question focuses on gaining better employment opportunities for students. More specifically, William Thomas Van Hest asked: “I’d be interested to hear what the plan is to gain better access to Fortune 500 recruiting.”

Career Services does a good job of attracting a lot of companies to campus for their Fall and Spring Career Expos. Many of these firms are Fortune 500 companies. The list from the Fall 2012 Expo can be found  here. The College also has a list of companies it is targeting to bring to campus and Lonny Butcher spends much of his time trying to do this.

More generally, any plan to increase campus recruiting begins with an understanding of the company recruitment process. Campus recruiting is expensive so when a company decides to recruit on campus, it regularly evaluates its outcomes to ensure it is getting a good return on investment. Key points in this evaluation process include:

  1. How much does it cost us to send a recruiter(s) to campus?
  2. How much interest does the recruiter get during the visit (number of students showing up for info sessions, coming by their booth at the job fair, signing up for interviews (e.g., is my day full?), and if students do research and know about the company)?
  3. How many offers do I extend for an interview at our location (Am I finding what I’m looking for)?
  4. What percent of students accept my offer to visit the company (Are the students serious about us)?
  5. What percent of students survive the next steps in the interview process and get hired (i.e., what is my yield rate)?
  6. How well does the new hire perform (out of the gate and over the first year or so)?
  7. How long do they stay with my company?

Realize too that companies do not go on an unlimited number of recruiting trips. So to become a regular part of a company’s recruiting process, a school may have to displace another school on their calendar. This means they are going to have to outperform at least one school on the last three items above.

Now let’s apply those steps to UCF. Not very many Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Central Florida. Our region is dominated by small and medium companies that serve either the defense industry, a growing healthcare segment or the tourism/hospitality industry (or as Lonny calls it, the 500 pound gorilla). This has two implications for a plan to attract them here: (1) we are not near them, so it costs more to visit our campus and they will want to get above average returns for visits here. (2) Students need to be willing to relocate in order to pursue jobs with these firms. Yet, roughly 80% of our graduates, including 75% of a Cohort MBA graduates remain in Central Florida. Firms tell us many UCF students do not want to leave the region.

So, we are disadvantaged in the recruitment process for many Fortune 500 companies on items 1,2 and 4. This is problematic, but it doesn’t need to be deadly. We can overcome these challenges if the company finds a large number of students with the qualities they want, that high numbers of those who accept interviews survive the next steps in the recruiting process, do well on the job and stay for a long period of time (items 3, 5, 6, and 7). So to the extent that we can work to attract those firms that are looking for the exact qualities in their employees that we foster in our students, the better the “match” we will be and the better we will perform on items 3, 5, 6 and 7. This is one of the reasons why I am such a strong advocate for building a culture in the College that fosters a distinctive set of qualities in our students: it will help attract the right employers to campus and increase everyone’s yield rate: theirs and ours.

Whether these are Fortune 500 companies or not isn’t as important as whether these are companies that are attractive to our students and vice versa. So, I would ask you: what companies would you like to see recruit here? What qualities do they have that you find appealing? And what research have you done to lead you to conclude that you want to work in these firms?

Hey, Lonny what do students tell you?

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7 thoughts on “TweetBack Thursday: Plan to Gain Better Access to Fortune 500 Recruiting

  1. Ya know, when the skipper calls up your number, you better be ready to respond!

    We have a target list of employers that we’re working. I spend a large part of each day reaching out and talking to recruiters, HR folks, and UCF alumni (some of whom were students of mine) who work for these companies. Some are larger companies, but mostly we target employers because the chances of them recruiting our grads are more likely either because they’ve worked with us in the past, have UCF alumni working there already, or are experiencing growth and need entry-level business school talent.

    But based on what students are saying to me, I think there’s a larger conversation to be had. As I’ve said in response to one of Dr. Jarley’s earlier posts, “What do you want to do?” is one of my favorite first questions. It’s the best gauge of how ready a student is to start looking for a job. Some students have a good plan that focuses on a job, vocation, or career path. But interestingly, many of the responses fall into one of two buckets. First I get a lot of generic, “something cool” responses that have more to do with the environment (rather than duties) of the job. I can also get a laundry list of what students DON’T want to do. Finally, when a student offers up a company name (instead of job title), my first response is always, “Why?” I like to hear a well-researched answer that talks about company culture and values, entry-level opportunities, and/or how the student’s skill set and career aspirations match the needs of their target. Many times their response goes back to “something cool.” Tech, no cubes, bringing your dog, and a free latte machine is cool, retail is not.

    The second bucket of answers is when students have overly rigid post-graduation career expectations that include a specific position with a specific company (one recent student comes to mind who told me she just HAD to get a job with Google). I applaud you, but I offer this cautionary tale…remember your high school sweetheart? Is he or she sitting next to you? Maybe, maybe not. And if so do you think that same (and I mean EXACT same) person will be with you 20 years from now? People grow and change the way careers grow and change. How many middle-aged people do you know who’ve had the same job with the same employer since graduation? Your first job is not what you’ll do forever (thus the “entry” in entry-level!) Rather, it builds skills, traits, and accomplishments that will define your talent and then help you get promoted to a new job or move on to a new opportunity with a different company. If you narrowly define that “perfect” first job you may not ever find any first job in the same way your weird old spinster aunt or creepy bachelor uncle never found a significant sweetie.

    What are students saying to me? That there are lots of great conversations to be had about recruiting and jobs! Feel free to stop by and chat, my door is always open when I’m here!

  2. You hit the nail right on the head Lonny. When I ask some of my seniors this question, they usually respond with one of the “bucket” responses you described. Another interesting question I hear is, “Should I pursue a MBA degree right after I graduate or should I try and get some work experience first?” It seems that some students just go for the MBA because they believe it will buy them time to figure out what it is exactly they want to do.

  3. That is a really good answer to a tough question. A few things that are worth noting.

    “Whether these are Fortune 500 companies or not isn’t as important as whether these are companies that are attractive to our students and vice versa.” Students and UCF faculty may not realize this, but the compensation difference between small and large companies for entry level positions is gigantic. So, if you want to raise average exit salary, you need F500 companies.

    I can’t address the student related issues you and Lonny brought up since I only vaguely remember being in school, but I can address some of the other comments.

    First, UCF is located within a 3 hours drive of 14 Fortune 500 companies:
    http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune500/2011/maps/index.html

    Regardless of that fact, Fortune 500 companies MUST travel to recruit. No fortune 500 company has enough talent in their local market to just go to the local schools. They are too big and have too many positions to fill every year. So, as we all know from Cornerstone (I’m pretty sure I had Lonny as a lab instructor for that class), sunk costs should not be considered in the analysis since they are sunk.

    The next time you talk to a recruiter of one of those companies, ask them where else they are going before you ask them to come to UCF and they will rattle off schools. Intel’s recruiters travel for 5 to 6 months straight. The question isn’t whether they will travel… it is where they will travel to.**

    The second point is valid. I know personally I wanted to stay in Florida until the economy got really bad, but at the same time, no one told me these companies pay $60K+ per year for an undergrad entry level position. Nor did they tell me I could make $20K in a single summer internship working with a bunch of people my age in a new city. They also didn’t tell me that if you want to move up in the world of business, big company experience is very helpful. For the ambitious, arming them with better information should solve that problem.

    The way to get higher yield rate is to help provide top quality training and hope that you have quality enough students to execute. It takes both, but the school can definitely increase the yield by providing really strong interview and resume prep. (along with this, make the research of companies easy, provide sell side analyst reports, etc.)

    I don’t know for sure, but I would argue that new hire performance is much less important, at least in the 3 to 5 year range than other factors since recruiting is usually done in somewhat of a silo. Same thing with length of stay. Unless everyone stays 3 months and leaves, it shouldn’t be a real factor.

    The factor that was overlooked which is extremely important to recruiters is acceptance rate. If I make an offer at UCF, what is the percentage of students that will accept them? Well, this may be the school’s biggest strength. Tell a recruiter, I can definitely deliver at least 1 candidate who will accept per semester since there is limited competition and you may have just fixed a recruiter’s problem.

    **If a recruiter tells you it is too expensive to travel there, that is a sales objection, not a fact. Get them to the campus and show them what UCF is all about. Once they get there, they won’t leave.

    • Hi William:

      Thanks for the kind words. A few points for further discussion:

      While there is a positive correlation between pay and firm size, it is by no means perfect. Some smaller firms do pay more than larger ones. There is a debate among economists as to why the positive correlation exists, but one of the prevailing theories is that large firms offer higher wages to compensate for other less desirable elements of working for large companies (e.g., more impersonal work settings, less task variety, perhaps the need to relocate more frequently, etc). I raise this point because it is important to recognize that students (and workers) are utility maximizes not income maximizes. There are many other elements to jobs than just pay and so engaging in a discussion with students about the types of firms they want to work for And attract to UCF makes sense.

      The issue of luring recruiters to travel to UCF is not an issue of sunk costs, it is an issue of opportunity costs. Recruiting budgets are reviewed and adjusted annually. Once set, they are generally spent. The issue isn’t if they are going to travel, but where. Again you have to look more appealing than one of the places they are considering or went to last year (the cost of visiting UCF is not visiting someone else or using the money for some other activity.) The factors I mentioned in my post determine your relative rank in the queue.

      Yes, acceptances matter see points 4 and 5 in my post. So does job performance and voluntary turnover. The cost of replacing employees varies by industry and job, but is rarely trivial and in many cases is very expensive. These costs go way beyond recruiting trips and includes on-the-job training, lower productivity while climbing the learning curve, disrupted relationships with clients, etc. And, turnover can occur for a variety of reasons that don’t include job performance (lack of ft with corporate culture, a desire to be closer to family, lack of growth opportunities, etc etc.). So when a firm finds a supplier of human talent that gives them consistently strong performers who fit in with the culture and stay for a long time, those providers become preferred. They have more people who went to that school, those workers want to recruit there….

      • I don’t have as much time to respond as last time, but here is my best shot. (by paragraph)

        1) Other factors beyond salary are extremely important and many students are better off going to a small firm over a large one. My first career out of UCF was with a 12 person company and I had an amazing learning and growing experience. That said, the opportunity to go to big company and UCF’s brand improvement by getting them here is obviously a positive.
        2) Your second paragraph is what I was getting at when I asked the original question. Really the root of my question is, how do we make UCF a more appealing for recruiters to visit? I FULLY recognize that this is a huge challenge, but I asked because a lot of people are looking to UCF to continue improving in a competitive environment and one benchmark for success would be improving on campus recruiting. To me, if we are not asking this question, we are not really focused on becoming the best business school in Florida.
        3) My point about the 3rd paragraph not mattering as much is based on the fact that those factors will take time to measure by the companies so if you get a recruiter recruiting for 3 or 4 years, that is a win even if they leave after that. Obviously it isn’t best case, but it is sort of the reality.

        I will get in touch with Lonny in Dec. I probably won’t be much help in the short term, but maybe I can help in a small way. I really like what you are doing with this blog, and without meeting you or talking to you, I get a good feeling about the direction of the school!

        All the best,

        William

    • Hey William,
      It was the Spring of 2003, your team was called “Fortune UCF,” and our class was in that cavernous lecture hall in the HPA building. Nice big space but it stunk for a team-based lab… Hope you are well after almost 10 years!

      I want to touch on two points in your reply. One, is that all Fortune 500 company recruiting is the same. It isn’t and not all travel to recruit because their recruiting strategies differ. When I left UCF I went to work in a corporate HR job for one of the F500 companies within 3 hours or Orlando (actually it’s 3 hrs and 15 mins, I made that drive almost every week!) We did some sporadic campus recruiting, but our corporate office staff was quite small and shrinking. Most hiring was at the local level and new grads were not a viable pool for those positions. Some larger employers have pipeline programs where they hire large numbers of new grads and put them through a structured training program. This happens a lot in retail and students can have an awesome career if they make it through, but you have to be willing to relocate and retail just doesn’t have the sex appeal that many grads are looking for. Plus, entry level in retail means selling (not a bad thing since no employer will let you manage their business until you know their product and accept their culture). Enterprise RentA Car, for example will hire over 8000 new grads this year. On the other hand, some large employers don’t do campus recruiting at all. Some, like Publix, are committed to growing their own talent. They’ll recruit some specialized positions via their website or phishing by their recruiters, but if you are going to run a store, you’re probably going to start in a customer service position. The point I’m making is there is no single strategy for F500 recruiting so we spend our time and resources working with those employers (and trying to attract those other employers) who are more likely to hire our grads into good, growth opportunity jobs that they want to (and are capable of) doing. If they are F500 cool, but it’s not the top criteria.

      The other thing I wanted to clarify is the cost of campus recruiting. According to NACE, average cost per hire for campus recruiting is just over $5K. On top of that, average tenure for new grads in their first job is around 5 years. So from a recruiting cost perspective, it’s not cheap when you factor in retention. I was able to secure quality entry-level hires for as low as a couple hundred dollars using a centralized recruiting team and employment branding consultant. Now there are RPOs that claim they can outsource your recruiting function and deliver even cheaper results. New hire performance, then, is very important for companies who choose to continue to recruit on campus. We tracked all new hires by source (even down to tracking by specific job board) and if people were washing out or choosing to leave, we stopped using that source. Acceptance rate is probably the top concern, but tenure and long term performance was right after that.

      For a student, campus recruiting should be a part of an overall career strategy. CareerXroads tracks “source of hire” stats. Last year 30% of all hires came from referrals and another 30% came from job boards and career sites. That’s why we recommend students do internships, connect with professionals in their field, work on special projects with faculty that build competencies, and don’t forget to peruse Indeed.com.

      Would love to continue the conversation and catch up if you are local. Call me at 407-823-2328 anytime!

      Lonny

      • Yes! That sounds right! Fortune UCF. Sort of ironic givin the question asked. I’ll get in touch, probably in Dec. I’m swamped until then.

        Best,

        William

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