Last week, we tracked smart companies as they deployed high-touch relationship programmes and built strong brands on carefully selected academic campuses. We admired their articulate leaders as they stood at university podiums, delivering disarmingly honest corporate presentations, key weapons in the campaign to win over an impressionable, if sometimes cynical, audience. Of course, the higher the rank of the institute, the higher this cynicism.
This week, as we move further along the campus recruitment life cyle, the focus shifts from the courtship to the business end of the transaction, to the task of selection and the hard sell of the campus offer.
The proof of the presentation is in the listing
There may be many avid listeners at the placement talk, but its success ultimately lies in the number of students who actually sign up for the company’s recruitment process. This list takes working. A favourite strategy that many corporations adopt is to tap into the goodwill equity of alumni, especially the recently graduated, to work the system as corporate ambassadors. Enterprising executives have been known to deliver emotional presentations, peppered with personal testimonials, successfully enlisting many inspired candidates.
Making a beeline: Smart organizations have learnt to cast their recruiting nets wide. Amit Hasija/Hindustan Times
A consulting blue-chip company weaves in training sessions so that students can take their best shot at the selection process. The pre-placement talk is followed by a complimentary CV-writing workshop with tips on how to better resumes. Shortlisted students are invited to their office and assigned buddies who prepare them to crack case studies and thereafter, personal interviews. Some behavioural training is also thrown in for good measure. Needless to say, students make a beeline to participate in the process, if only for the learning.
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The heartburn-causing cut-offs
For every 70 per center who makes it, there is a 69.9 who does not! Pressure, both of the filial and peer variety, is a strong stress trigger; the result—a tense and charged environment around the all-important shortlist-displaying noticeboards. Seasoned campus campaigners know the importance of handling this disappointment firmly but gently, with messaging that is clear and unambiguous. Exceptions are highly avoidable and very difficult to explain away. And it is always desirable that any external pressure for exemption from lower cut-offs is quickly and strongly nipped.
The selection juggernaut rolls
Voluminous testing is the bane of many a recruiter. Online tests work when numbers are manageable and candidates well-distributed in time. But with testing slots crunched and weak technology backbones, especially in the older and “more in demand” institutions, it is outsourcing of the testing, interviewing and indeed, even the logistics, to reputed third-party vendors that is a lifesaver. But here again, organizations must insist that these vendor partners be the epitome of courteous efficiency, with equal emphasis on both efficiency and courtesy. Else, as I have witnessed, months of arduous relationship-building can be lost on the back of a poor transaction.
Where volumes are not the concern, and especially for MBA schools, summer internships are good avenues for companies to assess the potential of candidates and proactively and discreetly woo them away with lucrative offers. An interesting variant is the win-win realistic job previews designed by an organization—candidates get a chance to work on real-life projects, the organization gets to assess them in real-world situations. A large retailer organizes competitions around live case studies. While students participate enthusiastically, the brand is built and the organization gets a good look at some smart individuals. A bonus, of course, is a strong database of implementable recommendations.
Group interviews where students participate in work simulation exercises, or are tasked to solve a difficult dilemma, are also becoming popular. But whatever the technique, it is essential that the hygiene factors are handled seamlessly. Increased wait times, redundant interview rounds, rude and arrogant panellists are all absolute no-nos.
At the altar of ‘offer conversion’
To misquote the famous Bard, “the last stage of all which ends this eventful saga” is to get the candidate to sign on the dotted line. The remuneration package is, of course, the silver bullet. But interestingly, and gauging from recent newspaper reports, institutes and students are now loath to accept cost to company figures trotted out by companies at face value. They are now increasingly seeking guaranteed compensation details.
Reluctant candidates considering lucrative opportunities for higher studies may, in rare cases, be offered the carrot of a deferred joining or given the soft sell by carefully selected fast-track buddies. One company, in an admirable show of honesty, encourages the buddy to place both the pros and cons of either option squarely in front of the candidate, hoping the candour itself will prompt a signature on the dotted line.
The employment contract may have been signed but there is many a slip between signing and joining. Here in India especially, we wait with bated breath to see if the hire of our dreams actually shows up on joining D-Day.
A candidate kept warm is indeed a candidate who joins. Assigned buddies assiduously clarify queries, host them at office events and chaperone them through formal and informal interactions with prospective colleagues. Online courses, access to company knowledge portals and outbound learning programmes with other recruits are all great “warmers”. Organizations are known to gift the selected wine and chocolate hampers, as also the more practical information kit of real estate agents, credit card choices, banking options and even sometimes a menu of mentors.
Finally, an aside I just could not resist. The collateral damage of the stratospheric cut-offs adopted by leading colleges, discussed extensively in the past few days, is the increasing exodus of bright young students to foreign universities. Spotting this trend, smart organizations have been quick to cast their recruitment nets wider to include such international universities in their recruitment must-stops. It is design elements such as these, and the nimbleness with which they get adopted, that differentiate great campus recruitment strategies.
Hema Ravichandar is a strategic human resources consultant. She serves as an independent director and an advisory board member for several organizations. She was formerly the global head of HR for Infosys Ltd.
Write to Hema at email@example.com