The Indian corporate sector is busy welcoming its campus recruits and the importance of inducting right is the HR flavour of the month. But in a “Circle of Life"-esque sense, with the closure, in this case of a successful hiring season, begins the first step of the next cycle. It is the start of yet another campus calendar and smart companies are already sitting down to chalk out their game plan for the coming year.

Great campus recruitment does not happen by serendipity. It has to be crafted. Each aspect of the campus recruitment life cycle demands attention and, of course, organization-wide commitment.

First the buy-in: A truly acceptable and successful campus recruitment strategy needs a strong training backbone. It is the bane of line managers when campus recruits are “dumped" raw, to be exclusively trained by them on the job, stretching thinner already overextended managerial bandwidths. The consequence: stonewalling of this great channel of recruitment.

Hiring spree: Recruiters at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. Madhu Kapparath/Mint

The what and where planning: Clarity on requirements and realism in shortlisting campuses are cornerstones for a successful sourcing strategy. Why target a tier-1 institute, unrealistically, when the requirement is best met at a relatively lower-tiered institute? Case studies abound of organizations that have designed great entry-level talent pipelines by doing precisely this— setting aside their egos, targeting the right institutes and then snapping up the best.

CRM is also Campus Relationship Management: Seeing and being seen on campuses, around the year, is a great campus recruitment mantra. Relationships are not built in a day, and reaching out only at recruitment time is so passé.

My favourite is the “3 Circle Model" an organization has perfected. First they flood the campus labs with their products. Then they enter as knowledge partners, offering helpful suggestions for curriculum redesign and workshops to develop technical and interpersonal skills with the beneficiaries as much the teachers (placement coordinators included) as the taught. And finally, with the institute well and truly indebted, they send in the troops, the recruiters. Can anybody quibble if the campus is by then bending over backwards to ensure the company gets premium placement slotting—“Day minus 2" which, as one knowledgeable recruiter helpfully told me, is the new “Day 0".

Also Read Hema Ravichandar’s earlier articles

Having strong executive sponsors as campus champions for key campuses much as you would for key customers is also a great strategy. And the icing is thick on the cake if said champions are “been there, done that" successful alumni of said institute.

A great bridge to build relationships is to help campuses in their hour of need. A worthy contender, apart from the perennial favourite—funding the campus fests—is the summer internship paranoia. It was addressed by one company innovatively by setting up opportunities for students with the company’s vendor partners—talk of killing two birds with one stone. Continuing on the same theme, another offers students the opportunity for extended project participation on live projects as the nth member, virtual of course.

Branding the drive: Gone are the innocent days when branding only meant thematic and dramatic posters on campus noticeboards. Of course, they exist too, and the smart ones have a complete deck where the posters change every two or three days. But today’s company is ready to use podcasts and viral marketing techniques among students to create a buzz. Career sites of companies are developed as mobile versions to suit the smartphone era. Students are cleverly identified and trained to be brand ambassadors, leveraging the power of peer promotion. And positioning strategies with pizzazz are chosen by organizations to give them a branding edge. Gender diversity as a positioning theme is cool and highly credible when bundled with programmes such as scholarships for high-performing women students.

The not-so-subtle sell of the organization by a “vested-interest" senior is, of course, a great favourite in the immediate run-up to the placement season. But the real differentiator lies in the kit, complete with a set of frequently asked questions (and answers), to control the messaging and give it much-needed consistency.

The moment of truth—the placement season: But all this is the courtship ritual, which builds up to the placement interaction. And the focus here is, of course, on the all-important placement talk. This is the time companies really need to send out their best to hold the audience in thrall. It is not just about whetting the student appetite to clock in for the morrow’s interview, but about the lifetime impression you can leave on a young mind. I have time and again heard individuals talk about placement talks which left an indelible mark on them years after they left college, fondly recollecting the represented company. Who knows—today’s wide-eyed ingénue may just be the lateral candidate you were looking for some years down the line.

It is amazing how many companies just don’t get this. And this same goodwill opportunity boomerangs with some not-so-smart strategies. Blunders can be many—inexperienced “freshers" front-ending the process, unable to handle some “hot potato" questions, disinterested managers who wear a “this is a real waste of time" look while going through the motions, an impatient and affronted suit who sees a perceived insult in a cheeky question and stomps off the dais in a huff.

Placement talks need preparation. Students research the companies they are interested in and have great networks of both current and former employees. They respect honesty. “They told us that it will be a tough environment to work in, success won’t be easy and there will be very slow career growth in the first few years!" remarked one student, impressed with the company’s candour.

And so the stage is set for selection. The interested students sign up for the recruitment process and the selection juggernaut begins to roll. Case studies, group interviews, realistic job previews… But that will keep for next week.

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