Photo: iStock Photo: iStock

For years, companies have recognized the value of hiring highly educated young people straight out of university or college. The challenge has always been how to engage with them while they are still in school.

Many organizations have created a specific budget for on-campus recruitment, and show up every year around the same time. They set up their booth at the annual career fair, give out brochures, and push branded cupcakes or stress-balls into the hands of any passing student, all in the hopes that a few will stop and ask about RRSP-matching plans and career paths. More proactive companies hold employer info sessions, using PowerPoint presentations to show all the benefits, awards and opportunities they have to offer.

These methods no longer work, because today’s best students do not attend events such as these. Career fairs are awkward and uncomfortable, while company info sessions are self-serving. Both formats tend to be overcrowded and allow for very little personal, real interaction between prospective employer and attendee.

Post-secondary students understand that they will need to find a job, and hope to find a great one. But they are savvy enough to know that great things don’t just come to them. So the best students call, email or InMail business leaders from companies they are interested in to get “career advice” and make connections. These young people typically have very little business experience, so most of the companies they contact will be ones with very strong consumer brands—banks, big technology, and CPG. They miss out on amazing opportunities with growing and established business-to-business companies because of lack of awareness. This inefficient and antiquated process has left us with a 14.5% unemployment rate for millennials on the one hand, and hundreds of companies who would love to make new-graduate hires but can’t attract them on the other.

The campus recruitment system is broken. But it can be fixed.

How can an employer capture the attention and interest of today’s best and brightest new graduates? By targeting them early with fun and rewarding experiences that are not just about shouting your company’s employment message at them. Don’t wait for graduation; get there in first year, and stay with them throughout their school life.

We created The Great Canadian Sales Competition to “gamify” campus recruitment. This competition is not the first to engage students through challenges and contests—there are many exciting case competitions sponsored by many employers throughout this country. But the Great Canadian Sales Competition is the first to do it on a national scale, and with more than 20 huge companies from different industries providing financial, educational and employment support. It enables thousands of young people to measure themselves against the best and brightest from every province and more than 60 schools.

Along the way, the 1,000-plus contestants learn about these sponsors, what they do, what they make, what the sell, and—perhaps more importantly—why customers buy. Contestants get feedback and advice from accomplished business leaders from sponsoring companies— are the presidents and VP’s that make all the big decisions and hold all the power, not the junior people companies typically send to campus.

The competition has hundreds of touch points, including social media, on campus ambassadors, advertising vehicles, judging rounds, and even a winner’s gala. It creates a real connection between the students and these potential employers before they ever talk about actual career opportunities. In fact, students who entered in Year 1, still talk about their great experiences with the sponsors and competition nine months later, and more than 25% got job offers. Who do you think they are will be targeting as potential employers now?

The future of campus recruitment is actually very bright. You just have to be a little creative to see it.

Sonya Meloff and Jamie Scarborough are the co-founders of Sales Talent Agency, Canada’s largest sales recruitment company and #181 on the PROFIT 500 Ranking of Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies in 2014. Meloff was on the PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs in 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Scarborough is an accomplished sales leader and speaker specializing in how companies find, attract, choose and equip sales talent.

MORE STRATEGIES FOR RECRUITING YOUNG PEOPLE

Do you recruit on college and university campuses? What’s your strategy for hiring great young people? Let us know by commenting below.

Loading comments, please wait.