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Unique campus recruiting event ideas for 2021

If there’s one thing that 2020 has taught us, it’s that you always need to have a plan B. That’s especially true for recruiters who once relied on in-person recruiting events or interviews to screen college or university students. As job fairs disappeared this year, recruiters were forced to come up with new campus recruiting event ideas to fill their talent pipelines. 

This article will explore some innovative campus recruitment event ideas that you can use while working remotely. It will also include some ideas for in-person events once pandemic lockdowns have been lifted. 

Before we do that, let’s take a step back to establish a campus recruiter’s goal and how events fit into that role. 

What is campus recruiting? 

Campus recruiting is any hiring activity that targets university or college students or recent graduations. It aims to fill a company’s hiring pipeline with student candidates who will eventually meet the skills requirements that a company needs. 

Campus recruiters juggle many different responsibilities to make this goal possible. They’re strategic recruiters who must forecast future business needs and find students trained in those skills. 

As such, campus recruiters might be in charge of: 

  • Strategic planning
  • Collaborating with hiring managers
  • Networking with target institutions and building relationships with them
  • Preparing employer branding material
  • Organizing, promoting, and attending campus recruiting events
  • Collecting “leads” from the events and following up on them 
  • Active outreach to potential candidates via social media 

Active outreach is a major component of campus recruiting and a core reason that events are so important to this strategy. 

Let’s look at how campus recruiting events have evolved over the years. 

What is a campus recruiting event? 

For the sake of this article, we’re going to split campus recruiting events between “traditional” and “next generation.” This will help illustrate the trends toward out-of-the-box campus recruiting strategies.

Traditional campus recruiting events, in the context of this article, involve: 

  • Recruiters attending job fairs and setting up a booth
  • Students coming to them if they’re interested
  • Recruiters calling potential candidates after the event 

While there are benefits to this type of event, they tend to: 

  • Assume that students and candidates are interested in the company
  • Not provide an opportunity for active outreach beyond the event
  • Not provide ample opportunity to showcase your employer brand
  • Be a very formal, one-way exchange of information 

Next-generation campus recruiting event ideas; however, take a different approach and emphasize: 

  • Active outreach
  • Active pitching to students
  • Two-way conversations about what the company offers and what the student wants
  • The unique selling points behind the employer brand and culture 

These types of campus recruiting events come in many different forms. In recent years, recruiters have gotten creative with how they reach students in an increasingly remote and social media-driven world. 

The rest of this article will focus on on-campus recruiting events ideas to help you do just that. 

What are some campus recruiting event ideas? 

This section will split these recruiting event ideas into two buckets:

  • Ideas for events while working remotely
  • Innovative event ideas to host in-person (when it’s allowed again)

Let’s get started! 

1. Micro-events

One of the core tenets of advertising is to say the same message over and over again. Your audience likely won’t catch on the first time they hear your message, but they will the tenth time. That’s essentially the case for hosting regular micro-events at your target institutions. 

With this strategy, recruiters have a regular and friendly presence on campus or online. They actively engage with target students, invite them to informal events and chats, and generally keep the company top-of-mind. 

The micro-events can be anything from a group chat to drinks at the campus bar to 1:1 meetings with a recruiter or hiring manager. The goal is to maintain a relationship with your talent pool.

If you’re still stuck online while reading this article, consider setting up regular Zoom calls with your contacts or hosting short information sessions on a continual basis. 

2. Hackathons

Hackathons are best held in person, but remote work is an option here too. The idea with hackathons is to invite candidates for a day or weekend-long work experience to solve a real-life problem as a team. 

This campus recruiting event idea gives your candidates a chance to show their skills outside of an interview setting and gives you a chance to see how they work as a team. 

Make the hackathon challenge difficult and realistic enough to give the students a taste of what it will be like to work at your company. Make it challenging but also a fun experience with prizes at the end for the winning team. 

This is also a chance to have the candidate’s future manager or team on hand to answer questions and to observe performance. 

3. Classroom presentations

Again, this recruiting event idea can be done either in person or online. The idea here is to find opportunities for your recruiters or hiring managers to deliver a presentation to your target talent pool.

To do so, you need to make sure that your presentation is relevant to the students’ curriculum and provides value outside of your pitch for employment.

Work with the university, academic department, or individual professors to find opportunities and topics to speak about. Find parts of the curriculum that relate to what your company does, and create a presentation that provides real value for the students. Send one of your industry experts to teach students about the topic and the company’s role in their future field. 

Use this as an opportunity to promote what your company does, how it relates to what the students are studying, and why it’s a fulfilling career. Have a campus recruiter on hand to leave employer branding material and contact information for any student who is interested in learning more. 

4. Employer webinars

Think of employer webinars as an opportunity to provide value to potential candidates and to show them that you’re a thought leader in your industry. 

The idea behind these webinars is that you will provide freely accessible information about a high-value topic. In exchange, you get to deliver your employer brand messaging and receive the candidate’s contact information for future outreach. 

Create a landing page that lives on your careers site where students can sign up for webinar sessions. This should include prompts to input their name, location, field of study, and future career aspirations. Integrate that information into your ATS to fill out candidate profiles. 

For the webinar content, you might consider providing job hunting tips, an overview of what to expect during the recruitment process, examples of what to ask hiring managers during the interview, and so on. Or, you can host skills or role-specific webinars for, particularly sought-after candidates. 

The goal here is to provide value to the students while also educating them about your company and roles. 

5. Virtual job fairs

If you’re missing the buzz of in-person events, then consider hosting a virtual job fair. The core benefit of this tactic is cost savings and reach. It costs much less money (and resources) to host a virtual event than it does an in-person one. You can also invite anyone you want to the event, from anywhere in the world. 

If you’re going this route, here are some tips to make sure it’s a success: 

  • Plan the details well in advance of the event date
  • Pick content and speakers that provide real value, and grab people’s attention
  • Create a solid registration flow, reminder emails, and follow-ups 
  • Provide virtual booths and chatrooms for students to interact with your team 
  • Include touchpoints and contact fields where a candidate can express their interest 
  • Track engagement and conversion data and follow up with candidates directly
  • Don’t forget to promote the event: create excitement and buzz amongst your targeting audience 

Virtual job fairs can bring hundreds or thousands of high-quality candidates together into one virtual room when done right. This is a huge opportunity to showcase your company and to create serious interest in your roles. 

6. Challenging campaigns

While not an event, this next tactic is a great way to turn heads in your direction on campus. If you’re looking for problem solvers or people with a particular skill set, consider launching a campus challenge to find the highest performers. 

Think about those clever ads that often pop up in Silicon Valley, prompting engineers to “solve this problem” or “crack this code.” They’re designed to speak directly to one type of individual with one specific skill set, and they also act as a built-in screening tool for recruiters. 

To make these challenges a success, think through a tough challenge that an employee might be expected to solve. Then, think through a campaign that presents the challenge to students on campus and tells them how and where to submit their answers. 

As answers start to roll in, have your team review them, and flag those candidates who stand out for their skills and thought process. These are the ones you want to interview and keep in contact with. 

7. On-campus interviews

Campus interviews are a formal but effective way to meet and screen a large number of students quickly. It puts you in front of your target candidates and formally allows you to start the job application process.

Colleges and universities often have careers departments that are designed to help students find jobs. These can be your best friends with proper outreach. Coordinate with departments at your target institutions, and provide details about who and what you’re looking for. 

Ideally, you’d be given space and time on campus to sit down with a pool of interested candidates. Make your requirements clear from the start, and ask for help from the careers department and faculties in identifying students who might be a strong fit. 

8. Panel discussions

This technique falls into the category of “showing” and not “telling.” In other words, the goal here is to actively demonstrate that your organization is a thought leader in their chosen industry, rather than trying to tell them through employer branding material. 

With these events, recruiters and staff would actively seek out opportunities for a team member to participate in an industry panel discussion. This gets your thought leaders in front of students interested in that field and actively demonstrates your company’s position in the industry. 

Make sure that the expert you send is clearly identified as a leader at your organization. It’s also smart to send a campus recruiter with that person to network with students and faculty before and after the panel discussion. 

9. Co-ops and internships 

There’s no better way to kick start a student’s on-the-job growth than to offer them a co-op or internship. Put students to work at your company, and pair them with more senior team members who will help put their skills to practical use. 

Co-ops and internships serve a variety of purposes for campus recruiters: 

  • They nurture and grow skills to turn students into qualified employees
  • They demonstrate what it’s like to work at your company
  • They can help with workloads during peak periods 
  • They keep your company top of mind when that student becomes skilled, and sought after, worker 

All of the other campus recruiting event ideas mentioned in this article are great ways to seed your talent pipeline with potential co-op and internship students. 

10. Something we haven’t thought of yet 

No, we didn’t include this last point to round out our list at ten (although happy coincidence, right?). Instead, this point emphasizes that the best and most effective campus recruiting event idea might be something not included in this list.

How do you know which event idea is the most effective? You test. 

Experiment with different types of campus recruiting events, platforms, and strategies—and test which ones bring in the most qualified candidates. Measure how many of those candidates turn into hires and how many of those hires turn into high performers. Test, measure, refine, and test again. 

It’s also a good idea to directly ask students what they like and don’t like about your campus recruiting events. Get their feedback, and incorporate it into your strategies.  

Like everything in recruitment, campus events are evolving at a rapid pace. To keep up, it’s best to have a variety of tricks up your sleeve and a willingness to adapt when needed. 

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