this article appeared in "Recruitment & Retention in Higher Education" - June 1999

Career Services: 
A Key to Successful Freshman Class Recruiting in the Future
Is Your Institution Positioned To Face This New Challenge?

by Tom Greenbaum, President of Groups Plus

In the past three years, I have conducted focus group research with hundreds of high school juniors, seniors and their parents for the purpose of understanding the criteria they use to decide where to attend college. This work was implemented for client institutions who were seeking to improve the overall marketing of their freshmen recruitment program, with the objective of filling their incoming classes with the best possible students at an acceptable cost.

While the research identified some decision criteria that have remained consistent with what we found several years ago (i.e., academic reputation, graduate school acceptance record, cost, school size and location, availability of majors, etc.), there was clearly a greater emphasis on the importance of some areas, and also some new thinking among both students and parents that emerged from the work implemented in the mid-1990's. Much of this related to the overall value of the educational experience, articulated by most as being the quality of the job the student was able to get upon graduation...and the time it would take the graduate to be able to land an acceptable position. For many parents, the job their child gets at the end of their college experience is the payout of their investment, and the only way they can measure the value received for the money.

Why do we feel this area has emerged as so much more important today than in the recent past? Our research suggests there are probably a few key reasons:

  • First, the cost of the college education has become so large and the sacrifice families make to send their children to college is so significant, that parents want to be sure they get some value for their investment.
  • Second, many of the best graduate schools now require (or significantly prefer) students to have a few years’ work experience before applying, and as a result, more students are not going directly to graduate school, but work first and then attend a graduate program on a full or part time basis.
  • Third, the cost of graduate school also has escalated dramatically, and many (if not most) students need to earn some money before they can go to graduate school so they can cover the expenses.
  • Finally, there are more students in college today than ever before, all wanting to land the best possible job upon graduation. This results in a much more competitive job market than ever before.

In working with both employers and educational institutions to evaluate their career services program, it became evident that there are at least four key areas that must be considered. Institutions that make a commitment to learning about how they perform in these areas relative to the competition, and then take appropriate actions to strengthen their posture relative to career services will significantly strengthen their student employment record in the future, and the overall appeal to prospective freshmen. The areas that must be analyzed in depth are as follows:

  • The organization and structure of the Career Services Office. Specifically, does the school have the right people, and enough of them to operate an effective Career Services program for the institution. Further, are these people sufficiently in touch with the right types of prospective employers so that they will come to campus to interview students for positions.
  • The services provided by the Career Services Office to help the recruiting process. For example, does this office provide assistance to students in the areas of:
    •  Identification of careers of interest.
    •  Methods for selecting the types of companies which would be appropriate for them upon graduation.
    • Development of resumes and recruitment letters.
    • Preparation for recruitment interviews, both on and off campus.
  • What are the attitudes of the students on campus toward the Career Services Office? For example, do the students feel this is an important service which the college provides students, or are they more interested in addressing the employment challenge using their own resources. The answers to these questions can be very important relative to the ultimate success of a career services program
  • What are the attitudes of prospective employers toward the students they interview on your campus. Most institutions do not recognize the value of conducting formal research with organizations who currently recruit on the campus, and also those who used to recruit there but have stopped coming, or even some companies that should be recruiting on campus but do not. The attitudes of the corporate recruiters toward your institution could provide very important insights into such areas as:
    • The quality of the Career Services staff relative to helping employers have an effective recruiting visit to your campus.
    • The quality of your recruiting facilities.
    • The overall quality of the students they interview.
    • The level of preparation of the students for the interviews.
  • What is the involvement of the Career Services Office in the emerging electronic technologies. For example:
    • Do you participate in the various on-line recruitment programs to give your students greater access to job opportunities.
    • Are you using the on-campus network to promote Company visits and to remind students of their appointments.
    • Are you communicating with students and recruiters by e-mail.

In summary, if your institution is not spending considerable time and money planning for the future of your Career Services Office, then you may be missing out on one of the measurement criteria that students and parents of the future will use to judge whether or not to apply to (or attend) your institution.

(copyright 1999 - Groups Plus)

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