College Recruiting 101


College recruiting is a diverse, yet systematic process. Although institutional differences are present, there is a fairly traditional structure to on-campus recruiting.

In order to create a campus presence as an “employer of choice”, one must first understand what Generation Y is looking for in employment. From there an employment value proposition that is meaningful and targeted can be crafted.

Once the groundwork has been laid for understanding what this generation values and how employment with an independent insurance agency fulfills these desires, this guide will provide a step-by-step description of each phase of the college recruiting process and the necessary tools needed to complete the process.

In addition to the traditional on-campus recruiting process, partnering with student clubs is an excellent opportunity to brand your agency as an “employer of choice”. An outline of a strategy for developing this relationship will also be provided. It will encompass the identification of initial activities, then discuss specific student and advisor-focused activities, and lastly common techniques for maintaining contact with potential applicants.

What Does Generation Y Value in Employment?

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the current generation of twenty-something’s known as Generation Y, or the Millennials, is entrepreneurial and seeks challenging work and high levels of responsibility. They are driven more so by a sense of accomplishment, as opposed to money. They thrive on creative expression and want the flexibility to complete tasks in their own way, using their own innovative methods. They’re learning-oriented, and if they’re doing something wrong, they want to know about it so they can move on.

Research suggests that Millennials want to work for organizations that are civic-minded and socially responsible. This means that the organization makes good products and services, gives back to the community, and is a good steward of the environment. The same employer should be inclusive and fair, as this generation values diversity. Millennials also desire as many training and growth opportunities as possible, and they will take a lower salary if a position allows them to do meaningful work immediately.

When it comes to managers, Gen Y wants to work for someone who treats them like colleagues rather than subordinates, and someone who guides them with a friendly but firm hand. This generation is big on open communication, so they want to give and receive feedback almost immediately. They want their ideas and opinions to be taken seriously, even if they don’t have years of experience under their belts to support them. The Millennials’ ideal manager recognizes and fixes problems, and rewards top-notch performance.

Given this basic understanding of this generation, it is important to understand and craft your agency’s employment value proposition in terms of what they value most.

The following is the top 6 attributes that a Gen Y candidate looks for in employment and a brief description of how employment within an Independent Insurance Agency can fulfill these desires:

  1. Long-term career development and multiple experiences within a single organization. Independent insurance agencies have greater flexibility to offer customized, personal career development than a more rigid, bureaucratic corporate setting. Agencies often offer personalized, formal and informal training opportunities to employees, as well as encourage and support continuing career advancement, education, and certifications.
  2. Sense of purpose and meaning in work. In interviewing a multitude of IIAT member agency employees, a common piece of feedback regarding what the employee liked about working for an independent insurance agency was that they were able to build relationships with their customers and provide products/services that protected their customers’ most important assets. Providing Gen Y candidates with employee testimonials in regards to such could strengthen your agency’s recruiting efforts. In addition, many independent insurance agencies are active in their communities. You should highlight your community involvement, as philanthropic organizational activities will assist in establishing purpose and meaning in one’s work.
  3. Availability and access to mentors and other company champions. Working for an independent insurance agency, as opposed to a large corporation, allows employees more access to the managers and leaders of the organization. It also lends to training and mentoring situations between established, successful professionals in the training of new employees.
  4. Work/Life Flexibility. Also cited repeatedly in employee feedback when questioned why the enjoy being employed in an independent insurance agency, was their ability to balance their work and personal life. Good office hours, often Monday thru Friday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., as well as a comfortable office work-environment, lead to a greater ease in harmonizing one’s professional and social life.
  5. Tech-savvy work environment. Employment in independent insurance agencies offer avenues for creativity through the use of technology due to the degree of autonomy in one’s work. In addition, many of these agencies are extremely technology-forward; continuously updating computers systems, communicating with colleagues and customers electronically, and supporting increased work efficiency through the use of technology such as dual computer monitors.
  6. Open social networks that embrace open/honest communication. Working for an independent insurance agency requires constant interaction and, therefore, communication with customers. In addition, when compared to a larger corporate setting, an agency offers a flatter organizational structure which facilitates more communication between all levels of the organization.

The College Recruiting Process

Central to the success of your agency’s efforts to recruit at a college is your relationship with the Career Center. The reason is that most academic departments work collaboratively with their career centers to provide their students with the best possible work opportunities after graduation. So, utilizing the career center maximizes your agency’s exposure to candidates due to the career center’s reach across campus. The college recruiting process runs year round on most campuses and is sponsored by the on-campus career center. However, the fall season is typically the busiest and most productive time at the majority of universities for recruiting, interviewing, and hiring students to begin entry-level positions with major employers after graduation. The spring season is generally characterized by recruiting efforts for internships and last attempts to fill positions that were not successfully filled during the fall recruiting season. The recruiting process typically consists of four major segments:

  • Career fairs: the first few weeks of September
  • 1st round on-campus interviews: October through November
  • 2nd round in-office interviews: A week to two weeks after 1st interviews
  • Offer extensions: Between November and December

Career fairs are the kick-off to the college recruiting season. They are large events sponsored by a college’s career center as an informal meet-and-greet opportunity prior to on-campus interviews between students and prospective employers. Employers come prepared with loads of information and handouts that are given to students in an effort to advertise and educate the students on their employment opportunities. Students come prepared with resumes and an abundance of questions for the prospective employers.

Students see this as an opportunity to evaluate companies before deciding whether or not they are interested in interviewing with them. For your agency, the career fair is a critical marketing tool in the recruiting process. It is a place to meet students and sell the opportunities your agency can offer graduates.

There are a number of things you should be prepared to bring to career fairs to make the event a success. To ensure a space at the fair, it is strongly recommended that you sign up as early as late spring and as late as June or July. Bring:

  • Two knowledgeable agency representatives. Two representative are needed to “man” your agency’s booth at the fair (three if it is a large fair). Often times, several students will approach the booth at one time. These representatives should be able to educate students about the specific opportunities you are able to offer. The students will be hungry to learn about the opportunities and will want detailed information. These representatives should also be people who are able to relate to and communicate with college-age students.
  • A large display board. Almost all companies set up large, colorful display boards at their booths which describe their business and/or opportunities.
  • Informational handouts. Informational handouts often include a detailed description and/or history of the company, a job description, and an explanation of the benefits package. This information should be compiled into a folder engraved with your agency logo.
  • Engraved knick-knacks. Most employers provide students with knick-knacks that are fun, inspiring reminders of the fair and specific companies that they met during the event. Unique, creative items stand out best in the sea of offerings. Many provide logo-engraved highlighters, cups, pens, bags, etc.

On-campus interviews are the heart of the college recruiting process. The process will be most successful if the necessary preparation and organizational time is taken.

Each interview schedule holds between 10 and 13 candidates for the day. Most interviews are a half-hour to 45 minutes long. Interviews often start early morning and last through the end of the day. It will most likely be necessary to have 2 interviewers in order to accommodate students’ schedules.

Many universities utilize an on-line system to facilitate the scheduling process between students and employers. Generally, the process is handled in the following order. Career center coordinators at the college can provide details on any deviations from this system:

  • Companies place a job posting/ad on the online system about a month before expecting to be on campus for interviews.
  • Students may respond to the posting by submitting their resumes.
  • During the following week to week and a half or so, employers review the resumes and begin to select those students of interest for interviews.
  • Company representatives email or call students notifying them of their acceptance for an interview slot. In many cases students can sign up on-line for a particular time slot.
  • Some universities also provide resume books that your agency may review and select students from as well.

To achieve a competitive advantage prior to the actual on-campus interview process, many companies invite candidates to an informal get-together the night prior to interviews. This is an opportunity to find out more about the candidates in a more private, social setting.

Interviewers should bring a prepared list of behavioral-based interview questions. At the end of each session, interviewers should rate the student on a number of things addressed by the questions. Providing a numerical value to each subject or answer is a great way to systematically and quickly evaluate and assess the overall interview. It will also allow the candidate to quantitatively be compared to the other candidates interviewed.

Interviewers should be selected based on who will relate well to the students and who are most likely to be perceived in a positive light by youthful candidates. Those professionals who are “fun spirited”, connected, and up-to-date on the current youth culture and those who feel comfortable talking to young candidates are the best interviewers. As mentioned previously, much of the college recruiting process is an affair of marketing and selling your agency’s strengths and attributes to win students over. Assuring that interviewers present the best first impression of your agency during the first round of interviews is critical to your agency’s success in the recruiting process.

After first round on-campus interviews have been completed, the promising candidates should be invited to visit your agency for second interviews. It is critical to communicate with students promptly after first interviews to inform them of their status and whether or not they will be invited back for a second interview.

When students visit your agency for a second interview it is advisable to provide them with a strong presentation of the agency and a sense of what it will be like to work within the environment. Students should interview with several diverse people throughout the day.

It is important to keep in mind that different companies are offering a variety of different types of entry-level positions to graduates. Obtain salary information for the particular type of entry level role you are offering in order to decide on a salary offer. It is also important to be competitive on campus; offers to students should at least be in the ballpark of those offered by competing employers. Students should be provided offers in writing immediately after verbal notification that they have been selected for an offer.

As a general rule, the following items should be considered when planning a college-recruitment budget:

Career Fairs Budget

  • A large display board (price varies depending on display size and graphics).
  • Agency engraved knick-knacks (price varies depending on amount ordered and specific items ordered).
  • Informational handout folders (printed with agency logo).

On-Campus Interview Budget

  • Social event with interview candidates the night prior to interviews. Extravagance is not necessary or advised. A simple, causal get together such as a pizza social will be most beneficial. Costs vary depending upon the number of students invited and the food/venue selected. Often times, colleges will allow you space on campus the night before to hold such events, further minimizing the cost.
  • Travel costs for interviewers

In-Office Second Interviews Budget

  • Travel costs of students (if applicable)

Recruiting College Students by Partnering with Student Clubs

Many companies rely on traditional recruitment activities such as career fairs, ads in publications, or listings on Internet job boards to publicize job and internship opportunities. However, your agency will be more successful in college recruitment if time is spent developing relationships with the students. Frequently, students will not interview with a company they do not know much about. So, by establishing long-term communication with student organizations, your agency’s name recognition will increase.

Most colleges and universities have student organizations, some of which are affiliated with professional organizations. Some professional organizations will assist employers financially with internships by publicizing job and internship opportunities for free. Regardless of the nature of their association with professional organizations, many student clubs would like to make connections with potential employers.

The first step in creating a partnership between your agency and your selected school is to contact the student club officers or advisors and offer to be a guest speaker. Student clubs are often listed on college websites; if not, there is usually an office responsible for overseeing student affairs that can provide the information.

Once the club representative has been identified, the next step is to offer to conduct a workshop on basic how-to information such as resume-writing techniques or interviewing strategies. Although students typically have access to a career center for information on these topics, the advice of a company representative frequently has more impact. Another option is to discuss employment in the insurance industry; informing students of the career opportunities and how to prepare for an entry-level job.

To create the best impression, you may want to sponsor refreshments such as pizza and soft drinks. Students also tend to react positively to items with your agency logo in addition to business cards and agency brochures.

Another way to create awareness of your agency is to invite students to tour your facility. Provide an overview of the culture and mission and be sure to offer an exciting but realistic job preview of the work. Consider ways that you can have the tour be interactive so that you can capture and maintain student interest. Add value to the tour by having employees meet with students and share their experiences.

Probably the most popular student-focused option in creating a partnership between your agency and your selected school is to provide internships. Internships can be an excellent opportunity for both the candidate and the agency to learn about one another. Many colleges and universities give credit for student internships and, as mentioned previously, some professional organizations provide various types of support. Depending upon the demographics of your selected school, there may also be non-traditional students (i.e.: women re-entering the workplace, older people returning after many years away from school) who have career-oriented experience that may fit the needs of your agency. The agency gains the chance to try out a student for a pre-determined period of time and, if successful, the internship may lead to a full-time employee at a relatively low cost per hire. The student gains relevant hands-on experience and the opportunity to see if his or her field of interest is an area he or she really wants to pursue.

The most popular internship is often offered during the summer because it allows students the opportunity to work full-time for two or three months. However, many universities offer internship credit throughout the academic year to accommodate the needs of students who are available on a part-time basis. Internships need to be well-organized and give students career-related work to do. If not handled well, students will be unhappy and tell other students about their experience, resulting in a negative image of your agency.

Techniques for creating a partnership between your agency and your selected schools can be focused on the club’s advisor as well as the students. Club advisors are university employees: most commonly they are faculty members. The best way to develop advisor relationships is by helping them meet their own job requirements, whether through research or other types of professional development. Specific ways of supporting advisors include:

  • Funding teaching assistants
  • Sponsoring attendance at a professional or academic meeting
  • Invite the advisor to visit your facility
  • Participate in a “professor for a day” program where an agency representative talks to a college class about the insurance industry.

Lastly, once you have taken the time to make the contact with potential applicants, take advantage of technology by keeping in touch through email. Maintaining contact is different than telling students to “visit the agency website”. Instead, show interest in the student’s professional development. At some colleges, formal email mentor programs exist through the career center. However, if a formal program does not exist at your selected school, acting as an informal mentor is a way to maintain a relationship with students who you think may be future employees. Let them know what is happening at your agency, offer to meet with them during the next campus visit or give career advice if asked. The contact should not be more than every month or so—just enough for the students to remember you and consider applying for your positions when the time comes.