The Off-Season: 3 Ideas for Making the Most of Downtime in Campus Recruiting

Campus recruiting is seasonal work.

Over the course of an academic year, corporate recruiters who focus on student hiring can have vastly different workloads depending on the time of year.

We spend a lot of time at RelishCareers talking to these recruiters, and while specific timelines for each depend on the degrees they target, their industry, and school policy, this seasonality is one consistent aspect of every firm’s campus recruiting experience.

Another constant is that peak activity levels tend to revolve around expensive in-person sourcing and engagement. In the MBA hiring market, where RelishCareers got its start, that means a flurry of campus visits and career conferences in the fall make it the busiest time of year for many recruiting teams.

Nonetheless, like other high-value hiring markets where relationship-building is critical, the recruiting timeline for MBA employers is prolonged and recruiters stay relatively busy for most of the year.

However, in the handful of weeks or months between final offers being sent and the resumption of recruiting activity in the summer and fall, there is a quiet period – a brief respite that you might call the campus recruiting “off-season.” With almost all of the current year’s candidates finished with the job search and next year’s candidates having not yet begun to look, recruiting teams have a chance to catch their collective breath and prepare for another year of sourcing, networking, interviews, and more.

While many employers use this time to undertake their planning and budgeting processes, we wanted to propose some alternative ideas inspired by the famous Benjamin Franklin quote: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The off-season, brief as it might be, is a great time to set your team up for success in the year ahead.

Here are three ideas on how to do that:

1. Stay in touch with promising prospects.

Although you might have already determined who will be joining your firm in full-time and internship roles this coming summer, there are doubtless a number of other attractive candidates who didn’t quite make the cut, or opted for another employer. But you also know that you will be re-engaging with candidates after the summer is over – to fill new positions or replace interns who didn’t convert to a full-time offer.

However, that re-engagement is less effective when candidates haven’t heard from you for a long time, and competitors will often be looking to convert the same targets to fill their roles.

The off-season is a great time to give yourself an advantage in this war for talent.

With candidates’ digital contact info already available through various internal tracking tools – whether it’s the RelishCareers dashboard, your internal ATS, or a simple spreadsheet – touching base with candidates is as easy as dashing off a quick email.

A message as simple as “great to meet you earlier this year, would love to stay in touch,” can make a world of difference when you begin to re-engage candidates in a few months’ time.

Personalizing those emails – whether manually or with a mail-merge functionality – is an even better approach. Just don’t let those relationships fall by the wayside as you turn to focus on matters closer at hand.

2. Gather alumni testimonials.

Alumni Testimonials quote by Zach Mayo

We spend a lot of time at Relish talking to master’s degree job candidates, and one thing we hear over and over again is just how valuable it is to hear from alumni at their target firms.

Testimonials from former students carry a lot of weight in a highly competitive job market, and having this sort of content readily available can make an enormous difference in capturing leads digitally and engaging the audience at in-person employer presentations.

The off-season is a great time to reach out to a select few alums and ask them to write about their experience moving from graduate school back into professional life at your firm. If you have a little extra time, some really engaged alumni, and a decent camera, videos are even better – visitors to your website are more likely to view videos than read long blocks of text, and pages with embedded video retain more visitors than those without.

3. Focus group your degree-specific messaging and content.

While you have the attention of those alumni, you can try to kill two birds with one stone by getting their feedback on your employer branding. Candidates within a specific field of study – like MBAs and many other Master’s degree students – tend to have a shared vocabulary and a common set of interests, and alumni (along with interns and other members of your team) can help you speak to these audiences in the most effective way.

While you may not have the time or pay grade to make any serious changes to your employer branding, little tweaks in messaging like those your alums might suggest are more achievable, and can often make much bigger difference than you might expect.

Just be sure to solicit this feedback in a frank and open way, or allow anonymous submissions – you won’t get much feedback of value from employees worried about unforeseen ramifications.

Like all of the tasks here, keep it honest and simple and it’s hard to go wrong.

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