University Recruiting and Relations 101

After more than three decades of wandering through the wilderness of American universities with little direction and even less insight, campus recruiting professionals now have access to a field guide of sorts.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013
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Thanks to the Bethlehem, Pa.-based National Association of Colleges and Employers, companies and organizations now have a clear framework and expert advice when establishing or strengthening their university relations and recruiting programs. 

Unveiled for the first time at NACE's annual conference in June, the Professional Standards for University Relations and Recruiting were designed through the NACE Foundation in a collaborative effort by NACE employer members to help smooth the way for university recruiting professionals. According to NACE Executive Director Marilyn Mackes, "organizations that are engaged or want to engage in university recruiting will now have clear direction for achieving results."

The standards are available to view here.

In July 2012, approximately 40 recruitment experts from companies large and small began working on the new set of standards with the mission of helping HR recruiters be more in their university relations and recruiting practices.

"This was a long time in coming," says Dan Black, director of Americas recruiting at New York-based Ernst & Young and president of NACE'S board of directors. Black worked on the standards and says it has been nearly 40 years since recruiters had any kind of formal guidance in place.

"Creating the standards was a much-needed starting point, and there was a big mountain to climb, because we basically had nothing," he says.

Black credits the group's success to bringing outside consultant Jeff Goodman in to lead the project. "As an extension of NACE, he enlisted the help of dozens of practitioners, each to work on a specific high level of expertise," says Black. "To be able to offer up to our membership and beyond this amalgam of great leadership by people who are known and respected; that makes it a uniquely useful product."

Currently the principal of Campus Strategic Partners, in Dallas, Goodman calls the process of creating the standards a really "daunting task," noting that the original standards had been written in 1976. "They had been typed on a typewriter," he says, "but what's struck me is that everything written back then still rings true today. Yes, there is so much more detail that needed to be conducted, and that was what I set out to do."

Goodman says that relationship issues, for example, are still as important now as they were in the 1970s.

"So much of what was based on employers succeeding on campuses was [based on] knowing the right people to go to; building good relationships with staff," he says. "But all of the old standards did ring true, so I took the original standards, took a list of topics, took an assessment tool that had been built years prior, and I married them together and laid them out like a flow chart of college recruiting, from A to Z."

Such a method, he says, helped him to build teams around four main areas: program infrastructure, program assessment, sourcing and selection. Four teams of NACE employer members then provided their expert input around those areas to develop the first draft of the standards.

Goodman sent out questionnaires to all NACE employer members and gathered as much information as possible. "I found out what was important to certain employers, how they built things and how they operated," he says, noting that his goal was to make the standards work for all companies, public and private, regardless of size and location.

"We designed and created the standards to be applicable to a wide array of organizations," says Black. "Big or small, there's something in these standards that is consistent across the board. The best use of these standards will be in understanding them and figuring out where your organization lies along the continuum. They were designed to provide a baseline and suggest best practices."

Goodman says the standards should be looked at as a template. "Anyone from any organization can take it and customize it," he says, noting that there are options embedded in the standards. "The way we put them together was two-ended: first we have minimally effective standards, which are the things everyone must do in order to be effective. There's no one way of doing things, so there are a lot of things written into the standards that are good examples, but they won't apply to everyone."

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The standards are supported with quantifiable metrics and qualitative measures so recruiting professionals can gauge whether a standard has been met and to what degree, says Black.

Goodman says he is proud of the standards, but he acknowledges that they're still a work in progress.

"My perspective on this is that the set of standards are really a good baseline, but I absolutely believe they must continuously be improved and added to," he says. "It's a good start, but like a good website, it's never done."

"These standards will be updated on a regular basis," says Mimi Collins, NACE's director of communications. "We will review them every two to three years to make sure that they are covering the areas that are most relevant and that they contain current information and can provide a clear direction.

"It's a living, breathing document," she says, "that will change as the recruiting arena changes, and nothing is set in stone."

Gerry Crispin, co-founder of CareerXroads, a staffing consultancy based in Kendall Park, N.J., calls the new standards "a great contribution to the recruiting body of knowledge." Impressed with the number of practitioners who contributed to this work, Crispin says those individuals are to be commended for openly sharing their company's initiatives for the greater good.

"Companies that aspire to improving their UR programs and compete for world-class talent would be best advised to study this document, compare the practices described with their own and begin building an evidence-based investment plan to align with their firm's business goals," says Cripsin, adding that the document is an excellent starting point for peer-to-peer discussions at every level.

"It should be apparent to any firm considering a UR program that a comprehensive set of current practices distilled from experienced and successful firms offers a benchmark that would otherwise be very costly to develop on their own," he says.

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