HR Technology Column

New Target: College Recruiting

The next generation of software is emerging for college recruiting. This domain has already had one major acquisition and many start-ups are now laser-focused on connecting college grads with corporate jobs. Yes, even though, as you've heard, there aren't enough!

Monday, July 21, 2014
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With all the software innovation aimed at corporate recruiting for the last 26 years, college recruiting is now definitely getting its share of attention.

One reason for the disparity can be summed up in the old joke: "Why did Willy Sutton rob banks?"

Would you be surprised to learn that, for years, many college-recruiting packages have been aimed exclusively at managing the recruiting of college athletes (or of outstanding high-school jocks seeking college scholarships and tutors)? Repeat the joke above.

College recruiting has always had three parties in the process: the on-campus career office, the students and the hiring companies. The career office functions as a middleman in a similar way as third-party agencies, contingent and retained executive recruiters in the corporate world -- but without the fees!

The Big Kahuna among the three-piece college puzzle has long been the NACElink Network, an alliance of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), Symplicity Corp. (a software firm), and the DirectEmployers Association (with 700-plus members).

NACElink claims 700 participating college career centers, more than 3 million active employer contacts (that's people, not companies), and more than 7.2 million active students and alumni.

You've read about (or experienced as a parent) the current job shortage for graduating seniors, and how some are taking positions formerly filled by high-school grads. But plenty of companies still want to grab them before they've taken their mortarboards off (or even before they've put them on).

Competitors naturally want to knock NACElink off the mountaintop, and the next generation of software is already out there. Even Workday is working on a solution -- long-term.

The competitive target is being called Generation Z -- people born between 1990 and 1999 - and, obviously, the oldest have already graduated from high school and college and are in the workforce or trying to get in.

The 15-to-24-year-old members of Gen Z represent nearly 7 percent of the North American workforce of close to 156 million or about 11 million. Projections are that number will reach 20 million by 2015, 25 million by 2017 and 30 million by 2019.

Guess what? Their answer isn't LinkedIn, whose own statistics show low penetration in that age group for some obvious reasons. LinkedIn's profile is designed for corporate professionals with substantial job experience. Education is relegated to a single category.

LinkedIn is also weak among hourly employees, who are drawn to the estimated 100,000 hourly openings posted each year on Craig's List.

One indication of the industry turmoil is that one pioneering start-up, MyEdu, was acquired in January by the broadly based learning company Blackboard, which has products for K-12, college, corporate and government.

MyEdu has a very broad functional focus, starting at the first year of college. It provides free tools and academic data to help students manage their course schedule, degree requirements and grades -- all designed to get them graduated on time and on budget.

It features a robust, graphical student profile that users can create over their four years, which goes into a database for hiring companies to search for interns and full-time employees.

Among many new software entrants, Collegefeed is maybe the most narrowly and vigorously focused on connecting students and companies for jobs, and has been live for eight months.

"We're not a job board and not a resume database," says Sanjeev Agrawal, co-founder of the Silicon Valley start-up. "This is an industry waiting to be disrupted. We are a matching platform."

At MyEdu, after students post their profiles, they have to wait to be discovered in a company's search. Collegefeed, using a combination of machine learning and human judgment, actively matches student profiles -- naturally including projects, samples of course work and internships -- to company requirements and pushes them out to the hiring organizations.

The process starts with a rules-based engine putting each student profile into one of 40 categories (for historians, much as Resumix did years ago). Those categories -- based on academic majors and other accomplishments -- are mapped to corporate jobs.

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"More often, graduating students are hired for their potential," Agrawal says. "So while some businesses do have job reqs, we don't often match against them. It's more often like a career fair without specific positions in mind."

Matching is the company's difficult but competitive discriminator. Just how well Collegefeed makes its matches obviously cannot be determined by a demo. Search-and-match demos are always brilliant and perfect. But the real value will only be determined over time.

For companies, Collegefeed clients can create branding pages for students who are often ignorant of what companies are out there. They can also run digital career fairs, and do their own searches using full Boolean operators on Collegefeed's "Resume Book" of all the students signed up. No conceptual search is yet offered.

After eight months live in its present form, Collegefeed has 15 companies paying for its service, with another 1,000 playing with it. As a new network, it has attracted 30,000 students from 400+ colleges and career offices signed at eight colleges -- including marquee names such as Stanford, Carnegie Mellon and USC -- with discussions at nearly 50 others.

Collegefeed has smartly not eliminated humans from its process, and if it keeps them there, the combination of machine and human intelligence could grow into the first RPO for college recruiting.

Meanwhile, in two years, Workday hopes to have some of the same functionality in its not-yet-debuted Student Information System (personally headed by Chairman Dave Duffield), a system linked to all its college and corporate HCM and recruiting customers.

HR Technology Columnist Bill Kutik is co-chair emeritus of the 17th Annual HR Technology ® Conference & Exposition, returning to Las Vegas, Oct. 7-10, 2014.  Many discounts expire in two weeks or less on August 4. You can comment on this column at the Conference LinkedIn Group, which doesn't require prior or future conference attendance to join. He is also host of The Bill Kutik Radio Show ®. He can be reached at


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