Common knowledge in the entrepreneurial realm is that a single founder can only take a business so far. Nevertheless, professional service providers frequently choose this path when hanging out their shingle after leaving the stability afforded by their 9-5. This happens to be the route I find myself on, and I am quickly learning the extent of my own limitations. And while the optimist in me whispers reassuring euphemisms that feeling stretched too thin are mere “growing pains”, it is evident that the time to ramp up my team is now.
So I find myself at the crossroad of trying to identify the most appropriate avenue for finding qualified people to join my team. From licensed professionals and paraprofessionals with prior experience in the CPA industry to degreed accountants fresh out of school, the options within our current labor market can feel overwhelming. After careful consideration of the qualification requirements for my firm’s job opening, I have concluded that adding professional staff (loosely defined as degreed or licensed accountants) will be essential for long term growth. As such, I embarked on the long journey to recruit college graduates of local universities. My travel and experiences have taught me three important lessons for recruiting individuals from campus, as identified below.
- Identify Points of Contact & Establish Relationships.
- Director of Career Services. This should be the initial point of contact, as these individuals oversee the educational institution’s initiative of placing students with employers in the community. In general, directors of career services will be motivated to assist an employer in recruiting and hiring students (as it is part of their job function and it is in the institution’s best interest for students to find employment upon graduation). Furthermore, these individuals will generally be a wonderful resource for addressing inquiries regarding campus events, academic curriculums, and student body associations.
- Accounting Faculty/Professors. Connecting with faculty members can further employers opportunities to interact with students enrolled in the curriculum most closely related to the position(s) to be filled. For example, professors are often in charge (or serve as leaders) of student body associations and/or clubs, and these organizations frequently welcome local business owners as guest speakers/presenters.
- Department Heads. I use the term “department head” to describe the administrator/faculty member in charge of a specific college (within large universities) or a specific curriculum (within smaller colleges) within the educational institution. These individuals can serve as an invaluable resource to recruiters. Many of them are charged with the responsibility of maintaining a big-picture outlook on graduates placement within the workforce (similar to a Director of Career Services) while simultaneously being required to provide guidance on the specifics of their curriculums (similar to individual faculty members/professors). Based on this unique perspective, these contacts can offer campus recruiters significant insight into the dynamics within their departments.
- Network with Current Students via Campus Events. After establishing contact with university administration and faculty, the next step in campus recruiting is to find ways to network with members of the student body, connect with candidates taking a curriculum applicable to the positions to be filled, and cultivate relationships with these individuals. As mentioned in the previous section, administrative personnel and faculty members should be willing and able to provide guidance on campus events, including:
- Career Fairs,
- Accounting Club Meetings, and
- Class Presentations.
- Maintain Long-Term Contact with Connections. Making initial contact with recruits during campus events is only the beginning of the recruiting process. Next, employers should develop and strengthen relationships with students identified as candidates for employment. The relationship building process will aid in assessing recruit’s goals and personality, which can be beneficial for both parties in determining cultural fit. Below is a short list of follow-up activities that can be implemented to maintain contact with connections made on campus.
- Schedule Follow-Up Interviews &/or Office Visits,
- Initiate Periodic Check-Ins Over Time (i.e., birthdays, graduation, etc.), and
- Utilize Social Media to Assist in Maintaining Contact