Engage college talent proactively: 4 Steps to a winning message

95% of students engage with employers that send personalized, proactive outreach.

When I was a student at the University of Michigan, I would have given all the dining dollars on my student card to get an email from an employer. Like many of the 11 million college students in the US, I was doing my best to translate 21 years of hard work into a meaningful career by going to career fair after career fair, researching companies online, and doing dozens of informational interviews. I was lucky enough to have all these resources and still felt like I was failing. Any indication that a company might want me would have been monumental, even if it were a branded piano falling from the sky.

My experience is still the norm today: most students in 2018 find recruiting to be a one-way street. While 77% of students would prefer to join companies that proactively reach out to them, only 20% of students have ever received a message from an employer. The good news is, employers are starting to embrace proactive recruiting: recruiter messaging to students on Handshake has grown by 5.5X in the Spring 2018 recruiting season, compared to a year earlier.

“Within a day of filling out my profile, I had two employers reach out to me. One of them was Kiewit, which I always wanted to work for. Oh my gosh it was crazy — I was like this Handshake thing is amazing.”

University of Portland student

Recruiting the best talent for your organization in today’s ecosystem requires this new, proactive approach. Handshake is helping employers build outbound messaging into their core college recruiting strategy by connecting them with hundreds of schools and millions of students.

Here are four steps all recruiters should follow when messaging college students:

1. Put your best foot forward.

Your subject line matters. It will appear as the subject in the students email, their Handshake inbox, and the push notification they see on their phone!

Be sure to mention your company in the subject line — that’s the basis of our default subject line, which works surprisingly well! Handshake always offers a default subject line of “Mallory at ABC Company has sent you a message on Handshake.”

That being said, we encourage all employers to use outbound messages to tell their brand story and let their voice shine. When customizing a subject line, we see slightly higher read rates if you include your company name, or the word apply! Finally, the messages with the highest read rate have subject lines somewhere between 80 and 110 characters.

2. Make me feel special

Start your message with a personal note. Getting emails from employers is new for many students. It’s important to explain why they are getting a message from you when maybe their chem lab partner is not. Phrases like “I saw you’re a Communications major,” or “We’re looking for people with GIS/leadership/writing skills like you,” help add a personal touch and drive up your read rate.

Similarly, make sure you sign off using your real name (the one your parents gave you), instead of a generic recruiting email address. Students want to hear from Sally the recruiter, not ABC Company Recruiting.

3. Tell me what to do

Make your Call To Action crystal clear. As with any email, make it super clear what you’re asking them to do. Bold it, underline it, put it in color, but most importantly, hyperlink it. And keep the asks simple, like: Apply to this job. RSVP to this event. Stop by our Career Fair Booth.

If you have an application deadline or an event date, make sure to include it to drive urgency.

Finally, if you’re asking the student to apply to a job at your company, make sure you post that job on Handshake and direct them there. That way, you can track how many applicants you sourced from particular campaigns to test and improve future versions. Also, if the job is in Handshake, students can favorite it for reference!

4. Bring your brand to life

Have an awesome Handshake Branding Page? Or a sweet marketing video you show all candidates? Finish the message off by giving the student a little bit more information about what it’s like to work at your Company. Not only does it help you tell your full brand story but it also helps guide students to do their homework before submitting an application.

Want to learn more about proactive messaging at scale? Looking for tips and tricks to make your brand, jobs, and messaging stand out?

Drop us a line!