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Why it’s time to rethink the “core schools” strategy

Updating your schools strategy to meet students where they are can be a paradigm shift. Learn why it’s a win-win-win for students, schools, and employers.

Did you know 71% of the Class of 2023 are willing to move to a different city for the right job or opportunity? Students are applying to more diverse locations in 2023 compared to previous years for both full-time and internship roles.

If this data makes you wonder if your school strategy is right, consider the following framework for how to arrive at the best mix of schools and tactics for your time and budget:

  • A school agnostic approach means you recruit from an unlimited number of schools with a virtual-only strategy.
  • A tiered schools approach means you recruit from many schools with a virtual-first strategy, and some in person activity.
  • Core/target schools are a small handful of schools that you approach with an in person and hybrid strategy.

Since you can have a mix of each of these approaches, let’s dig more into school strategy and what works best for your company.

What is a school agnostic strategy?

A school agnostic strategy means that you are open to recruiting students from any and every school. This includes 4-year institutions, 2-year programs and community colleges, bootcamp and certificate providers, and other educational institutions.

Reasons to use a school agnostic strategy

  • By starting with a larger pool and narrowing down with Segments that fit your criteria, you can increase your chances of finding high quality candidates.
  • Since many students go to school out of state then return home to work, you’re not narrowing your funnel based on school location.
  • By discovering students and alumni from schools that were not previously on your radar, you’ll diversify your early talent pool.
  • Regardless of your team’s size, you can scale your imprint and brand through more virtual recruiting.

Mini-case study: Goldman Sachs

“[We hire from] wherever we feel we find top talent that matches our definition of top. And we want to make sure we’re creating a workflow and system that allows for that. Thats a full true approach of long term junior talent development: everyone feels like they have a fair chance. People won’t apply to your company if they think you're only going to hire from a certain type of person or background. It’s not just school agnostic, it’s major agnostic, and it’s skill-development based.”

Omer Tanvir, Global Head of Campus Recruiting, Goldman Sachs

What is a tiered school strategy?

A tiered school strategy means you recruit from a variety of schools with the intention of some in person, some virtual, and some hybrid activities. You balance certain priorities, like alumni, where you’ve had success in the past, and geographic locations. But since virtual recruiting has broken down barriers, you also open the door to students at schools you’ve overlooked in the past.

Reasons to use a tiered school strategy

  • You can get strategic with your budget (and your time) by putting more resources toward where you want to have an in-person presence, and pursue virtual-first relationship building with other schools.
  • With a more customized approach, you can tailor your ability to meet a variety of business needs.
  • Gain the ability to test an approach with a small pilot before scaling.

Handshake automates your ability to expand your reach with School Explorer in Handshake’s Talent Engagement Suite. Within each job posting, you can see recommendations of additional schools where you should be posting based on talent population.

Mini case study: Ford

“When we think about the recruiting we’ve done historically, it’s been geography-based, mostly in the Michigan area pre-pandemic. We had a lot of relationships with the schools in the midwest. But as we opened the Atlanta office, our partnership with Handshake was crucial in driving those [event] campaigns in a geography-centered way and build relationships we didn’t have before with universities local to Atlanta. Although so much is virtual now, having those geography campaigns still is important. The outreach we’re doing has been key for us.”

Carly Williams, University Recruiting Leader, Ford

What is a core/target school strategy?

Recruiting from a small subset of schools has been a common hiring practice for organizations needing an efficient and seemingly effective way to sort through an overwhelming talent pool. But, this approach won’t help you build the strongest, most diverse candidate pipeline for their internships and entry level roles. If you’re recruiting early talent from less than 20 schools total, you’re using a core or target school strategy.

Reasons not to use a core/target school strategy only

You’re overlooking top candidates

Since talent is equally distributed across the country, the institution a candidate attends doesn’t come close to telling their full story. The schools that top the core schools list vary but are often based on factors such as convenience, perceived prestige, or even the alma maters of a company’s executive leadership team.

Instead, source students using criteria that are appropriate for sourcing entry level talent, such knowledge, skills, past experience, interests, course work, and roles in student organizations.

You’re not diversifying your pipeline

Perhaps you’ve already taken steps to remove bias from parts of your hiring process—such as ensuring that you have a diverse hiring panel, standardizing interviews, or even removing candidates’ names from their applications. But with the higher cost of tuition and legacy preferences, elite institutions are still set up to favor affluent students. A core schools strategy excludes a large portion of potentially impressive and qualified candidates, and threatens your ability to build a truly diverse team.

Only about a quarter of all Black graduates with bachelor’s degrees in STEM attend an HBCU. You’ll find 73% of these students at other four-year universities, community colleges, bootcamps, and trade schools—places where you might not be actively recruiting.

You’re not using data to inform your strategy

Have you looked at the data to determine if your core schools are the best match for your current hiring needs—or do you simply keep returning because it’s convenient, comfortable, and well, you’ve always recruited there? The shift to virtual recruiting has enabled top companies to prioritize which schools to invest in based on what the data says—regardless of where they’re located.

Mini-case study: Workday

“We were no longer tied to this core school, in person strategy. By using Handshake, we were able to completely open up our funnel and source talent from other areas within the US, different backgrounds, [etc.] And that also allowed us to create new and different content, and almost reimagine what an information session could be in this new university recruiting model. Those are some of the benefits of [what the pandemic forced].”

Mindy Nennig, Early Career Talent Acquisition Manager, Workday

Next steps for rethinking your school strategy

Your hiring needs are constantly evolving, which means your school strategy should also be constantly re-evaluated and tweaked to fit your needs. Sure, a core/target school approach might seem like an efficient use of your resources. But in reality, updating your school strategy to meet students where they are can be a paradigm shift for your brand awareness, your diversity hiring metrics, and your hybrid strategy.

With the ability to meet the most qualified students from any school on platforms like Handshake, consider what you’re missing by recruiting from a minimum number of schools.

Learn how Handshake data can help you determine which schools will help you meet your early talent hiring goals. Contact us.

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