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Small team, big wins: Q&A with Lamb Weston on campus recruiting efficiencies

Find out how Lamb Weston has made its brand more recognizable to students with a lean team of three university recruiters—and scored a Handshake Early Talent Award.

Lamb Weston, a global potato product supplier, has made its brand more recognizable to students on Handshake despite its lean team of three university recruiters—with 20,000+ applications in 2023 and a 22% job view to application rate.

So, how does Lamb Weston achieve campus recruiting efficiencies with its small but mighty team—and earn a 2024 Handshake Early Talent Award alongside brands with household names?

Check out this Q&A with Nate Pedronan, Talent Acquisition Project Manager at Lamb Weston, for key takeaways on:
  • Developing a consistent messaging and outreach strategy that makes a lesser known brand memorable to students
  • Leveraging hybrid tactics by blending digital engagement with on-site presence
  • Using Handshake data to test messaging tactics and expand school partnerships to build a stronger pipeline
  • Providing a comprehensive internship program that includes mentorship, projects that are meaningful to the business, and day-in-the-life exposure

Q&A: Small team, big wins with Lamb Weston

Can you share how your small team achieves impressive engagement levels, particularly through messaging with students?

It always starts with the team, right? We have a small team of three that hires for 30-50 interns every year. Having a strategy and message with that team is first and foremost. It's our mission as a group to inspire passion for early career development. And I think that carries on through all of our messaging, how we interact with students when we're on campus. If you don't have a team that's saying the same thing…it becomes very confusing in terms of the candidate experience.

Tell us about how you evolved your campus recruiting strategy to include digital engagement.

We learned a lot from COVID. Campus was shut down, we couldn't do anything on-site. So we moved our strategy to fully virtual [and asked ourselves]: Are there virtual internships that we can do? And if there are virtual internships, how do we reach those students? I'm happy there's a return to campus, but we were still able to take our lessons learned from moving to digital. And now we have this cool hybrid approach.

How do you attract students to jobs in the manufacturing industry?

You may not have heard of our company before, but I guarantee you, if you have ever eaten a French fry in your life, you probably have eaten one of our products.

It's funny because you know, we go on campus and our booth always gets like this weird side eye if they've never seen us before…like, “tell me why I care about potatoes!” But everybody likes French fries, so it's hard to not have fun with it. They'll remember that crazy potato company that invited you to a virtual info session and had really animated people excited about french fries.

“We focus on the candidate journey from the time that they see us digitally or get that message and make sure we continue that all the way through. You're not just joining a manufacturing company, you're joining Lamb Weston.”

—Nate Pedronan, Talent Acquisition Project Manager at Lamb Weston

Your job locations are primarily outside of major metro areas. How do you build a pipeline of students interested in working where your plants are?

Our plants are located primarily in the Pacific Northwest and in some rural locations where it might be hard to find talent. Historically there was a list of schools that business leaders would tell us to go to because they're in our backyard. But we're pigeonholing ourselves by just looking at these schools. We were able to leverage Handshake to open up our radius to where we can’t make it on site.

For example, students that might be from our local area but are going to school somewhere else—we were missing that candidate pool. What about students that might be coming from military backgrounds that genuinely are open to relocating? We’ve used messages to find interested students from a variety of different locations, not in our backyard. We started to incorporate that into our on-site strategy and say, "hey, Handshake data is telling us candidates from [a certain school] want to apply." And it's been hugely successful. We've been able to hire interns from different schools we never had before.

What messaging tactics have you learned work well to engage students?

Before we go on-site, we're sending out messages to announce that we'll be there on site. We're hosting virtual info sessions to highlight, not just "hey, we have jobs" but "hey, if you're an engineer, join this info session where we’ll have an engineer talk about engineering…and by the way, we are hiring for internships, come meet us at the booth and learn more."

We’ve learned from Handshake that we have a fairly strong open rate in the market. We do a lot of subject line testing, maybe throw a French fry emoji. 🍟 We test, test, test, then learn from mistakes and talk about it as a group.

Messaging that might work for the main company website doesn’t necessarily resonate with somebody looking for a job, or an early career candidate looking for their first experience.

How do you make career fairs more memorable for students?

You have five minutes, students are half listening to you, they just want to give you their resume and then move on to the next booth to get swag, right? You need to maximize the time. With a brand like ours, we're not a household name, so we need to work pretty hard at making that type of digital and in person experience memorable.

Even through our swag, our messaging is consistent. When we go on campus we bring this squishy French Fry box with QR codes that go to our career site. Blending digital with on site was pretty critical for us and figuring out what that healthy medium is.

Can you share what makes your internship program so special for students?

Developing strategies aligning with the business has been pretty critical for us. Our internship program is about 12 weeks. We always get a mentor who is responsible for creating the Capstone project that each intern is responsible for. [Mentors are] who are going to convert our interns into full time hires. We provide other opportunities like “learning from leaders” presentations because if we’re going to hire an intern, we want them to understand not just their job or their project, but how does their project fit into the bigger picture.

And you've got to have fun activities for everyone too. The intern program includes tours of what we call our Willy Wonka French Fry Tour factory—interns get to taste test, see how fries are made, where our food scientists sit. We actually fly interns out to our farms to see where potatoes are grown, and provide them housing relocation assistance.

Scale your small team and win big

Lamb Weston uses hybrid engagement strategies to tell a consistent brand message throughout the candidate experience, proving that even lesser known brands with small teams can win big with early talent.

Get the guide: Your game plan for winning early talent

Discover the methodology used to determine the annual Handshake Early Talent Award winners, and explore how your lean team can use Handshake to scale your campus recruiting.

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Editor’s note: This interview has been condensed for length and clarity.

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