AI developers, electrical engineers, computer scientists, biochemists, agricultural biologists, nurses, and lawyers are some of the professionals in short supply on the German labor market. Because this is not expected to change within the next few years, companies should start recruiting in good time. Our partner Mercer | Promerit knows how to successfully manage relationships with students and graduates.
German companies looking for academic partners
As early as 2016, a spokesperson for the University of Cologne, Patrick Honecker, indicated to the FAZ newspaper that the University could hardly keep up with requests from companies. “Interest in cooperation with the University is incredibly high and continues to grow”, said Honecker. “Almost all of the leading German Dax companies are represented here, whilst medium-sized companies are also approaching us increasingly.” Meanwhile, the picture is similar at other universities in Germany: companies everywhere are organizing career events, providing workshops, and even offering bursaries or financing study periods abroad. Their motto: the early bird catches the student.
What is on-campus recruitment?
For many companies, on-campus recruitment is now a strategic measure necessary to secure talent. In 2019, more than a quarter of a million vacancies in STEM professions could not be filled – almost half of them in the IT industry. But there is also a shortage of applicants in other sectors such as in nursing and legal professions. In view of these increasing shortages, it is worthwhile for companies to establish contact with students and graduates at an early stage: for example, through internships, jobs for working students, holiday jobs at trade fairs and events, and also through workshops at universities.
The goal: turning graduates into applicants
“Investment in these contacts is only worthwhile in the long run if it is possible to employ candidates when they graduate, i.e. easily convert them into applicants”, argues Michael Eger, partner at Mercer | Promerit, a consultancy firm for transformation and people management. Without the right strategy and efficient candidate relationship management (CRM), investment in graduate recruitment is, in his view, throwing money out of the window. “You need a system with which you can store full details of education and training – even for years – and track career development. And not only that: during this time, interaction and targeted dissemination of content are crucial for building an active community.
Quality not quantity: define target universities
Eger knows what he is talking about. Mercer | Promerit does not only provide clients with, among other things, successful on-campus recruitment strategies: the company itself recruits 20-30 university graduates each year. The expert advises companies wishing to be active in this area to start by defining target universities. “On-campus recruitment is not about cooperating with as many universities as possible and collecting the maximum amount of contact data, but about building and maintaining strategically important contacts.” What talent will my company need in five years’ time and where are these people studying today? Recruiters need to answer this question first. “The well-known uni where the head of the department studied does not always turn out to be the right one.”
Know how to inspire the target group
At least as important is standing out from the crowd of “rivals”. This cannot be achieved with brochures and jelly babies, nor with the ‘higher, faster, further’ principle. The perfect combination of content and timing is what counts. At what stage of their education is the target group at present and how can they be inspired? “A first-year law student is interested in different topics than an electrical engineer doing an MSc.” Eger sees clear parallels to marketing here: research into preferences based on an exact target group definition is enormously important. This requires a CRM platform with which talent pool contacts can be categorized and filtered as precisely as possible – for example, according to course content, level of education, internships completed, previous touchpoints, career plans, etc. “The more detailed the target group can be selected, the more accurately it can be addressed with an appropriate strategy. This means that, with a creative approach, even small and medium-sized companies have the opportunity of being positively perceived by talent leads.
From newsletters to customer events
The measures themselves can be very different. In addition to the usual ones – such as newsletters and Christmas cards as well as specific support during studies (for example, undergraduate internships or terms spent abroad) – community activities are also very popular with students. “We often invite them to informal get-togethers, where students can get a glimpse of the real working world and exchange ideas with people of professional interest to them”, says Eger. Invitations to internal company events are also high on the list. “Students think it’s great to get a look behind the scenes at high-profile customer events. ”
For Audi, Mercer | Promerit once had the idea of sending old components for the Audi Quattro to student engineers, cast in Plexiglas. “For anyone else, it would have been scrap metal, but for the target group they were fascinating components from the 1985 Rally
Audi from Walter Röhrl. Understanding the target group is one thing but having creative ideas is another” Michael Eger recalls.
CRM platform: use date sensibly instead of just collecting it
However, the effort is only effective when the student courted finally becomes an applicant. For this, you need to know when the student will actually decide on a choice of career or when the first probationary period will end. Experience shows that many newcomers then change their minds. “There is no point in accumulating a huge amount of data without using it sensibly. That’s why we work with the Talent Relationship Platform from Talentry. Via the talent pool, we keep and maintain contact with candidates, even over a period of years, in order to be able to make them an interesting offer when the time is right, based on the touchpoints we have established over time.
Reduce cost-per-hire with the right strategy
But strategic on-campus recruitment pays off in another way in the end, Michael Eger knows. “If I keep in touch with a talent lead for years and have already employed them during an internship or as a working student, it can reduce my cost-per-hire.” Ideally, the candidate is already very familiar with the company, fits in with the culture, has established a network, and has a good reputation. This saves the company expensive job advertisements and lengthy onboarding.