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Give It the Ol' College Try

Taking Lessons from College Recruitment and Applying Them to the Candidate Experience

As any talented high school athlete will tell you, when a college really wants you, they’ll do whatever it takes (within NCAA rules of course…okay, maybe not for some) to ensure that you will attend their school and join their team. It takes roughly 50 pieces of mail, several in-home visits, a team of graphic designers making sweet edits of the recruit’s photos, and a couple of campus visits for a school to MAYBE receive a commitment. That is a lot of work for a very uncontrollable outcome. College recruiters get it done anyways because they realize how important it is to make that recruit feel wanted.

Corporate recruiting can learn a thing or two from colleges in that regard. How far is your hiring team willing to go to make candidates feel wanted? It’s 2020 and Millennials are taking the lead while Generation Z is entering the market in droves. These generations are used to fun, hyper-personalized service done seamlessly (think Amazon and Netflix). The “standard” month-long hiring process that the Boomers and Gen Xers were used to isn’t going to cut it. It’s time for companies to “go back to college” and learn how to get personal and get fast.

Get Personal

There’s no such thing as “one-size-fits-all” anymore. The current market conditions and the talent shortage has placed leverage squarely back into the hands of job seekers. Candidates today are expecting companies to roll out the “red carpet treatment” that they received when they were prospective college students. Much like their college enrollment when they had a plethora of majors to declare into, a catalog of classes to pick from, and a menu of meal plans to stay well-fed from, candidates today have an expectation of choices being available to them.

Reflect on your company’s hiring process and see if there are steps within it where you could provide candidates “choices”, no matter how big or how small. Maybe when confirming a phone or in-person interview, you could give the candidate a choice of their time slot by using a scheduling app such as Calendly. Another idea is to give candidates the choice of their interview location within your office building (the main lobby/common area, the kitchen, or maybe the gymnasium if your company has a unique or quirky spot like that).

Essentially, the more perceived choices a candidate has, the more personalized their experience will feel which will also give them a sense of investment into your hiring process. Keep in mind these four ideas when implementing greater personalization into your hiring process:

  • Identify them [candidates]

  • Respect their preferences

  • Give them immediate access to information

  • Understand their expectation and know how to appease it

Get Fast

As technology advances, society’s expectations and desire for quickness rises. This need for speed permeates multiple areas of life: faster internet (fiber), faster customer service (chatbots), faster food cooking (air fryers and Mod Pizza), and faster job hiring to name a few. “According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, after applying, more than half of employees (55%) will give up and move on if they haven’t heard from an employer within two weeks of applying.“ (SparkHire,

It is imperative that companies reflect on their own hiring timeline and ask themselves: “Is it too long?” “Are there tasks that can be automated or consolidated?” and “Are there better and quicker ways to coordinate the hiring decision makers?”

If after an internal review your company finds that their current process is necessary, then consider personal and honest ways to keep candidates informed about their status. Being upfront with candidates about the timeline (and actually sticking to it) can mitigate impatience and keep their eyes on the prize instead of at other companies and their offers. When a candidate begins to feel antsy about their status within your process, it’s not just their commitment on the line, it’s your companies’ reputation as well. “In fact, the same CareerBuilder respondents (68%) believe their experience as a candidate reflects how the company treats its people.” (SparkHire)


For the best candidate experience your company can provide, it’s time to provide choices, speed, and honesty. Obtain a candidate’s investment into your process by giving them options to make. Find ways to streamline your hiring process so that decisions can be churned out no longer than a week or two. If your process demands more time, then be upfront and honest with candidates about where their status stands to keep them in your fold and not on some other company’s roster. Provide a fun, hyper-personalized process done seamlessly and your company lobby can have the same buzz and frenetic energy as a college campus.

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