Keeping Talent: Rethinking the Recruiting Machine

One of the maxims of marketing is that it is always easier to retain a customer than it is to attract one.   For Michigan, the question of how we keep our talented graduates in the state is a crucial nut to crack in our transformation.

Yes, having great places for young people to live matters.   Yes, having a vibrant economy with opportunities matter.   But, regardless of the progress on those fronts, we have to do a better job of matching our talent with opportunities in local companies.

The Kauffman Foundation reports that most new net job creation is in new and young firms (which are typically smaller in size).  However, our recruiting machines at universities cater towards large and established firms.  The reality is it can be hard for smaller and newer firms to access talent from our universities.

Here are 3 key reasons:

  • Timing – the recruitment season takes place in the fall almost a full year ahead of a typical start date.   New and smaller companies are not able to make hiring decisions a full year in advance, a large company can.
  • Investment –  to compete for student’s attention, companies will visit campus multiple times, send teams of employees to talk to students, and even sponsor events.  Larger companies can afford to do that, newer and smaller ones can’t
  • Priority – career staff at universities have limited resources too and it is much easier to work with fewer large companies who have dedicated staff for campus recruiting and who hire many students than it is to herd up a bunch of newer and smaller companies with maybe 1-2 openings.

The result is that most of what a student sees on campus are opportunities in large, often multinational, companies who primarily have operations outside of Michigan.  So, naturally students end up in with jobs out-of-state.

However, recent efforts give reason for hope.  The first is Intern In Michigan, a website dedicated to making it easier for Michigan companies to connect with Michigan students through internships that can lead to full-time employment.   The second is the MPowered Career Fair, a student-organized career fair at the University of Michigan specifically aimed at new and smaller growth companies.  Last year, it had 80 companies and over 1500 students attend.   And, best of all, it was a grass-roots efforts by students who want these types of opportunities.

If we want to better match talent with grow, we have to recreate the university recruiting machine with new and smaller companies in mind.

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