Attracting students is one thing, but holding their attention is another. The last thing you want is to garner interest from some of the most talented young people, only to have them end up working for a competitor simply because that business was better able to engage them.
Engagement is a hugely important aspect of any marketing strategy, and essentially what you are doing is marketing your business as a great place to work. So how do you take the interest that students are showing in your company and convert it into full involvement?
What’s in it for me?
You have probably come across this phrase (or its acronym WIIFM) if you’ve had anything to do with marketing. Essentially, this refers to the idea that if you want to engage somebody with your brand, you have to make it worth their while by giving them something in return.
This could be an informative piece of content or a physical reward; either way, the target is going to become more engaged with the brand as long as they are being offered something they want. Eventually, that thing becomes the product or service they are selling.
For the latest generation of students, this factor is crucially important. Generation Z – those born after 1995 – have been found to have an average attention span of just eight seconds.
If you don’t engage them by then, you’ll have lost them. Providing them with an immediate benefit will help to capture their attention for longer.
In this case, you have an advantage: your entire product (a career) is something that students already want. The challenge is to show the most talented undergraduates that it’s the right career for them. In order to stand out from your competitors, you will need to offer something more than the possibility of a job in the future.
One of the best ways to do this is to offer them opportunities to gain experience or skills. This approach has several advantages. It shows you are an authority in your industry, highlights your company as a great place to work, and also gives students the impression that you care about their professional development. This makes this approach an excellent one for engaging potential future employees.
One thing you can offer the career-minded student is a chance to hone their skills and gain some experience at your company for a day. This is an easier option to set up than a more extensive work-experience course, and you can offer it to a fairly large number of people without having to worry too much about integrating them into your workload.
At RMP, we refer to days like this as Insight Days. Another benefit of these is that they can be reviewed on RateMyPlacement, so more students can be made aware of them. If you run particularly well-received days that are positively reviewed, you can easily end up attracting a much wider talent pool.
There are multiple aims of a day like this. First of all, you want to make sure your students get something out of it besides the experience. If there’s a particular process or piece of software that forms the mainstay of your work, then why not teach it to them? That way they will leave with the beginnings of a tangible skill.
You could also offer them a few free gifts, making the day more pleasant and showing them that you care. Providing them with lunch, for example, is always a good option, or making sure they leave with a notebook and pen or some other useful gift.
You also want to make sure they see your company as a positive place to work. You don’t have to have your employees go out of the way to try to be fun – you want to come across as professional, after all – but equally, make sure everyone involved has the time to give the students as much attention as they need. If they feel like the insight day is getting in the way of their work, they might make the experience negative.
Another great way of getting students engaged with your brand is to host events they can learn from. Lectures and seminars might not seem like they would be the best way to attract young people, but remember that these undergraduates are career-minded, and you’re trying to captivate the most capable of the bunch.
One company RMP Enterprise has worked with asked us to design and build a microsite for students, allowing them to register for career presentations the firm put on about their industry. In total, more than 1,300 students signed up for these, showing how much interest there can be in educational seminars.
The other advantage of this approach is that it allowed RMP to put together a talent pool from the information provided by the students who registered.
You can pay attention to the most impressive undergraduates and keep an eye on them for future development, as they may end up making excellent employees.
Once again, you need to make sure these events are something your students will be able to get tangible benefits out of. Think about the skills and industry concepts they will need to get their head around if they want to succeed in your sector, and see if you can provide something they wouldn’t get from their studies.
One option is to use case studies and make the events specific to your company. If you have a unique approach to an industry problem, or a philosophy that you think gives you an edge, show it off to your potential future employees. They’ll learn something while being impressed by your business.
Next guide: Touch points
You might be wondering at this point how to contact your talent pool to ensure they are coming to these events and insight days. This is actually a more complex issue than you might think, as touch points are an important aspect of student engagement. So important, in fact, that we’re dedicating an entire guide to them.
Read the next entry in our Crash Course series to find out all of the different ways to stay in contact with your potential future employees, why it’s important to do so and what you can gain from doing it well.