How Early Is Too Early?

When recruiters look to build up their talent pools with quality leads, there are few demographics that they mine more readily than university students or recent graduates. Whether an organization is looking for potential interns or candidates to fill junior positions, campus recruiting is the backbone of many companies’ young talent acquisition strategies. But as the competition for top talent heats up, with many employers facing serious skill shortages in several industries such as healthcare, construction, science, and technology, many organizations have begun to ask themselves: are they recruiting early enough?

It’s not such an outrageous question. More and more high school students are taking summer jobs and internship opportunities to better prepare themselves for their future careers. To rise above their peers in an increasingly competitive college admissions process, many students look to high school internships to give them the edge they need. And perhaps even more notably, many young students are considering career paths that don’t require a college degree.

For the astute recruiter, this shift offers a foothold on which to build brand awareness and foster relationships with students months or years before they leave for college. And that isn’t the only reason to begin recruiting early. Just as in professional sports, exceptional talent can and often does become apparent early on. With the advent of the numerous self-directed learning sites such as CodeAcademyCoursera, and more, it’s now more possible than ever for students to learn at a professional level, and then share and receive feedback on their ideas for rapid development.

One famous example of this was when Microsoft attempted to recruit high school student Mark Zuckerburg after he created his software program Synapse. More recently, Yahoo acquired the mobile website Summly from the 17-year-old tech prodigy Nick D’Aloisio, who was then asked to stay on as an employee. Drawing on these examples as proof, it comes as no surprise that corporate leaders such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Microsoft lead the pack when it comes to recruiting teenage talent. But even if your organization isn’t interested in recruiting teenage talent for open positions, there are endless opportunities to boost brand awareness and build talent pools for future nurturing.

Tips for Recruiting Pre-Campus Talent

If you are beginning to recognize the incredible potential value that high school recruitment holds, here are some tips on how to apply your recruiting strategy to a younger demographic:

Think Outside the Box

Devise outreach programs that are as exciting as they are interactive. From “Engineering Days” to hackathons to open houses, there are a multitude of ways in which your corporation can demonstrate how to build something new within your industry and connect with young students in the process. One example of this is the Ford High School Science and Technology Program (HSSTP), which gives high school students near Dearborn, MI, the opportunity to learn about real world STEM careers at Ford Motor Company, from vehicle design to engine development and more

Speak at Their Level

Generation Z, like their predecessor Generation Y, are digital natives and expect your brand to speak in their language and on relevant social media platforms. Craft high school-friendly Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even Snapchat profiles to show the fun, forward-thinking aspects of your brand to potential young candidates. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to be especially authentic and transparent, as these types of messages have a more powerful impact on young talent. Consider using a custom portal from Avature for high school juniors and seniors and allow young students to sign up for future internship opportunities or youth-focused industry newsletters.

Prove Their Value

If you’re serious about pursuing recruitment before university, you need to have the full support of your management. Try working with the accounting office to prove the economic value that the under-20 crowd has already added to your organization, highlighting the innovation, impact, and output of exceptional interns. If you don’t yet have the numbers to justify a pre-university recruitment effort, establish a pilot internship program and begin gathering this information. Keep the program small and make sure to research other successful internships beforehand to craft the most productive program possible. Track output and innovation during implementation to measure the total value added, keeping an eye out for failure and significantly higher turnover rates.

Identify Talent Early

Create engaging referral programs that target high school students. Peers and teachers are amazing resources when it comes to identifying talent early, and should look at your organization as a path to young professional success. Another possible way to engage young talent, especially in technical fields, is to hold online contests in which students can submit their work to compete for college scholarships, internships, and more. All students who apply can then be added to your university talent pools for later nurturing and recruitment.

Partner Up

Young talent usually is pure energy and enthusiasm, but often lacks corporate experience. By providing high school interns with “slightly older” mentors, they can gather valuable insight into working in a corporate environment in terms of expectations and day to day life. This will help prepare them for future roles as well as allow them to be more productive while they build stronger relationships with your organization.

Whether you’re building talent pools, awarding internships, or even hiring the youngest and brightest before university, these tips will allow your organization to build your own teenage recruitment brand and begin to compete with industry leaders for the literal future of our workforce.

From pre-campus to campus recruitment and beyond, you need a powerful, one-platform solution that can execute every facet of your HR strategy. Learn more about how Avature can bring your strategic vision to life here