Posted by Conor ● 21 April 2018

The Art of Recruiting Undergraduates

There is an art to recruiting undergraduates, and at RMP Enterprise, we’ve been perfecting it for eleven years.

We’ve been offering employers digital and face-to-face solutions for attracting the best early talent to their internships, placements and insight days since 2007.

In that time, we’ve identified the FOUR main challenges that employers face when hiring undergraduates:

  1. low volume of applications
  2. low quality applications
  3. increasing diversity and
  4. maximising ROI

Do any (or all) of these sound familiar?

Below we have unpacked each challenge, revealed the probable cause of it, and provided some options for you to consider to help your organisation overcome the challenge.


Challenge #1

'It's simple. We're not getting enough applications.'

This is a common challenge for employers when they’re looking to hire undergraduates. It’s remarkably common, in fact. A low volume of applications results in positions remaining unfilled.

The main reason for a low volume of applications is a lack of brand awareness. If students don’t know you exist and are unaware that you’re hiring undergraduates in their chosen job industry, they are not going to apply!

RATE 4There are a number of options you can explore to better promote your company and the fantastic opportunities you offer. Have you considered advertising on a jobs board dedicated to students? Jobs boards are a traditional platform for advertising roles and are proven to yield results, especially those targeted towards undergraduates searching for work experience

Targeted emails are similarly effective. A frightful number of employers sing and shout about their opportunities - competitors are noisy. The roles you offer can get lost in the noise. Targeted emails cut through the noise, straight to the inboxes of potential candidates.

If students are unaware of your brand, you can encourage those who have previously worked for you to review your companyReviews are a valuable resource for students; they trust peer-to-peer feedback. A recent survey revealed that

‘70 percent of people now look to reviews before they make career decisions’.

A RateMyPlacement.co.uk survey also demonstrated the benefits of on-campus activity:

‘94% of students said that they want to meet employers directly on campus.’

brand-ambassador-campaignIncreasing your presence at universities is proven to elevate brand awareness, and in turn, increase the volume of applications. A professional services company saw their applications increase by a staggering 78% from brand ambassadors promoting their brand on campus. It works.

These are all options to consider if your objective is to increase the volume of applications. Advertising on a jobs board is a quick fix, but if you want students to recognise your brand, put serious thought into building a presence on campus.

If you're faced with this challenge when recruiting undergraduates, then you're not alone. We've helped hundreds of employers increase the number of applications to their schemes.
We can help you too.

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Challenge #2

'We're getting too many applications from the wrong audience. It's quality, not quantity we're after.'

If you receive too many applications for a role, it can slow down your entire recruitment process - especially when a significant number are from the wrong audience.  

Why does this happen? If graduates or school leavers are applying for your undergraduate roles, you’re probably advertising your roles on the wrong job boards.

Generic jobs boards advertise a diversity of roles; jobs for school leavers, for undergraduates, for graduates... for literally anybody that is looking for employment. If you’re advertising on a jobs board that is not undergraduate-specific, expect applications from candidates who are not university students.

RATEThe solution is to use niche jobs boards. Using a website such as RateMyPlacement.co.uk, which is designed specifically for undergraduates seeking all types of work experience, is key to tackling this challenge. Their database contains 100,000 first and second year students - all that have opted-in to receive communications about placement, internship and insight opportunities. 

If your organisation is targeting a specific group of students, it's in your interest to work with organisations that are experts at attracting that particular target audience and have relationships with other relevant companies or institutions, such as universities. 

Focusing your advertising on specific jobs boards - provided that niche corresponds with the group you're targeting - is a simple solution for reducing applications from the wrong audience. 

Facing the daunting task of rejecting application after application because they're just not good enough? We deliver quality applicants time and time again. We can help.

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Challenge #3

'We want to increase the diversity of our workforce - we just don't have the tools to reach our target audience.'

Everybody’s talking about diversity.

Organisations in a range of industries in the undergraduate sector are actively trying to increase the diversity of their workforce. Whether it’s improving gender diversity, hiring students from a wider range of social and ethnic backgrounds, or even attracting undergraduates from non-traditional degree subjects - it’s a challenge for companies big and small.

The main reason why companies find increasing diversity challenging is because they can’t reach their target audience. There are two solutions for this - the first involves on-campus activities, the second relies on data and targeted communications.

OCP Brand AmbassadorsLet’s begin with how on-campus activities - or to be more specific - how Brand Ambassadors can help you reach your target audience. Most HR and recruitment teams are small, they do not have time or the manpower to go out onto campus in person. In addition, they do not have access to the student-only areas such as lectures, societies or social media groups, all of which are essential for engaging with target groups of students.

Brand Ambassadors can represent your organisation on campus and can grant access to areas that were previously off limits. For example, they can engage with societies like ‘Women in Tech’ or cultural societies that are inclusive to particular ethnicities. They have access to social media groups to advertise your events - lecture shout outs are similarly effective.

In short, hiring students to represent your brand on campus will give your organisation access to the key contacts you need to reach your target audience.

Connect 1The second solution begins with data capture. If you want to engage with a target group of students, you first have to collect data on campus or through digital channels so to be able to communicate with them.

The data you collect has to be of high quality too - name and email address is not enough; fields like gender, ethnicity, interests and area of study are crucial for segmenting the database.

Once you have collected enough data and have a pipeline of students who are engaged with your brand and opportunities, you can segment the data and send targeted communications to specific students.

Connect 7Imagine an organisation wants to increase gender diversity… they can target female students and send them personalised content. Some organisations receive applications from limited subject areas, if they want to bring new skills and ideas into their business, they can segment their database to target students of non-traditional subject areas.

If you can’t reach a target audience, you have to be consider alternatives to your traditional marketing channels. On campus activities and the segment and target approach are two alternatives that you can include in your attraction strategy to increase the diversity of your workforce.

We have the tools and experience to help you meet your diversity targets.
Let's chat.

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Challenge #4

'We want to reduce our cost per hire, but don't know how.'

If your company is looking to reduce the cost per hire in your recruitment strategy, you must ask yourself the following questions...

Do you know what online and offline activities actually deliver your hires? Do you have the tools or the knowledge to analyse which aspects of your attraction campaign are the most cost-effective?

If the answer is no, there is a quick fix that could save you some pounds and pennies.

Focus your advertising on jobs boards that are proven to deliver applications and hires. Ask students where they found your job vacancy when you meet them at the interview or assessment centre. Find the source of your best candidates, and focus your attraction on that source.  

ETPForward-thinking employers are taking a more holistic approach that is underpinned by data.

The employer captures students’ data on campus or through digital means to build a talent pipeline of engaged prospective candidates. They nurture the candidates to apply for their roles, while at all times tracking their engagement.

It enables them to make informed decisions about which attraction activities to invest in to recruit the best talent for the best ROI.

The data-led approach is where early talent market is headed and it relies on students opting-in to receive your communications. It’s not only a means of maximising ROI, it’s the best method of engaging with Generation Z.



A low volume or lack in quality of applications low quality applications, increasing diversity and maximising ROI - these are the key challenges faced by employers when they’re recruiting undergraduates.

If you’re interested in our solutions to these challenges, click below:

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Topics: Undergraduate

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