While the fall was challenging, it wasn’t a lost cause for employers. Returning to in-person events provided employers their first opportunity in years to get back in front of students and build their employee brand. This was especially beneficial for small and medium-sized businesses like Veeam and FirstEnergy.

As employers prepare to recruit this spring, we hosted a webinar to look back at the uniqueness of early talent recruiting last fall. The discussion was led by Dan Bartfield, Co-Founder and President at Yello. Dan was joined by Meredith Trotta, Director, Global University Recruitment at Veeam, and Marissa Gannon, Ambassador Network Coordinator at FirstEnergy. Meredith and Marissa shared about their experiences across several topics related to early talent recruiting including:

  • Recruiting virtually vs. in-person
  • What went well and what was challenging last fall
  • How candidate experience and engagement evolved throughout the pandemic
  • DEI
  • Looking ahead to Spring 2023

Let’s take a look at what Meredith and Marissa had to say about each of these topics.

Virtual vs. In-Person

While valuable to some organizations, virtual events can be challenging if your company is not a major name brand. Veeam opted to go fully in-person last fall and did so with great success. They participated in large on-campus recruiting events and remained on-campus throughout the entirety of their hiring process. 

Meredith explained that Veeam adjusts their recruiting strategy to employ whatever is needed to build authentic relationships with students. Recruiting Gen Z candidates has driven them to create a more personalized candidate experience while focusing less on the sheer volume of candidates. Yello Sourcing is one of the tools Veeam uses to supercharge this approach by virtually engaging with students prior to meeting them in person. Yello Sourcing helps employers digitally source millions of qualified and diverse candidates through WayUp. 

Marissa’s team at FirstEnergy also focused on attending on-campus events while attending a few virtual events at their core schools that had not yet returned to in-person. Virtual recruiting was difficult for them as a smaller brand because it limited their reach and brand recognition. She found that in-person events resulted in better candidate connection and brand recognition for FirstEnergy. 

While they focused on in-person events, the majority of FirstEnergy’s candidates interviewed virtually as they progressed through the hiring process – resulting in an efficient and positive candidate experience.

“For the most part we were out on-campus, whether that was at career fairs or going into classrooms. Speaking with professors, speaking with students and student organizations, assisting in senior projects, things like that. Our focus was really getting back in person, letting the students see our faces, and making sure that people remembered who we were… Most of our interviews are virtual – we shifted to that structure during COVID. It has worked out really well across the entire company.”

Marissa Gannon, Ambassador Network Coordinator at FirstEnergy

What Went Well?

Marissa shared that simply being able to return in-person to the extent that they did was a big win for FirstEnergy. They spent the last couple of years crafting a new early talent strategy after the pandemic forced them to pivot away from their plan in the spring of 2020. They saw good returns from implementing their new strategy and connecting with student organizations in person. 

As part of their new strategy, FirstEnergy widely utilized Yello to track candidate data and stay connected with students after each event through personalized outreach campaigns. Marissa said this helped them see a better return from events than in the past.

Meredith shared a similar sentiment – that returning to in-person events was a big success in and of itself. The university recruiting team at Veeam faced a lot of obstacles returning in-person, including reduced budgets and shifting hiring targets, but were ultimately able to hire a lot of great, qualified students last fall.

“Ultimately we hired a lot of really great students… Something else that went really well for us was just getting back out there. There were a lot of barriers to that, both from a budget standpoint and having to convince people ‘ok, this is viable that we’re going to spend the money to travel.’”

Meredith Trotta, Director, Global University Recruitment at Veeam

What was challenging?

One of Meredith’s biggest challenges was tracking applicants. Her team was collecting paper resumes and writing hand-written notes for each of the students they met. She said this was a bit embarrassing as a tech company, and Veeam has since partnered with Yello to provide a better early talent experience in 2023. Yello’s candidate evaluations tool helps companies add and organize candidate notes and feedback in real time.

Meredith also shared her unique perspective as the parent of a student looking for their first job coming out of the pandemic.

“My kids are college aged…the one that’s a Junior didn’t have a prom, didn’t have graduation, didn’t have an orientation at college… These students are walking into career fairs and are completely aghast and have no idea how to interact with us (recruiters).”

Meredith Trotta, Director, Global University Recruitment at Veeam

Marissa’s team faced a different set of challenges, with the main difficulty being not knowing what to expect heading into events last fall. As the landscape was constantly changing, both schools and companies scrambled to adapt. She felt her team was able to adjust after finishing their first week of in-person events, but student participation was still a shot in the dark. Some events were very well attended while others were a ghost town. This made it incredibly difficult to plan ahead since they didn’t know what to expect from each event.

Student Engagement

Across the 30 on-campus events Marissa’s team attended, candidate engagement was a mixed bag. Several of the better known recruiting conferences included a number of large companies. While large companies help draw students into the event, they also have more resources and better name recognition which helps them capture candidates’ attention. This makes it difficult for smaller companies as it’s easy for them to get lost in the crowd and go unnoticed. 

Marissa said they had the most success at conferences with fewer booths and a healthy balance of small, medium, and large businesses. 

Veeam focused on providing an authentic and positive candidate experience at the events they attended. Candidates voiced that they were pleasantly surprised by Meredith’s team personally replying to their emails. Most companies do a poor job communicating with candidates, so employers that are intentional about building personal connections tend to see a better return on their efforts.

Spring 2023

Meredith is focused on building Veeam’s employer brand this spring and called out how more students are graduating off-cycle than ever before. Her team will maintain an on-campus presence throughout the spring to stay in front of students and further build their candidate pool. Companies want to use university recruiting to backfill rolls, so it’s important to have good candidates in the wings as hiring plans get worked out. 

Marissa’s team will also return to campus this spring at their core schools. She plans to extend their efforts beyond simply attending career fairs. One way they’ll accomplish this is by engaging with student organizations and professors directly. They believe this approach will facilitate better connections with students while ensuring they’re connecting job seekers with team members that closely align with their major and interests. 

Watch the Recording

Coming February 2:
2023 State of Campus Recruiting Report

Keep an eye out for our state-of-the-industry report packed with trends and insights to help you make a better early talent strategy in 2023.