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Data-driven early talent and university recruiting

This blog post is based on the eighth episode of the data-driven recruiting podcast hosted by CodeSignal co-founders Sophia Baik and Tigran Sloyan. You can find and listen to this specific episode here or check out the video version embedded below.

Working with Universities to identify and hire early talent has been an integral part of the recruiting process for many companies. As the industry shifts to become more data-driven, this area is a good place to discuss how changes should occur.

First, let’s start with the current process. Most companies today have identified a list of schools they collaborate with and will recruit from. No matter how great the mascots are, there is a limited amount of time between career fairs and campus events so most companies work with 20 to 30 schools max.  

Regardless of the setting, the initial screening is most often a familiar piece of paper. As a student, you may put on your suit, head to the career fair and be ready to shake some hands, but even at live events, the resume is standard. When the event is over, recruiters leave with a big stack of papers they’ll review and sort later, long after first impressions of the candidates have passed. 

Here’s the first problem – you’ve already chosen the school based on some affiliation, whether geographical, status, etc. And now you have a big stack of resumes. Most students turned in a resume because it’s the practice, but they don’t have much to put on it yet. Instead, they’re filling up the paper with things like a current GPA. At first glance, that may seem like a useful metric, but it’s not always telling the full story. A student who takes a lot of easy classes should have higher grades, compared to the one who’s pushing the envelope to excel and challenge themselves. The latter may be the hardest worker, but on paper, all you notice is a lower GPA. 

The reality is, you’ll miss a lot of great talent by opting to work with a few chosen schools. Here’s how we know. Research has proven that the top 2-3% of students at first-tier schools compare equally to the top 2-3% of third tier schools. By sticking with one school and reaching deeper down the distribution curve, you’ll be recruiting less qualified candidates than you would by widening the funnel to begin with. 

If you agree with the logic but aren’t ready to ask your recruiters to spend every waking hour at a new school, there are options. The best way to solve this challenge is to get online! Handshake and WayUp are great alternatives to existing processes, offering everything from online career fairs to online job application portals. You can skip the resume screening and get instant access to a very large pool. You can also start with an assessment, which is what we recommend to eliminate bias from the start.