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Top 4 University Recruiting trends for 2020

Are you a university recruiter?

Your job is rapidly changing thanks to how the world of education itself is changing. 

With over 70 percent of employers visiting universities to recruit young talent, it’s clear that university recruiting isn’t going away anytime soon.

But, based on conversations we’ve had with leading organizations, traditional university recruiting strategies just won’t cut it. To get the best talent, you have to stay ahead of the curve. 

Here are the top 2020 University Recruiting trends we’ve seen based on talking to the experts. 

University Recruiting Trend #1 – Shifting Away From Career Fairs

Chances are that if you’re in university recruiting, you attend university career fairs to recruit early talent. 

However, career fairs introduce a ton of bias into the hiring process from the start.


First, organizations have to choose which career fairs they attend. Because of cost and time limitations, they select universities based on school or program ranking. For example, organizations looking to recruit engineers might go to Stanford because of their Computer Science degree’s reputation.

But, everyone else is selecting these same universities because they’re seen as a proxy for producing talent. Some institutions get a reputation of being a “feeder school”. When everyone is doing the same thing, it’s no longer a trend but an overburdened way of solving a problem.

However, when you actually look at the performance of students at any given school, it tends to be distributed like a bell curve. This means that each school has a very small portion of so-called “top students” and a majority of its students fall somewhere in the middle. Why would you fight over students at top-tier universities with an average or below-average abilities when you could secure the top talent from other schools, especially when those top talent comes with an exceptional level of drive to prove themselves?

Beyond this, career fairs typically start with a candidate handing a recruiter their resume. But… their resumes tend to all look similar: same classes, extracurriculars, maybe an internship. There is no way to actually assess abilities from a resume. Plus, we know that resume reviews can immediately introduce bias into the hiring process. 

We’ve highlighted two ways career fairs introduce bias – so… what can organizations due to shift away from career fairs and find high-quality candidates while reducing bias?

University Recruiting Trend #2 – Degrees Not Required

While this is an article about university recruiting trends, we also have to look at the democratization of education. Essentially, university recruiting is all about hiring for junior roles at an organization. 

Because the landscape of how students are learning is changing, thanks to online platforms like Udemy, organizations shouldn’t just be focusing on students with traditional educational backgrounds.

In fact, over 69 percent of developers reported that they were totally or partially self-taught. Many of the largest organizations like Google, Ernst and Young, and Apple are moving away from requiring a degree. 

How do you find these candidates who don’t have a degree and therefore won’t be at traditional university career fairs?

University Recruiting Trend #3 – Shifting Focus to Inbound Opportunities

We’ve talked to dozens of university recruiters and we’re sad to say that many of them don’t even take the time to look at inbound candidates for early stage opportunities?


First, it starts with outdated and hard-to-use Applicant Tracking Systems. For some of these early opportunities, an organization will get thousands of applications. How are they supposed to sort through all of them to find the needle in the haystack? Most of the time, they don’t.

Second, organizations deploy AI/ML to scan resumes en masse, which simply scans resumes for keywords. Hiring shouldn’t be based on if someone has the right keywords in their resume, it should be based on their skills and abilities. 

So… how can organizations overcome the burden of finding high-quality inbound candidates? 

University Recruiting Trend #4 – Starting Hiring Process with Assessments 

A resume is a proxy for ability. That’s why we believe the #1 university recruiting trend will be to start the hiring process with a skill-based assessment. 

The assessment should be the very first step of the hiring process – before anyone reviews a resume or talks to the candidate. This reduces bias in the hiring process because you’re purely focused on a candidate’s abilities.

However, creating a certified, non-biased assessment isn’t as easy as having your current team whip something up. Most candidates hate assessments because:

  • They take too long to complete
  • Require giving away IP
  • Don’t measure the skills necessary for the job
  • Focus on topics that require previous knowledge (like sports or games)

Which is why it’s critical to work with a professional test-design team or use certified, pre-built framework based assessments that are optimized for the candidate experience.

High-quality assessments also create a better candidate experience because if they have the right skills, their profile will be surfaced to the top of the hiring poll, rather than forgotten in a pile of resumes or in an antiquated Applicant Tracking System.  

How University Recruiting Trends Will Transform in 2020 and Beyond

We talked a lot about what’s broken with the traditional university recruiting system: career fairs, not focusing on inbound applicants, and using resumes as a stand-in for abilities. 

Organizations who can overcome these hurdles and take on modern university or early talent recruiting will see a huge transformation. How do they do this?

By focusing on inbound opportunities, not requiring a degree, and by starting the hiring process with a certified skill-based assessment, organizations will be able to sort the signal from the noise and find those golden opportunities they may have previously overlooked.

Learn More

CodeSignal developed the first-ever data-backed computer science University Ranking Report to make early talent technical skills signals more widely available to companies gearing up for the upcoming University Recruiting season. Read the report here.