Building Stronger Partnerships Between Career Centers and Employers

BlessVaiBless Vaidian, Director, Career Counseling for Pace Career Services – Westchester, and Founder, Career Transitions Guide

As we begin a new year, it’s a great time to reach out to employers to review 2014. Asking the right questions to see what can be done to improve relationships, meet goals, and place candidates is important to do on an ongoing basis, but especially now. Answers to these questions can then be applied to your 2015 strategy. Career centers can maintain long-lasting employer partnerships by surveying these areas:

How Can I Help Recruiters Meet Their Objectives?

Recruiters collaborate with the career services team for several reasons each semester: sourcing candidates for vacant positions, branding their company, and/or educating students on career-related topics. As career development professionals, we try to make sure the human resource goals are met for our employers when they partner with our office. Before we solicit speakers or attendees, we have to know what the employer’s recruitment goals are for that cycle or even beyond. Asking the right questions at the right time will help employers and the career office make strategic decisions as to whether the event will produce placements, or if the event is to brand and educate…or both. Never assume an employer is hiring. Know ahead of time what the goal is and tap the right student cohort into each program.

What Did the Recruiters Think of the Quality of Students?

Employers gauge the quality of students from a college using many criteria. How students represent themselves in person and in writing matters. Often students are placed in communications and writing programs to develop these needed skills as part of their academic curriculum. Interviews, resumes, and cover letters reflect the university at large. Bad impressions make an employer wonder if the student population is worth hiring from, or if they need to recruit elsewhere. Having employers run career center resume and interview workshops can make some employers feel vested in the student body. Preparing students for career success is a challenge. Not everyone comes into the career center office. Mandating appointments and attendance at career center programs is one way to change that. Webinars and online resources on a variety of career topics help students access resources within their time frames so they can make positive impressions when meeting employers.

What Can I Do to Help an Employer Find the Right Candidates?

An employer’s timeline for recruitment is not always congruent with career center events. Many recruiters have internship programs, rotational programs, and entry-level positions they are looking to fill during every cycle. But hundreds of others simply want a career center to find the right candidate as the need arises. Not being able to offer resumes when a recruiter requests them is bad business, and, if done often enough, it can move schools toward the bottom of lists that capture hiring outcomes. Career centers need contacts within various academic departments, student organizations, and other university offices to collaborate with. Targeted outreach needs to reach the appropriate pool of students. The resume of a student looking for entry-level jobs or internships can be sent out on the student’s behalf as positions are created, until the student is removed from the list of “seeking.” Once an employer-based event is put together it’s essential that the number of attendees that match company needs is high. All departments and organizations on campus (not just career services) should know about the event and encourage participation. There is nothing worse than having an event with an off-campus guest and not having the attendance to make it worthwhile. Student success stories are dependent on making matches happen.

Employers are sourcing candidates on campus earlier than ever and rank universities on quantifiable results. Every college wants successful outcomes for all their graduates, and that starts with collaboration with employers. Many companies have internship programs that they use as a gateway to fill entry-level postings. Employers also host information sessions and networking events to source students. Even if recruiters are on campus to conduct career-related educational workshops, they keep their eyes open for students who can be potential hires. The partnership between employers and career centers is an important one that needs to be nurtured all year long. Now is a great time to assess what worked and what didn’t in the partnerships you rely on.


“I’m not sure this internship will be a good fit. Should I apply?”

Jason Bauer-Clapp Jason Bauer-Clapp, associate director of Internships & Programs, Smith College, Lazarus Center for Career Development
Twitter: @jason_bc

Have you met with students reluctant to apply to promising internships because they are unsure that the internship will “look good” or that they’ll be the best candidate? Students who apply only to what they perceive as sure-thing experiences can miss out on a broader set of great opportunities, while those who accept an internship by default (with few or no other opportunities for comparison) may find themselves in unsatisfying roles that turn out to have limited educational value.

It is useful to remind students that while applying for any position requires time and energy, it isn’t a commitment. Rather, it’s an indication of interest, a snapshot of the applicant’s knowledge and skills, and a request for an interview. While I wouldn’t encourage haphazardly applying to any opportunity that comes along, students who set overly stringent standards on what they will consider applying for are essentially ending conversations before they’ve begun.

To help students manage those uncertainties and feel comfortable applying to a broader range of opportunities, I regularly share the following:

Read between (and above and outside) the lines. Organizations that offer internships are increasingly skilled at crafting messages that resonate with potential applicants, and some organizations have the benefit of a long-established brand cachet among students. However, there are still times when a great internship opportunity doesn’t “read” as such in a job posting or in recruiting messages. Look beyond the few paragraphs (if that) in your school’s internship database. Review the organization’s website and consider how it presents itself to clients/constituents/users. Reflect on its mission and how it aligns with your values and interests. Speak with people familiar with the organization’s work.

The best applicant may not be the most qualified. Internships are learning and development experiences, so having little direct experience in a field isn’t necessarily a limiting factor. Show familiarity with and genuine interest in the field and the organization, share ways you’ve already engaged in related topics, use the experiences you’ve had (work, academic, internships, volunteer, extracurricular) to demonstrate your strengths and knowledge, and communicate your excitement to learn.

Make interviews mutual learning opportunities. To prepare for interviews, candidates tend to focus on developing their stories and rehearsing good answers. Preparing thoughtful questions for the interviewer may be a halfhearted afterthought, done only because the candidate “is supposed to ask questions.” Students who report having had truly great internship experiences often mention the high quality relationships they had with supervisors and staff. A person-to-person interview can give internship candidates rich insight on the people and the environment: who the student would be working with, opportunities to interact with organizational staff, and the structure of training, supervision, and evaluation.

I love it when students follow their curiosity and step outside of their comfort zones when seeking experiential education opportunities such as internships. This means moving forward when the end result is uncertain. It is wise to have questions about an internship’s potential, but when there’s a spark of genuine interest and curiosity, it’s often worth applying. Ask for that conversation: you may be surprised to find a great opportunity hidden in plain sight.

Top Companies Hire ‘Blindly Applying’ Interns

Smedstad-HeadshotShannon Smedstad, CEB Employment Brand Director, Global Communications & Engagement Team
Twitter: @shannonsmedstad

Eighteen cities. Eighteen companies. Eighteen interns about to embark on the internship adventure of a lifetime. And, when students initially applied, they had no idea of where in the world they would end up. That’s just one aspect of that makes it exciting!blind applying

In its inaugural year, the Blind Applying project received a whopping 10,000 applications primarily from students across Europe and Asia. Each student submitted just one application that was then considered by participating companies.

Think of it as the NFL draft of the internship world. College students who apply anticipate a call from any one of 18 top European companies, including Accenture, Bayer, Daimler, BASF, EY, Merck, and Bertelsmann.

Stats on Blind Applying

  • Nearly 50 percent of students had business-related degrees, followed by approximately 23 percent from engineering programs.
  • The most represented applicant countries included Germany, France, Portugal, Italy, India, and the UK.
  • 56 percent of students heard about the program from Facebook.
  • There was an approximate 50/50 split between male and female applicants.

Changing the Lives of Students

As if interning in Paris, Tokyo, Munich, or Sydney wasn’t enough! The lucky 18 interns—who began their paid internships this summer—each receive sponsorship for travel and housing costs. Students are also encouraged to share their internship adventures via their individual Blind Applying blogs.

It’s Happening Again in 2015

When surveyed, the top two reasons so many students participated were the convenience of applying to 18 opportunities using just one CV submission, and a chance to go global. And with more than 80 percent of applicants indicating that they would apply again if offered the chance … it’s on again for next summer! 

Who is Behind Blind Apply?

Driving this project is the Entrypark team of the global research firm Potentialpark, based in Stockholm, Sweden, and the HR community has already taken notice of the team’s innovative work. Blind Applying has received the HR Excellence Award and the Trendence Employer Branding Award.

The team plans to ramp up the program next year. The goal is to offer 30 unique internship opportunities with 30 top companies.

Are U.S. Companies Ready to Hire?

From a workflow process, students apply online and their CVs are reviewed. If their background is a suitable fit, CVs are presented to participating companies. Once a company has selected their top candidates, interviews are conducted. It’s not until the interview phase that students know who’s considering them.

What do you think? Would your company consider participating in something like this? If you’re interested in learning more, please contact Bjorn Wigeman.


Everything You Need to Know About NACE’s Advocacy Mashup

kevin grubbNACE Ambassador Kevin Grubb
Assistant Director at Villanova University’s Career Center.
Twitter: @kevincgrubb
Blog: “social @ edu”.

To say it was interesting would be an understatement. At Friday’s Advocacy Mashup in Washington, DC, NACE and its Advocacy Committee unveiled new standards for first destination surveys, brought in experts on the subject of immigration and internships, and gathered more than 100 career services professionals for discussion on these hottest issues in the field right now. It was a three-pronged, head-spin inducing power meeting that had the room impassioned, empowered and entertained all at once. I was on site, tweeting everything I could to share the action with you. You can check out the full discussion on Twitter with #NACEAdvocacy, and you can also see NACE’s stories from each session on their Storify account.

Here’s my summary from each of the sessions.

First Destination Surveys

We kicked off the day with the unveiling of NACE’s First-Destination Survey Standards and Protocols, led by Manny Contomanolis, Associate Vice President and Director at RIT. The session included lots of time for Q&A and debate, the spirit of which was summed up nicely in this tweet by Kathy Sims from UCLA:

Key themes and noteworthy parts of the standards:

  • New terms: “knowledge rate” (instead of “response rate”) and “career outcome rate” (instead of “placement rate”). You can see more about “knowledge rate” in one of my previous blog posts from the 2013 NACE conference
  • The Standards and Protocols contains a sample survey (emphasis on “sample” cannot be stated enough), and there’s flexibility for institutions to include supplemental questions as deemed fit
  • The recommended minimum knowledge rate for surveys is 65 percent of the graduating class
  • “Full-time employment” would be defined as working 30 hours per week or more (in alignment with provisions in the Affordable Care Act)
  • NACE hopes to see early adopters use these standards with the Class of 2014, followed by wide-spread adoption for surveys of the Class of 2015
  • The target date for gathering survey data would be December 31 of each year, and NACE will request summary data from all institutions to track and share trends in hiring and higher education (participation voluntary)
  • The Standards and Protocols will continue to evolve and feedback is welcome from NACE members

International Students and Immigration Reform

Our two guest speakers for this session were Amy Scott, Associate Vice President for Federal Relations at the Association of American Universities and Heather Stewart, Counsel and Director of Immigration Policy, Public Policy Department at NAFSA: Association of International Educators. Both were subject matter experts on our current immigration policies and the activity & debate happening now in the federal government on immigration reform.

What will happen next with immigration reform, its impact on international students and how that will affect work in career services is not yet clear. There are debates right now on immigration status that focus on the level of degree earned (for instance: should the focus be on those with a Bachelor’s degree or higher?) and on area of study (the STEM fields are in primary focus now). More debate is on the possible revision of OPT hours, green cards and visa status. A major recommendation from all of this: career services professionals should work with government relations officials on campus to communicate how these issues impact students and their employment.

If I could give a “quote of the day” award, it would no doubt go to Heather Stewart. On the issue of the big focus on STEM students, she said, “You need STEM, but you need the flower, too” (referring to all of the other courses of study that lead to many necessary careers). You’ll see that line tweeted plenty of times!

Unpaid Internships

Our final session on an issue almost too hot too touch, unpaid internships, was led by Kathy Sims and featured Ross Eisenbrey, Vice President at the Economic Policy Institute and Steven M. Bloom, Director, Federal Relations, Government and Public Affairs at the American Council on Education. Some elements of NACE research on internships were featured, the Department of Labor’s test for unpaid internships was discussed and the audience was on fire with questions concerning what’s legal, ethical and fair.

Christine Cruzvergara of George Mason University tweeted out a highlight of this session – a quick look at what our speakers told us:

The one thought that stuck with me from this conversation was this: when it comes to internships and fairness, one thing we definitely have to discuss is pay. The other is the experience. What is the intern learning and doing? What is the employer teaching and gaining? It might be too early to tell where the conversation on pay, experience and internships is headed, but it’s clear this is something that NACE members from both sides of the recruiting table will be talking about and watching closely.

So, with a brain full of thoughts, a Twitter feed lit up with questions, and a few new connections made, I say thank you to the NACE team, the Advocacy Committee, and the special guest speakers who helped make the Advocacy Mashup possible. I look forward to hearing from you, NACE blog readers, about what you think on this trifecta of critical college-to-career issues.