Some large blue chip recruiters spend thousands of pounds on campus marketing rights, sponsorships, access to students' email addresses and personal information, as well as nationwide on-campus promotional tours. An assortment of businesses are aggressively seeking to take advantage of students' yet-to-be-formed employer brand loyalties. They are seeking to build brand preference among this valuable market in order to capture talented individuals at an early stage.

While these recruiters have been successful at creating innovative methods of student outreach, directly onto university campuses and getting their message out, they are unable to grasp the unique culture of students - what students value, their attitudes, needs and behaviours.

Understanding the unique culture of students at university offers graduate recruiters the necessary insights which will help them make their employer brands relevant to the student and graduate market. They can then effectively communicate to students the compelling reasons why they should apply to their organisation over others.

Although businesses entering foreign markets understand that connecting with consumers is dependent on communicating brand benefits which reflect local culture, most of those who target university students, neglect this strategy. Instead, they simply focus on trying to reach the greatest number of students by outspending their competitors.

Brand Strategies Which Reflect the Unique Culture of Students

  1. Communicate lifestyle and career ambitions, not age relevance
    Speaking to students' age is ineffective because it does not inspire them or grab their attention. Recruiters must create a link between their employer brand and students' lifestyle and career aspirations.

  2. Remember: students don't just study and attend lectures all day
    They are extremely active in extra curricular activities and are sociable to boot. Attach your employer name to current trends: Recruiters can attach their employer brand name to many activities, events, products and associations that have earned "street-cred" among the student market, and thus share in their emotional appeal.

  3. Tap into students' emotional needs for empowerment, privilege, and status:
    Students are attracted to goods and services that empower them as consumers and individuals. Examples include the internet, smart phones, tablets, social media and credit cards. Additionally, products and services that enhance social status are successful at winning students over.

  4. Don't try too hard to win students over:
    Students greet most employer claims with scepticism. Students are aware that they are a highly desirable market. They don't want to be overtly sold or pitched to. Instead, they simply want to be educated about graduate recruitment, their options, and how the offering matches their unique needs.

  5. Reach students at key transitional periods:
    At certain transitional periods, students exhibit a need for certain products and services. It's an employer's job to reach students at these points of need. Key transitional periods for students include the beginning of their first year ("freshers"), summer breaks, moving to off-campus living, studying abroad and graduation.

  6. Become an authentic brand:
    Ad-weary and marketing-savvy university students value authentic brands. Authentic brands exhibit the following characteristics:
    • They develop trust among potential customers - trust is the foundation of brand authenticity.
    • They are perceived as not trying too hard to sell or actively win customers over.
    • They continually deliver value and convince students that they have students' best interests at heart

  7. Be honest and straightforward:
    Students immediately sense hype and do not accept employers that they consider as dishonest and unethical. Businesses must talk straight to students and deliver real value.

It's clear that businesses are allocating a significant amount of time, effort and money on the student market. However, it's time for them to develop enduring relationships with students by examining their unique culture and tailoring recruitment marketing efforts accordingly. Those that succeed will capture a golden opportunity: students' application preference and potential loyalty both before and after graduation. In an increasing war for talent in such a saturated graduate recruitment marketplace, that's priceless.