This is a guest post by Claire Westgate who is the Events & Employer Services Coordinator at the University of Toronto Mississauga Career Centre. Claire came to the UTM Career Centre after working both at the St. George campus and in corporate recruitment.

There is always a flurry of activity in the Career Centre in September, with students submitting applications, employers posting jobs, and the Career Centre is packed with students and their concerned faces – “is my application good enough?” “who else applied?” “If I don’t get a job now, what will I do?  Will I have to go to Grad School?”.  We spend countless hours encouraging students to apply to campus recruitment jobs, helping them with their applications, and assuring them that one way or another, they’ll be successful in the workplace.

Despite this, from the hundreds of students who apply, it’s often the same small group that are interviewed for each and every company.  Clearly, a decision has been made that in order to “narrow the pool”, students need to meet a certain level of criteria to make the cut – and this means the same group of Commerce students with 4.0 GPAs are interviewed.

Career ServicesNot that these few students aren’t brilliant, but considering that our campus is close to 11,500 students, I’d suggest the odds of missing out on some spectacular candidates are pretty high, and would like to take this opportunity to offer you some ideas on reaching the rest of the talent, and encourage you to consider branching out.

Case StudyMissing the Mark

Natalie graduated in 2010 from the Communications program.  Her degree was a BBA – not a BComm, which many organizations had requested during on-campus recruitment season.  She wasn’t selected for any interviews, despite having some great experience and a serious passion for communications.  Natalie had worked retail, volunteered, and spent countless hours building her own website and blog – but to no avail.  In the end, Natalie was hired (by networking) for a new marketing coordinator position at a mid-sized company.  Single handedly, in the first four months, Natalie has revitalized the website, created new branding materials, boosted social media use, and shot video and photo for materials – company sales are up 38%.  Think this has something to do with this amazing candidate?  Imagine what she could have done for the organizations that passed her by in recruitment season.

Tip! Look beyond the degree.  Arts, Science, and other degree students have far more to offer than you might assume from their discipline.  Look for “fit” factors – are they passionate about your field?  You can teach them the technicalities – but you can’t teach them to have drive and enthusiasm for their work.

Case Study: The Company that got it Right!

Jasper was a non-traditional student.  He’d never normally have considered participating in campus recruitment, because he figured he didn’t “fit” the mould.  He wasn’t on the campus club executive, and he didn’t stand out in his classes in the same way the “squeaky wheels” did. He was a good student, though, and got respectable grades.  He applied for one job anyway in September – and believe it or not, he was hired.  His peers were dumfounded – students who thought for sure they were a “shoo in” couldn’t believe they’d been passed over. Here’s the thing, though – on Jasper’s resume, the recruiter had noticed that he’d had some experience in another country.  Turns out, Jasper was the youngest of a large family and the first in his entire family to go to University.  Upon arriving in Canada, he’d identified a need to help developing nations – and helped start a scholarship fund, which has become extremely successful.  He didn’t brag about this – and fortunately, the recruiter took the time to look a little closer and invite him for an interview on a hunch – resulting in an amazing fit and a great hire.

Tip! Look outside the obvious.  We realize that it’s more efficient to “narrow” the pack by cutting off the applications at a certain GPA or with a certain degree, but there are thousands – literally – of amazing candidates that might not fit the “textbook” mould but would do a lot for your organization in terms of diversity, creativity and broadening your workforce.  You could have the 10 “traditional” students, or, you could branch out and find a slightly different type of superstar who’ll bring a whole new set of skills to your organization.

Most Importantly….

Look at what students are doing, and ask yourself: why? Rebecca Markey, Career Counselor, advises “look for the students that are doing activities because they are personally invested and interested in doing them.  A student with an innate sense of leadership and community engagement is a far, far better fit for your company than someone who is only volunteering because they’re trying to catch a recruiter’s eye”.

Visit campuses.  Engage with students OUTSIDE recruitment, such as at networking events and career panels.  These are the real chances to identify the superstars – those with real passion and drive, who’ll be a great fit for your company.