S4 E116 | CXR Podcast: Steven Rothberg talks about changes in college recruiting

Steven discusses the transformation of college recruiting post-pandemic and gives his perspective on what changes seem temporary and what changes will likely stick around.

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Chris Hoyt, CXR 0:21
Welcome, everybody to another edition of CXR podcast. I’m excited to be here today. Coming at you live, well, from a couple of different places. I’ve got a guest today from way up north. Steven Rothberg. How are you, buddy?

Steven Rothberg, College Recruiter 0:36
I am good.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 0:37
So we’ve got a we have an interesting topic. It’s always fun to talk to you about an interesting topic that I think you know, the guy, the guy that lives and breathes college recruiting 24/7 is going to have a lot of wisdom and interest to weigh in on but before we do that, can you give a little bit of background about what the How are you the guy that lives and breathes college recruiting.

Steven Rothberg, College Recruiter 0:58
So I’m, I’m the founder and for the last few months, my the rest of my job title changed from from President, which kind of implies I do things to chief visionary officer, which more accurately reflects on what I do or don’t do on a daily basis. The College Recruiter is a job search site, we believe that every student and recent graduate deserves a great career. Our customers are employers that advertise their internships and entry level jobs with us that require zero to three years of experience. And we’ve got about 3 million people a year that use our site to help them find great new jobs. on a monthly basis, I’ll be talking me personally to literally dozens of employers or their representative, some you know, folks from the advertising agencies, etc. I personally don’t have much candidate contact, it might be two or three a month, that’s somewhat accidental. But before COVID, we would attend conferences and stuff like that, that there would be students, grads, whatever, at at those. And that’s a great opportunity to really hear firsthand what they’re actually saying what they’re actually concerned about, rather than what the conventional wisdom might be.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 2:29
You’ve got a fair baseline of knowledge to sort of talk about what’s going on in the space. And so I want to ask you, in the last couple of years, for it sure feels like longer. But in the last couple of years, we’ve just seen our industry and what we do turned upside down largely as a result of two very pivotal things that have occurred, right one of them obviously, being the pandemic, of course, then another one, that has been a long standing issue, but has really risen, I think, to the front for a lot of leaders, for obvious reasons. That is a societal unrest and some incident justice, and sparked by the death of George Floyd. In your world, being very specific to college recruiting, have you seen that have an impact for college recruiting as we know it? And do you think that impact or change will be long term or short term?

Steven Rothberg, College Recruiter 3:26
Yes, we’ve seen tremendous change. I can’t think of another sector in the labor market that’s been impacted as greatly by COVID. And by the DE&I efforts that kind of came out of George Floyd being killed practically in my backyard about eight miles away from where I live, um, that whole world has been turned upside down. It basically hadn’t changed more than just incrementally since Gerry was a Career Service Office director. And I think that was during reconstruction, but I’m not I might be a little bit off on on the timeline there. The the COVID impact, of course, impacted all of us. It impacted every employee, every employer how recruiting is done, and there was no difference with with college one of the in terms of it being immune or not immune. Well, that’s a weird way of saying it to COVID. But what really impacted college more than other sectors was the immense amount of travel that was necessitated by the traditional model, a model of college recruiting. And traditionally, large employers flew teams of people around the country or countries and they interviewed them in little closets that at times, some certain times of the year were used to store brooms and other things. times of the year were used for on campus interviews. None of that was anything that employees or employers wanted. And that continues to be the case, virtually no large employers are going on campus this fall there, there’s or if they are, it’s greatly reduced. And it tends to be like in their backyard, they, they, you know, they’ll drive to the campus that’s five miles away. If the weather’s good, they’ll meet people outside. That’s kind of the norm. And there are certainly exceptions to that. But that’s the norm. That kind of, if you can call it campus hiring just doesn’t scale, right? If you’re Deloitte, if you’re Ernst and Young, if you’re AWS, and you need to hire 1000s of people, you can’t do it that way. Career Fairs used to be a very, very key piece for employers, I don’t think that they were ever effective. I’ve been in this world since the mid 90s. They’ve never been effective during that period of time, other than if, if you’re an employer, and you really, really want to get rid of some frisbees that have your logo on it, then they were an incredibly effective way of doing that. But to actually generate quality applications that you could then hire people at a low effective cost per hire. They were typically just crap. And again, we can find some exceptions to that. Career Fairs were there as a tool for employers to funnel money to Career Service offices, so that the Career Service offices would give them preferential treatment when it came to scheduling on campus interviews. I mean, and that’s, that was a big way for Career Service offices to raise money. And I think it’s just, it’s always been, it’s always been awful to to put up barriers, so that only the largest best funded employers can afford to pay the entry fee to then have access to your students. It just it just never made sense to me. Another big change, Chris, that you that you referenced was the the killing of George Floyd. And that came at not all that long after COVID. That was that was May of 2020, the end of May. So it’s basically about two months after the world turned upside down because of COVID. And in the college space, the big impact there was on diversity, equity and inclusion. People like me, who had always felt like we were I know that woke is is has become a bad word amongst some but sort of empathetic caring, wanting to do the right thing realized that whatever we were doing was not nearly enough. And and most people I think, have stepped up their game.

The big change in college that I’ve seen as a result of the increased emphasis on DE&I is a shift by employers from using data to justify their hiring decisions, to using data to drive their hiring decisions. So for example, two years ago, a typical employer would say, we recruit at these 20 college campuses, because that’s where we’ve always hired candidates from

Chris Hoyt, CXR 8:26
Our super schools, they call them their super schools. Right?

Steven Rothberg, College Recruiter 8:30
Yeah, super core, primary, you know, right. And then they might have other schools that they have some kind of secondary presence in, and then some other schools that they post online jobs that it always begs the question, if you’re always recruiting at the same 20 schools, and you’re really only seriously considering candidates from those 20 schools, how do you know that students from the other 7400 schools aren’t any good, or that didn’t go to a college or university, maybe they dropped out of high school and they’ve just taught themselves to be a coding wizard, whatever. With the inability of, of employers to go on campus and to use their traditional sourcing tools they’ve had to be open and have wanted to be open generally to other approaches. Some of that’s job boards, whether it’s a college recruiter, whether it’s a LinkedIn, whether it’s an Indeed whatever. And, and some of it is just, I think, important to his, I see a lot more employers becoming more what I call agnostic, school, agnostic, and even major agnostic. They don’t really care nearly as much what school you went to, and even what your major was, and a lot of that is driven by by productivity data, they take a look at who their best employees are, and where they came from. And what they’re realizing is that the this Students that they hired from the most elite schools, the most elite majors tend to perform the worst. And the reason for that is they don’t stick around. They’re with you, for a year, a student from a secondary major, like a really good person in, you know, a health care medical assistant who doesn’t need a degree. But it came out of a liberal arts program who’s been with you for seven years is definitely going to outperform somebody who has a four year degree in nursing or whatever from it from UCLA, it’s just…

Chris Hoyt, CXR 10:36
I mean, see, you’re talking about, you’re talking about using data to make decisions. And I think we’ve seen college recruiting talk about doing that, or doing that in some pockets for years. More and more. So as tools like NZ became available, or, you know, organizations were able to, to really look at market data to make decisions about what schools to go to. But we have also seen for years, they lose the battle with the senior leaders to change the super schools or the core schools and to shift away from those. And I think what we did see most notably in the first stay home year of the pandemic was that at least four of our member companies came forward and said, this is the most diverse batch of interns we haven’t ever been able to hire. And it was because they did exceed expectations. It was because they didn’t just go to the core schools, they had to broaden. And I think one off the top of my head said it saved them. The year prior, when they had already started that they had already saved $250,000 of their budget. by releasing core school mentality and really going into schools, you know, with with very different makeup. The George Floyd, tragedy reminded us how out of balance we are, yeah, right, how how just grossly out of balance we are. But it’s almost like the pandemic, is what enabled us to have some information, some data to be equipped to go back in and say, look, this is good. These are good things to move away from this process. Or this model, would you? Would you say that that sort of the two are sort of like the perfect storm of trying to fix some shit?

Steven Rothberg, College Recruiter 12:15
Yes. And I, what I keep seeing from some pretty damn smart people is their use of the word or accelerate. You know, I think if we had waited long enough, and I suspect I would have been on the wrong side of the grass for waiting for this to happen. But I think we would have seen this type of stuff happen. But it would have been decades from now because there have been slow, incremental changes. But by the time those changes really took effect, like they have in the last couple years, I think it literally would be decades from now. I do see these changes as being permanent. And I’m thankful for that. It’s I mean, from a purely selfish standpoint, it’s been great for college recruiter, it’s been great for the job board industry, I mean, job board, businesses way up, I think that there’s going to be a need for the schools to seriously reconsider that entire, if we can call it placement model. You know, it used to be that those offices were called placement offices because they functioned somewhat like executive recruiting organizations, they actually looked at the students, and what are your interests and competencies and values and looked at the employers and said, You know what, Cindy, you’re going to be a good match for this employer, and let’s hook you up with an interview with them. And through underfunding, that just became impossible. I think it is one of the most foolish things that higher education does is to underfund Career Services. Because if you’re a student and you graduate into a great career, and guess who’s going to be at the top of your list to donate money to year after year, I mean, whatever they spend on helping you find a great career that is going to come back in spades through donations.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 14:09
Yeah, well as a father who is paying his last semester of two higher education paths, I can tell you there’s a long list of foolish things that I think higher education doesn’t does not do. So I think that’s certainly call on saying something Stephen. As most of our listeners the vast majority of our listeners are corporate, right, their corporate recruiters, there’s no Career Services team is probably dialing dialing in to the CXR podcast. But so if you’ve got to leave us with a little bit of feedback or a little bit of your opinion here on how the the corporate recruiters, you know, that specialize in college, early career, how they can help that change, not that traction, not be lost, they can help to continue to accelerate that change in that world. Right. What would it You’re going to tell them to lean in on the colleges and say, Come on, get your shit together. And let’s you know, we can do this differently. Are you going to tell them to hit eject? And just go broad? I mean, what’s what’s your nugget of wisdom that you’re going to give to them?

Steven Rothberg, College Recruiter 15:11
Yeah, more so on the ladder, and and it’s not because there are bad people or stupid people or whatever and Career Services is useless, like, absolutely not at all, I think you find the same level of competency in career services as you do in talent acquisition, I think it’s the difference is how those organizations themselves operate. Higher Education is monolithic, it takes forever for them to change things where corporate America changes much faster. And I think the talent acquisition, if they just simply stop spending money, the way that they used to in the last couple years, they have, they’ve stopped spending money the way they did in 2019. And before that, then the schools will just be forced to chase the money. You know, our our sight. And this isn’t a pitch for what we do. But we’re we do a lot of programmatic work programmatic job ad buying and selling. And but the expression that we use internally and I guess now externally is that with programmatic money chases quality, in other words, if you’ve got a quality candidate money finds its way to that candidate. And I’d like to see the same thing become true with higher education with recruiting students in early careers, that if corporate America starts to spend money, where the outcomes actually are, then I think that that will force the schools to follow that model.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 16:46
Well, let’s keep our fingers crossed. All right, Steven, I want to thank you for joining. It’s always fun to talk to you appreciate. It’s nice to see on the podcast and not just the happy hour.

Steven Rothberg, College Recruiter 16:55
Although the happier hour is more, more is nicer, nicer, nicer.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 17:01
nicest, the nicest.

Steven Rothberg, College Recruiter 17:02
Thank you so much, Chris.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 17:04
You bet. All right, so next week, we’ve actually got kind of similar conversation on I think, October 26. We’re going to be welcoming Joe Shaker Jr. He is the president of shaker recruitment marketing and we’re gonna talk about what changes COVID has actually brought on the recruitment marketing industry. Now you can register out on the website it’s in the events section you can also check us out and listen to the streams anywhere that you subscribe to your podcast and you can find those feeds at CXR.works/podcast Thanks everybody. We’ll see you next week.

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