Today’s question focuses on gaining better employment opportunities for students. More specifically, William Thomas Van Hest asked: “I’d be interested to hear what the plan is to gain better access to Fortune 500 recruiting.”

Career Services does a good job of attracting a lot of companies to campus for their Fall and Spring Career Expos. Many of these firms are Fortune 500 companies. The list from the Fall 2012 Expo can be found  here. The College also has a list of companies it is targeting to bring to campus and Lonny Butcher spends much of his time trying to do this.

More generally, any plan to increase campus recruiting begins with an understanding of the company recruitment process. Campus recruiting is expensive so when a company decides to recruit on campus, it regularly evaluates its outcomes to ensure it is getting a good return on investment. Key points in this evaluation process include:

  1. How much does it cost us to send a recruiter(s) to campus?
  2. How much interest does the recruiter get during the visit (number of students showing up for info sessions, coming by their booth at the job fair, signing up for interviews (e.g., is my day full?), and if students do research and know about the company)?
  3. How many offers do I extend for an interview at our location (Am I finding what I’m looking for)?
  4. What percent of students accept my offer to visit the company (Are the students serious about us)?
  5. What percent of students survive the next steps in the interview process and get hired (i.e., what is my yield rate)?
  6. How well does the new hire perform (out of the gate and over the first year or so)?
  7. How long do they stay with my company?

Realize too that companies do not go on an unlimited number of recruiting trips. So to become a regular part of a company’s recruiting process, a school may have to displace another school on their calendar. This means they are going to have to outperform at least one school on the last three items above.

Now let’s apply those steps to UCF. Not very many Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Central Florida. Our region is dominated by small and medium companies that serve either the defense industry, a growing healthcare segment or the tourism/hospitality industry (or as Lonny calls it, the 500 pound gorilla). This has two implications for a plan to attract them here: (1) we are not near them, so it costs more to visit our campus and they will want to get above average returns for visits here. (2) Students need to be willing to relocate in order to pursue jobs with these firms. Yet, roughly 80% of our graduates, including 75% of a Cohort MBA graduates remain in Central Florida. Firms tell us many UCF students do not want to leave the region.

So, we are disadvantaged in the recruitment process for many Fortune 500 companies on items 1,2 and 4. This is problematic, but it doesn’t need to be deadly. We can overcome these challenges if the company finds a large number of students with the qualities they want, that high numbers of those who accept interviews survive the next steps in the recruiting process, do well on the job and stay for a long period of time (items 3, 5, 6, and 7). So to the extent that we can work to attract those firms that are looking for the exact qualities in their employees that we foster in our students, the better the “match” we will be and the better we will perform on items 3, 5, 6 and 7. This is one of the reasons why I am such a strong advocate for building a culture in the College that fosters a distinctive set of qualities in our students: it will help attract the right employers to campus and increase everyone’s yield rate: theirs and ours.

Whether these are Fortune 500 companies or not isn’t as important as whether these are companies that are attractive to our students and vice versa. So, I would ask you: what companies would you like to see recruit here? What qualities do they have that you find appealing? And what research have you done to lead you to conclude that you want to work in these firms?

Paul Jarley, Ph.D., is the dean of the UCF College of Business Administration. He blogs every week at post appeared on November 8, 2012. Follow him on Twitter @pauljarley.