A 4-Step Strategy to Increase Early Career Applications with Blue Cross NC

Jenn Thomas

Intern programs are in full swing this summer — which begs the question:
How are companies attracting emerging top talent from universities amidst a competitive candidate market and predominantly virtual environment?  
 

Like other organizations that depend on campus recruiting, leading health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina faced unparalleled challenges last year. But by meeting the moment through their AI-fueled talent experience platform, they were able to achieve a 151% increase in applications to their early career program through unique virtual events and targeted campaigns.
 


Blue Cross NC’s Nicole Cantley, Employment Brand Program Manager, and Mary Page Troxler, Program Manager Associate, University Relations & Early Career Programs, revealed the key steps they’re using to achieve results that broaden talent pools and boost applies at our virtual IAMHR conference.
 

Switching Gears 
 

While some things looked vastly different when it came to university recruiting last year, that didn’t change Blue Cross’s growth and development goals. With a high-volume campus recruiting effort — including up to 40 internship positions —  the team ramped up to enter the virtual recruitment environment. 
 

Like many companies, their university relations and early career programs team typically relied on a combination of job board postings on their career site and in-person recruiting on location and through on-campus college career fairs.
 

But with in-person activities on pause, they knew they’d need to get creative to engage the right candidates at the right time to drive applications, Troxler said. At the same time, the team was experiencing another first: leveraging Phenom’s Talent Experience Management (TXM) platform to roll out, track, and optimize recruiting events and talent marketing campaigns. 
 

“Thankfully, we had Phenom implemented for the first time in our early career recruiting history, and we were able to use a combination of marketing material and virtual events to engage our candidates,” she shared.
 


Setting the Stage with Stand-Out Employer Brand Content
 

Blue Cross already had a solid grasp on their employer brand, centered on the company’s commitment to enabling employees to use their passion to make a difference. “The opportunity for meaningful work is a major value prop for interns,” Cantley said.
 

So the team created content highlighting their employee value proposition in ways they thought would resonate loudest with their target audience. Their top 3 tactics included:
 

  • Blog posts written by interns across multiple areas of the company
  • Video with a sneak peek of the virtual intern experience 
  • Instagram takeovers by interns for interns featuring day-in-the-life moments, Q&As, and event promotion

 


“We used all of this content in our Phenom email campaigns, which really elevated our employer brand and highlighted the experience these prospects could have if they joined us,” Cantley revealed.
 

4-Step Campaign Strategy To Excite & Engage  
 

Armed with their purposeful content and new talent experience tech, Blue Cross formulated a candidate engagement strategy focused on the following goals: 
 

  • Encourage attendance at virtual events
  • Establish a partnership with targeted candidates 
  • Drive applications for early career programs


Next, they systematically addressed 4 key steps to execute a powerful campaign strategy through Phenom.
 

1. Identify target audience and create segmented lists 
Using the Phenom CRM’s AI-fueled filtering and targeting capabilities, the team was able to deliver hyper-personalized, actionable communications — which significantly drove candidate engagement, Troxler said. 
 

They began with a broad target audience of rising juniors and seniors and soon-to-be graduates of North Carolina colleges. Then, they narrowed that audience into dynamic lists and segmented them even further, sending tailored messaging according to students’:
 

  • status
  • job views
  • stated interests
  • actions taken in the CRM


Troxler recommends asking these questions to help guide list-making and messaging: Who are you trying to hire? And what filters help you identify and communicate with that audience?
 


Blue Cross worked closely with Phenom’s customer success team to get creative with filters, and ultimately added a question to their talent community form that helped identify students interested in learning more about their event series.
 

2. Plan an event series students can’t resist
After identifying their target audience, Blue Cross drilled down into their motivations and interests to determine event content that would capture attention. To establish a direction for event topics, the team considered:
 

  • What do students want to hear from us? What skill sets are they building?
  • What information might they be interested in hearing from a potential employer?
  • What in-house expertise can we leverage for delivery of presentations? 


With these considerations as a compass, Blue Cross came up with compelling session topics covering LinkedIn tips, developing an elevator pitch, navigating the job process, and transitioning from college to work.
 


3. Map out automated communications 
The next step was to create these events in Phenom so that the team could test the process and understand what the system was going to send students automatically — and when. 
 

By seeing what information attendees would receive in advance, they could add any missing details, such as reminders or login details to their email communications. They were also able to easily update default branding elements to match their own style. 
 


4. Create compelling emails 3 different ways
Since the team knew they’d need to create some additional communications for logistics like Zoom links, instructions and calendar reminders, they also wanted to use the opportunity to market the jobs that they were ultimately driving applications for.
 

Within Phenom Campaigns, there are three different ways to communicate with candidates to better drive engagement — and Blue Cross leveraged all of them to communicate with their early career candidates. 
 


Automated drip campaigns. These automatic emails were delivered on a predefined schedule to ensure students had the right information at the right time. For example, all registrants received a Zoom link and reminder email about the event two days before and on the day of the event. The same message was sent to the same group of candidates at the same time.  
 

Automated recipes. Recipes are communications that are triggered by a candidate’s specific action that the team can see in the CRM. Blue Cross used a recipe to remind registrants to add the event to their calendar 48 hours after registration was confirmed. 
 

Manual campaigns. Manual campaigns are also available for as-needed communications throughout the process, which Blue Cross used for marketing additional jobs, and sending survey links and recordings. 
 

Check out how their entire strategy came together:
 


Achieving Record Results 
 

With their carefully crafted events and strategic campaigning, Blue Cross NC achieved record results and accomplished their end goal of attracting more applications from emerging talent. 
 

  • 151% more applicants for early career programs
  • 49% of event registrants applied for early career programs
  • 42% of event registrants came to more than one event


Related: How Land O’Lakes filled 75% of open positions with one campaign
 


Troxler also pointed out that all sessions were recorded and emailed to students who registered through Phenom. So even if candidates weren’t able to attend, they could watch on demand at their own leisure. The process also helped the talent management team quickly build a content library to leverage across future Phenom email campaigns.
 

Top 3 Takeaways
 

Despite the undisputed success of Blue Cross’s virtual recruiting season, there was an expected learning curve, Troxler said. Moving forward, the team plans to make the following adjustments: 
 

Increase automation. “Throughout the process, we discovered that a lot more communication that we relied on for this candidate engagement could have been automated,” revealed Troxler. “We plan to rely more on automated communications because I think it creates a better candidate experience,” she noted.
 

Create people-focused subject lines. Phenom’s A/B testing showed that email subject lines with a focus on forging connections with Blue Cross employees outperformed subject lines on event topics. For example, You’re Invited — Meet YoPros at Blue Cross NC received a better open and click rate than You’re Invited — Pro LinkedIn Tips. “So we're definitely taking this lesson learned into all of our future campaigns,” Cantley shared.
 


More: How to Craft Recruitment Emails that Candidates Can’t Resist
 


Customize messaging to drive engagement. The team found that hyper-personalized communications led to higher engagement. For example, tailoring email content based on candidate status (applicant versus lead) was an effective way to improve registrations since messaging aligned more closely with the targeted audience’s goals for attending the event.
 


Empowering candidates to put their passion to work is a focus of Blue Cross NC’s talent team. With results like these, they’re able to attract more job seekers and emerging talent faster than ever with a talent experience that truly wows.  
 


Learn what Phenom can do to improve your talent experience!