Reinventing University Recruiting: Meeting Talent Demand with Recent Grads

Devin Foster

In this recap of the May 20 episode of Talent Experience Live, Kayla Drady, Director of Talent Acquisition Strategy & Operations at Mercy, shares strategies that transformed virtual university recruiting for one of the top five largest healthy systems in the U.S. 


As organizations emerge from the pandemic and manage a tight labor market, the demand for talent — including recent grads — is approaching a height organizations haven't seen in years. 
 

Today's students are hard to reach. They've been greatly affected by pandemic stressors and are connoisseurs of the virtual experience. It's a challenge that requires employers to re-think their entire university recruiting approach.
 

With smart strategies underpinned by Phenom’s talent experience platform, the Mercy TA team stays on the pulse of university recruiting — which has led to spectacular results. “We’re really excited that even through a global pandemic and the nursing shortage and how competitive the market is right now, we were still able to make 60,000 hires into our organization,” Drady said. 
 

Watch the full episode below for Drady's advice on standing out when attracting university students, and learn how you can apply some of Mercy’s most successful tactics to your own university recruiting program. Phenom Product Manager Chris Lysiuk weighs in as well, with an eye on emerging trends in tech-driven recruitment.
 


Shifting to a virtual approach
 

Pre-pandemic, Mercy maintained their presence on university campuses within its market. Classroom visits, lobby tables, career fair booths, and lunch and learns were tried-and-true ways to connect with students. 
 

But when the pandemic began, it erased all of those in-person points of contact. Fortunately, Mercy had already implemented Phenom’s Talent Experience Management (TXM) platform, which enabled a smooth pivot to virtual career fairs.
 

Mercy still had a big question at hand: How would they replace all of those other connection points that were so important to student recruiting? “We had to think differently,” Drady said. “What are some other ways we can meet [students’] needs, and still attract them and be unique, and a little bit different from our competitors?” 
 

Students in Mercy's talent pool faced not only the pressures typical of nursing school, but additional stressors related to Covid-19, Drady pointed out. So she and her team came up with new methods to meet students in the moment, providing helpful content and using technology to make their lives easier.
 


Providing students with high-value content through webinars 
 

Drady said they'd have to give students additional content — more than Mercy's employer value proposition  — if they were going to make an impact. Her team developed a webinar series to help with the interview process featuring Mercy's nursing leaders. 
 

“We wanted to give them engaging content they could relate to in the moment,” Drady said. “We hosted different topics every week. One was around interviewing tips and resume writing — those real-world things that you don’t learn in school, but are so important for students to know as they go through the hiring process.”
 

SMS keyword texting: a better experience for students and recruiters 

Along with building engagement, of course, these virtual events had to give students a way to connect with Mercy employees. Not only were recruiters available during the webinars, they simultaneously used SMS messaging as a quick and easy way for students to share their information when they wanted to learn more. 
 

The method is simple: During the webinar, the team displays a text code with a keyword on the presentation screen. By texting the code, students would receive a link to share their contact info. 
 

On the back end in the Phenom CRM, this triggers creation of a profile that's tied to the specific event. The SMS keyword makes it easier for students and eliminates manual work for recruiters.
 

“It’s made a difference, and the texting has been so impactful for us," Drady said. "Candidates are responding right away. No more having to call them and leave voicemails … you can get them in the moment, get them scheduled for an interview the same day, even get an offer out the next day. It’s been a tremendous success."
 


Reflecting the Mercy brand 

Interacting with students through SMS texting also supports the Mercy brand, aligning with the health system’s dedication to innovative healthcare. 
 

“We’re really on the forefront of innovation,” Drady said. “If that’s what we’re doing – providing that type of innovation and technology for our patients – we should also be doing the same for our candidates, because it all correlates.” 
 

Using the CRM for immediate and targeted outreach
 

Recruiters are also better leveraging the CRM’s tagging and analytics capabilities for strategic outreach and follow-up. 
 

“We can tag [students] – what school did they go to, what year did they graduate – within the CRM and be more strategic, and make sure we’re following up with those students immediately. You can send them an email blast; you can already have a template created,” Drady said. 
 

Along with greater efficiency, Drady values the analytic capabilities this allows. For example, tracking reveals who’s opening emails and who’s clicking on CTAs. 
 

CASE STUDY: How Mercy Converted 69% of Job Seekers 
 

“That’s another thing that I love about Phenom," she said, "those real-time analytics, and being more strategic. Working smarter, not harder.”
 


BLOG: How Mercy is Hiring Nurses Faster with Phenom CRM, Events and Campaigns 
 

Nurturing relationships to support long-term recruiting goals


Even when new grads don’t initially join the Mercy team, tying their information to a specific event and graduation year gives recruiters a way to stay in touch. With nurture campaigns to keep the Mercy brand top-of-mind, recruiters build a talent pool to draw from for future positions that require some prior work experience. 
 

“You have to always be looking forward,” Drady said. “If they’re graduating in 2021, let’s tag them as a student grad for 2021. But, in a year from now, they’re going to have a year of experience …  so you can then go back and filter by those tags and lists, and then re-engage those candidates. Even if they didn’t join your organization a year ago, now is the time to reach back out to them.” 
 


Why Mercy plans to use a hybrid approach to university recruiting
 

Drady looks forward to the possibility of an in-person presence on campuses this fall. “We miss it. it’s just different being face-to-face,” she said. 
 

At this point, Mercy TA plans to pair virtual outreach with on-campus recruitment activities. Using a hybrid approach will allow the health system to continue to build new relationships with universities outside former geographic limits, tapping into new candidate markets.
 

The experience of recruiting in 2020 equipped talent acquisition teams with a blueprint for virtual success. Drady said that in looking ahead to recruiting college grads come fall, Mercy looks forward to at least (partially) getting back to in-person experiences.
 

READ MORE: Back to the Office: Exploring the Future of Hybrid Work 
 

What university recruitment trends are on the horizon?


Phenom’s Chris Lysiuk agrees that virtual recruiting has forged a place for itself that will outlast the pandemic. 
 


“Virtual recruiting is here to stay. I think in the landscape of university recruiting, it’s shown to have a lot of pros,” he said. “Now you can reach a more diverse student base, rather than shortlisting core schools. You can expand your footprint and go out to schools you haven’t thought of prior.”
 

As a product manager specializing in the university recruiting experience, Lysiuk has gained insight on other emerging trends:
 

  • Automation tools to streamline steps in virtual event creation and hiring process
  • Employer branding and candidate engagement: thinking beyond pitching to adding value
  • Video and customized content to personalize the virtual experience
  • Tools like chat platforms that can create a beyond-Zoom experience for virtual events
     

“We’re finding this newer generation of candidates requires deeper touch points than typical monotonous presentations. It’s forcing organizations now to think about creative ways on how they can further engage candidates in a digital age, outside of just talking at them.” 

 


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