The eager graduates who walk across a stage in cap and gown this month will hear the same question over and over from friends and relatives: “Have you found a job yet?” Those who are lucky enough to already have a job lined up may have found employment through companies that recruit on campus. As any college student or alumnus can attest, on-campus recruitment plays a central role in launching many post-graduation careers. By maximizing hiring efficiency for entry-level positions for college graduates, campus recruitment benefits not just students, but also, employers, colleges, and universities.
And yet, this pillar of our labor market has recently come under fire. Why? Some claim campus recruiting discriminates against older job applicants.
Fortunately, the courts have, so far, upheld the legality of campus recruiting. For the sake of students (both young and old), businesses, government, and the economy as a whole, I hope that view continues to prevail. The reality is that on-campus recruiting is not discriminatory and there really is no substitute for its efficiencies and effectiveness.
To start with, where else can you find a pool of hundreds or thousands of qualified jobseekers? Access to that talent pool allows employers numerous benefits. To name a few:
- Known quantity and quality: Before coming to a campus, prospective employers consider the majors a school offers, the quality of its programs, and past experiences with recruits from that school. [Source: NACE 2016 Recruiting Benchmarks Survey]. Recruiting on campus is especially valuable for professions that require particular coursework, certifications, or degrees, or that seek individuals who have completed an academically rigorous program. For example, if an employer wants students with a degree from a high-caliber agricultural science program, it makes sense to recruit at schools with a track record of excellence in that area.
- Timing is everything: Organizations that visit campuses fit in dozens of interviews each day. It’s a far more efficient and cost-effective process than the work of scheduling one-off interviews with candidates, including in many cases arranging for transport or travel. Likewise, student job seekers can interview with multiple employers without having to leave campus or even miss a class.
- Comparative advantage: On-campus recruiting also allows prospective employers to compare numerous applicants from the same campus. By comparing, for example, applicants’ grades, faculty recommendations, and extracurricular commitments, employers can make offers to the best talent from a particular university.
- Day one readiness: In many industries, it is essential to arrive on the job with the most current knowledge in the field. For example, in accounting, new hires need to be up to speed on relevant technology, as well as applicable accounting standards and regulations. The costs of teaching new employees foundational information are substantial. Recruiting on campuses and among recent graduates helps employers better ensure that they are getting candidates who can hit the ground running.
Each year, an impressive range of prospective employers recruit on college campuses: consulting firms, technology companies, governmental entities, public interest groups … the list goes on and on. A 2016 survey found that nearly 98 percent of firms who responded conducted on-campus recruiting. I’m thrilled that students have a vast array of paths to consider and pursue as they take that first step toward building their career — whether it’s in crop production, finance, the public sector, or something else entirely.
It’s hard to overstate how significant the impact on hiring practices would be if courts were to change course and limit prospective employers’ ability to recruit current students or recent graduates — on-campus or elsewhere. Just look at the federal government, which through the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, enforces the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). To name just a few examples of the government’s recruitment of students and recent graduates:
- In 2010, President Obama established the Pathways Program. The goal was to replace a patchwork of predecessor campus and graduate hiring programs with a streamlined recruiting program aimed to hire talented students and recent graduates for federal government positions. Under the Trump administration, agencies continue to use the Pathways Program to meet their hiring needs.
- Similarly, the Department of Labor — responsible for enforcing the country’s employment laws — has a highly esteemed Solicitor of Labor Honors Program. The program requires that applicants graduate from law school in the semester before starting the program, or finish a judicial clerkship, which students typically complete within a few years of graduating from law school.
- The Attorney General’s Honors Program, which, for decades, has recruited entry-level attorneys to Department of Justice, “has been recognized as the nation’s premier entry-level federal attorney recruitment program.” Eligibility “is limited to graduating law students and recent law school graduates who entered judicial clerkships, graduate law programs, or qualifying legal fellowships within 9 months of law school graduation.”
- Even federal district and appellate court judges, some of whom are now hearing these newly minted claims challenging campus recruiting, generally aim to hire for their prestigious clerkships applicants who are in law school or who recently graduated from law school.
Significantly, campus recruitment in no way excludes older applicants. Universities enroll both young and old students. According to government data, more than 13 percent of all graduates from American campuses were over the age of 40 for the 2014-2015 academic year. That’s more than 625,000 older students, who were able to take advantage of on-campus recruiting. [Note: these figures include graduate and undergraduate degree recipients, including awards of less than one academic year]. Many older students start college or graduate school after serving in the military, working, or starting a family. These students often enter school with a clear sense of their post-graduation career goals, and they are among those who benefit extensively from on-campus recruitment opportunities.
In short, on-campus recruitment is efficient, beneficial, and non-discriminatory. It should be here to stay.
George Landrith is the President and CEO of Frontiers of Freedom, a public policy think tank devoted to promoting a strong national defense, free markets, individual liberty, and constitutionally limited government.