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College Recruiting and Training Program Powers Partner Growth

While college students may be prepared for the technical aspects of consultancy, many partners hesitate to recruit employees directly out of school. Concerns about graduates' lack of business savvy and practical experience keep many partners from tapping the college market.

But to expand and diversify the workforce, both at the partner and channel levels, it's critical to bring in fresh talent, not just poach experienced consultants. One partner is supporting impressive growth through a repeatable college recruiting and training program that introduces eight to 10 young people to the consulting world each year.

Over the six years that Amber Rush has been visiting college campuses to recruit for her employer, HMB, a custom dev and consulting partner based in Columbus, Ohio, the company has grown from about 70 employees to more than 230 today. Each year, eight to 10 of those employees join the team from local colleges and prepare for the real world through HMB's Grad Academy program.

"The recruiting process for the Grad Academy, which is the program we hire for out of college, is really pretty simple," said Rush. "I visit college campuses this time of year, initially starting out in the fall. The main ones we hit up are all really in Ohio since all of our work is here in Columbus. We try to stay local since the consultants will be here in Columbus."

Accompanied by HMB consultants who have been through the process themselves, Rush attends career fairs at the colleges. "All of the different companies just set up their booths in the space and then the students walk around and chat with everyone," said Rush. "For the students that I had a good connection with and really liked and could see doing well here, I set up next-day interviews."

Those students who make it past the initial round are invited to HMB for technical interviews, meeting with several HMB consultants. A standard aptitude test is administered and then the decision to make an offer.

Building the diversity of the HMB team is always a goal of the recruiting efforts, and Rush depends on current employees to connect with college students. "Whenever we have women that have graduated from the school we are visiting, I try to take them," said Rush. "I think that definitely helps to draw in the other women."

Additional outreach to students includes working with organizations like Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) college chapters. "Outside of the career fairs, we do presentations and information nights with different groups," said Rush. "We recently did an information night with the [Ohio State University] ACMW, which is the women's chapter of their ACM club. We took a few different consultants and they each did some mini-level tech talks for the group. I think targeting specific groups, especially like the women's chapter of a specific sort of user group, is helpful."

Social media is an important component of the HMB recruiting effort. "College students love social media and they're plugged in to all of the different avenues. So, we're constantly Tweeting and posting to Facebook," said Rush. "We make sure when we're posting that we're using that appropriate hashtags, as well, so it comes up really easily for students. I definitely think that helps us be more visible to the students since they are so plugged in to all of the different social media avenues."

About 40 students will make it to HMB's technical interviews each year, with 15 to 18 offers typically made. About half of the students will accept offers to hit the eight-to-10 target mark for college hires each year. Making some progress with diversity, three of the eight students to go through the Grad Academy in 2016 were women.

HMB's Grad Academy is a three-week intensive training program that prepares students for work in the real world. "It's their first three weeks here at HMB, all taught by our senior consultants. Experts at what they do, living and breathing this every day," explained Rush. "It's a mix of technology and soft skills for the world of consulting to help them feel prepared to go to the client sites and start working on projects. Really a great transition from college to career to help them feel prepared, rather than just kind of throwing them to the wolves on a client site, to really help them focus."

The training is a selling point for recruitment efforts. "They're coming in with eight to 10 other folks at the same time, so they're all on the same playing field. It's nice for them to have that camaraderie of a whole group of grads coming out of school," said Rush. "Students often say, 'I think I learned more in that three weeks of training than I did in four years of school.'"

HMB's program demonstrates that college recruiting isn't only for the big consulting firms, and can deliver huge returns to every size organization. To build diversity in the channel, partners need to look to the next generation of tech employees. With a commitment to training of college recruits, partners can expand their workforce and ensure a strong future of the business with a young, balanced workforce.

How is your organization taking a creative approach to recruiting? Send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on September 20, 2017


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