How to become a campus recruiter

Last updated:
December 14, 2020
February 15, 2022
min read
Brendan McConnell
how to become a campus recruiter
Table of contents

As workforces continue their demographic shift to predominantly Millennial and Gen Y employees, there is a strong need for organizations to plan their future hiring needs.

This ensures that the organization is hiring not just for the present but also for future skills needs. College recruiters are an important component of this strategy and are charged with making the connections and hiring decisions needed for the company to thrive in the future.

This article will provide an overview of what college recruiters do, how to become one, and what skills you'll need to succeed.

Let's get started!

What does a campus recruiter do?

College recruiters are typically part of a company's talent acquisition team. They're tasked with sourcing, engaging, and hiring college and university talent for internships, entry-level, or temp positions.

A major component of a college recruiter's job is to work closely with management and talent acquisition leaders to determine short- and long-term business needs. The college recruiter is then tasked with creating and executing recruitment strategies that seek skilled individuals to fill those gaps.

This would include traditional hiring priorities like connecting with candidates, engaging them, and pushing them through the hiring process for short-term skills gaps. This might include networking and relationship building to fill talent pipelines for future needs for long-term skills gaps.

College recruiters may work exclusively with this demographic, or they may have hybrid positions that straddle the rest of the company's talent acquisition team.

Here's a list of the main responsibilities you can expect as a college recruiter:

1. Strategic planning. Including working with business leaders to determine future hiring needs and skills gaps and identifying which colleges and universities are potential talent pools.

2. Collaborating with hiring managers to write job descriptions, defining the recruiting process, developing interview processes and coaching, and establishing scorecards.

3. Identifying target colleges or universities that have the talent and skills pools that your organization is looking for.

4. Building relationships with colleges and universities, including networking with their careers services departments, and their events teams, to stay apprised of future job fairs and employment initiatives.

5. Managing a calendar of events, including managing the budget, set up, and on-site marketing for job fairs and networking.

6. Preparing employee branding materials to promote your company on campus and showcase your job openings.

7. Promote your company's attendance at events using recruitment marketing and direct outreach tactics.

8. Attend those events and network with students and faculty. Develop relationships with attendees, and encourage them to apply to your positions. Collect contact information for future use.

9. Answer questions about your company, including your culture, position, pay, benefits, and job growth opportunities.

10. Collect "leads" from the event and upload them to your Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) to push qualified candidates through the hiring funnel.

11. Pass off qualified candidate profiles to hiring managers and coordinate the "next steps" in the hiring process.

12. Create and execute campaigns to educate students about your organization, brand, and culture regularly.

13. Review college recruitment metrics and results and find ways to eliminate wasted effort in favor of more effective tactics.

14. Stay up-to-date on industry trends in your space, and introduce new college recruiting tactics where appropriate.

15. Review retention and performance metrics to ensure that your college hires are staying with the company for the desired length of time and performing well. Adapt your process as necessary.

As you can see, a college recruiter's job can be a busy one. This is a highly specialized role that demands that you straddle both regular recruitment duties with highly specialized outreach to college and university students.

The tactics and messaging you use to attract these candidates are likely to be quite different than what you'll use for more established professionals. As a result, college recruiters must find ways to uniquely appeal to this younger demographic and speak to them about the most important issues.

Now that we've looked at what a college recruiter does, let's look at some of the benefits of this role.

Benefits of being a campus recruiter

As mentioned, campus recruitment is a specialized form of talent acquisition. It requires a unique skill set and a different set of daily activities than most types of recruitment. This can be both a pro and con of the position, depending on your priorities.

If you're on the fence about whether you want to become a college recruiter, consider some of these benefits to help make your decision:

Lots of travel (in non-pandemic times)

  • With the exception of 2020, college recruiters have the unique benefit of traveling across their country and world to visit their target campuses. College recruitment is primarily an in-person activity, meaning that travel is an essential component of the job. If you're looking for a position that lets you use your recruitment skills and allows you to travel and see new places, then college recruitment might be a good option for you.

Challenging (but rewarding)

  • College recruitment can be one of the more challenging forms of talent acquisition for a variety of reasons. For one, it can be tough to lock down younger talent, especially if they're receiving a lot of interest or if they study in an in-demand field. And second, the dynamics of college recruitment are continually changing. A tactic that worked last year might not work next year. Because of this, college recruiters need to constantly stay on top of industry trends and ensure that they are saying the right things on the right platforms to appeal to an evolving demographic.

Ability to build deep networks

  • If you're looking for a job that lets you create lasting connections with people, college recruitment is an excellent option. A campus recruiter's primary responsibility is to network with students, faculty, and administrative staff to ensure that their hiring efforts are successful. And this activity is duplicated across all of the schools that you will target. Doing this for a few years will give you a deep rolodex of connections that can benefit you later in your career.

Direct impact

  • Campus recruiters are the company's frontline for finding and hiring the future leaders of the organization. This means that you will directly impact the future skills bench, culture, and leadership at your company.

It pays well

  • The average salary for campus recruiters in the US is roughly USD $60,000. This is an excellent average salary in the recruitment space, and can likely be increased as you gain more experience and impact at your company.

Now that we've talked about what campus recruiters do and the benefits of this job let's look at how you can become one.

How to become a campus recruiter

Campus recruiters typically start in conventional talent acquisition roles and then move into this specialized field. As such, you'll need most of the same education and training required to be a successful recruiter.

You'll typically need a bachelor's degree in human resources, business, or a related field. An alternative to this might be a college or university degree in a separate discipline coupled with relevant on-the-job experience.

University courses that will help you as a campus recruiter include:

  • Training and development
  • Fiscal management
  • Employee compensation
  • Labor relations
  • Human resources management
  • Interviewing skills
  • Employment placement strategies

In addition to this, it's helpful if you have some abilities or background in recruitment marketing or tactical outreach. Much of campus recruitment comes back to branding and demand generation, so you must have an eye for marketing or an interest in learning about it.

Many of the skills you'll need to be a campus recruiter can be built over time in more junior roles. Use any professional development budget you may have from your employer to build your skill set in this area. SHRM, for example, is a great resource for you to consider.

To expand on that last point, let's look at some of the key skills that you should have to be successful as a campus recruiter.

Campus recruiter skills you'll need to thrive

Every campus recruiter will bring their own unique abilities and skill set to the table that will make them successful in this role. If you're just starting out as a campus recruiter, or you're aspiring to be one, you might be wondering what hard and soft skills you'll need to develop. This section will dive into some of the most common skills you should focus on.

Here's a list of top campus recruiter skills:

1. Relationship building. Campus recruitment is all about networking and creating relationships with candidates and campus staff. You cannot be successful in this role if you don't have a strong ability to create strong connections with people. Doing so will help you make a lasting impression with college or university candidates, making it more likely that they will remember your company when it comes time to make an employment decision.

2. Target persona research. Campus recruitment often involves looking for a niche audience within a niche audience. Colleges and universities are large institutions with lots of students. Unless you work for a juggernaut of an organization, you likely have a very specific skill set or field of study that you're looking to recruit from. In these cases, you must have the ability to create targeted, ideal candidate personas that you can use as a reference point in your outreach. These will be your guiding light to ensure that your networking and marketing efforts are focussed on the right people.

3. Social media. College and university students today are predominantly from Gen Y. As such, social media is the best tool you have as a campus recruiter. You should have a strong aptitude for LinkedIn outreach, Facebook and Twitter targeting, audience segmentation, and content distribution via social media. It also helps if you're able to create and engage in organic conversations on these platforms.

4. Recruitment tech. Campus recruitment may involve high volumes of potential candidates. As such, it's important that you are familiar with your company's recruitment tech stack. This might include an ATS or CRM, both of which can be used to upload and nurture candidates through the hiring process.

5. Interviewing skills. After your networking and candidate generation efforts, you'll likely be called upon to conduct the initial stage of interviews. Like with all recruiters, you should have strong interviewing abilities and coach hiring managers on this skill.

6. Collaboration. Campus recruitment is, fundamentally, a collaborative process between management, the hiring manager, and the recruiter. Management sets the priority, the hiring manager defines the requirements, and the campus recruiters find the right person. This is a highly collaborative process, making teamwork a must-have skill for this role.

7. Research. Like with target personas, not all colleges and universities will be the right choice for your efforts. Because of this, you should have the ability to effectively research different institutions and faculties to determine if a given school is worth your time.

8. Soft Skills. College recruiters possess a range of important soft skills that make them successful. This often includes strong organization, listening abilities, relationship-building, communication, strategic thinking, and empathy.

9. Training. Campus recruiters will likely be called upon to coach hiring managers on interviewing best practices. More senior recruiters might also be asked to train and manage a team of college recruiters, which requires a range of management and coaching skills that will need to be developed.


As you can see, campus recruitment is a unique role within a talent acquisition team. It offers unique challenges and opportunities and requires a specific skill set that will set you apart from your peers. If you're looking for a new challenge in your recruitment career, then this job might be for you.

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