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Double Bind on Campus

Newsletter • volume 1 • number 7

The traditional college recruitment and placement model is broken. At least that is what we heard at the Western College Placement Association's 43rd Annual Conference in Reno, Nevada this month. Employers are sending fewer recruiters to fewer schools and starting the recruitment process much earlier through internships.

Some companies are shifting to "just-in-time" recruiting since they cannot pre-plan staffing needs with enough lead-time to use traditional on-campus interview schedules. In addition, the cultural diversity of the student body is currently increasing at a faster rate than it is among recruiters. The result is a rapidly changing recruitment environment.

In the best of times, on-campus interviewing is a challenge involving a 30-minute process and an exhausting day for students and recruiters.

Now, however, more students are going through a pre-screen with drastically shortened initial interviews. These pre-screens are called Job Fairs or Career Weeks. This may be no more than a 5-minute talk at a recruiter's table while a dozen other students crowd around waiting for their turn. Students must "stand-out" in a shorter time period, and often they face recruiters who don't share the students' diversity and are thus less likely to understand them.

This dilemma creates a double bind for both the recruiter and the student. Recruiters have to consider more students in less time, and students have to make a much greater impression in that same short amount of time.

Pre-screens are particularly challenging for students who bring high-context cultural values into the interview. These individuals are less boastful and assertive than many of their classmates, and are less likely to talk about their individual achievements. They may be more comfortable talking about accomplishments of the team or group.

Students who survive the initial screening schedule get a traditional 30-minute on-campus interview. Far fewer students make it to this second interview. The whole process is very trying and runs the risk of turning the Job Fair into a beauty pageant or a Darwinian survival contest. Both recruiters and students are caught in a bind, with recruiters making faster, less studied decisions about students who are far more diverse and thus more difficult to assess by traditional standards.

Now more than ever, recruiters must be educated before they arrive on-campus. Such training should include techniques for understanding and responding to the growing diversity among students.