Hire education: Star recuriters

With competition fierce to snap up top grads, a survey of 30 thousand students shows recuriters what the new crop of employees want.

Introduction | An emerging cohort | Tug-of-war | The results | Where, why, and who? | Star recruiters

IBM: setting the hook from day 1

Quick. What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of IBM? If you're like most people, you probably said, “Computers.” If you're a graduating student assessing your career options, however, you might also associate the global technology giant with being a great place to work. According to Brainstorm and D-Code's latest online campus recruitment study, IBM came out on top, based on a survey of about 30,000 students who were prompted in an open-ended question to list five companies where they'd like to start their careers. The results, say survey authors Graham Donald and Eric Meerkamper, demonstrate that IBM is doing something right when it comes to engaging potential young hires, particularly because of the stiff competition it faces from other companies with information-technology and business-consulting functions.

So what exactly is IBM's secret to brand success among the millennial generation? Dave Scott, national campus programs manager for Markham-based IBM Canada, points to several initiatives designed specifically to hook students from the moment they step in the door. For starters, there's Extreme Blue, IBM's “premier” internship program that pairs one MBA with three IT or engineering students and charges them with the task of designing their own IT solution to an existing business problem. Scott says recruits are “amazed at how fast they're able to work on these high-profile projects,” a career trait Meerkamper and Donald say is increasingly important to the latest generation of job seekers. IBM also encourages all employees — particularly its young hires — to jump between different departments, recognizing that generation Y's hunger for constant change in the workplace is a key retainment strategy.

By getting these key messages out during campus recruitment drives, Scott says students have learned to identify IBM as a company that is committed to their long-term career goals. Most importantly, he adds, IBM has made it clear that a temporary internship or co-op position with the company will almost always translate into something more permanent. “We hire strategically from the start. We don't hire a student just to come in for the summer,” Scott says. “We hire them with the hopes that when they do graduate they're going to join IBM as full-time employees. We've got a motto: Recruit once. Hire twice.”

Deloitte: the value of feedback and choice

Contrary to what you might think about their generation, twentysomethings value structure and feedback as part of their day-to-day working lives. That's why global professional services firm Deloitte provides a performance coach to each intern, co-op student and full-time employee to help set realistic goals, and track against them on an ongoing basis. That initiative may be one of the reasons business students surveyed as part of Brainstorm and D-Code's national campus recruitment study ranked Deloitte second in terms of companies they'd like to work for upon graduation. “We work with them to really understand whether their development needs are being met,” says Tara Winslow, the firm's senior manager of national campus recruitment. “That, and to provide overall support and guidance when someone starts.”

Study co-author and D-Code partner Eric Meerkamper says large international consulting firms such as Deloitte also fared well among students because of the diversity of choices they offer. With so many practice areas to choose from — including tax, audit, enterprise risk, consulting and financial advisory — employees have the opportunity to experience different parts of the business during their careers at Deloitte.

Another huge bonus? A recently launched global internship program that sends a select group of new recruits to places such as Australia, the Netherlands and the United States to work with one of Deloitte's global member firms for eight to 12 weeks. All full-time employees are also eligible to participate in the firm's popular Global Development Program, which enables short- or long-term work placements in locations around the world. Finally, says Winslow, Deloitte makes sure to practise what it preaches when it comes to work-life balance — a key attribute of professional life for the millennial generation. As part of the firms' wellness initiative, Deloitte will cover a portion of the costs for expenses ranging from gym memberships and personal trainers to book-club fees and weight-loss programs. Heck, they'll even reimburse you for dog walking, grocery delivery, lawn care and home-cleaning services. Nice work if you can get it.

Research In Motion: the power of co-op

As far as company brands go, it's not hard to see why RIM, based in Waterloo, Ont., has a head start among students. It is, after all, the tech firm that invented the popular BlackBerry wireless e-mail device, a must-have gadget for today's upwardly mobile professional. It's also a cool place to work, says Elizabeth Roe Pfeifer, RIM's vice-president of organizational development. She notes that RIM offers about 1,000 co-op and internship positions annually, and hires up to 150 new grads each year. In fact, engineering students surveyed as part of Brainstorm and D-Code's 2006 campus recruitment study gave RIM high marks as a place they'd like to work upon graduation.

Roe Pfeifer says a major selling point for many members of the millennial generation is a chance to be a part of the ongoing “RIM success story,” including the opportunity to get their hands wet on real-life software solutions. “Certainly, from an engineering perspective, we'd like to have a co-op student be able to say when they get back to campus that, 'I'm the guy or girl who wrote the program for this on the BlackBerry,' and show their friends, because that is so cool,” she says.

With large Canadian and U.S. software engineering and technology companies nipping at RIM's heels when it comes to recruitment drives (particularly at the University of Waterloo), the Ontario company has worked hard to differentiate itself from its competitors. In addition to providing tons of feedback to students during their four-month co-op stays and promoting the fact that they should experience as many different aspects of the business as possible, RIM also provides access to the company's legendary co-chief executives, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, through frequent company meetings. “Those two really know how to light up a room. Mike Lazaridis was a University of Waterloo co-op student and a lot of the things he got from his co-op experience he's been a proponent of offering here,” says Roe Pfeifer. Of course, it does not hurt that all students get a free BlackBerry — and monthly service — for the duration of their stay.