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VISTA Article [Spotlight: Employer Side] [5/1/12]
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Branding to Students: The Employer’s Challenge

By Sabrina Black, Communications & Recruiting Coordinator, Lundquist College of Business, Career Services, University of Oregon

One of the misconceptions that Stephanie Savage, HR Corporate Recruiter at U-Haul International in Phoenix, Arizona, faces is speaking with students who think that working or interning at U-Haul means driving a truck. Throughout her recruiting efforts, Savage works to establish clear understanding of the job opportunities and correct misconceptions.

Marie Cope, Talent Acquisition Recruiter at Daimler Trucks North America in Portland, Oregon, faces similar challenges regarding a lack of brand awareness among the students she targets for job and internship opportunities.

“If you say the word ‘Daimler,’ people think ‘DaimlerChrysler,’ which hasn’t existed since 2007. People think we haul freights instead of manufacture. They don’t realize we’re an industry leader, we’re a green company,” says Cope.

Savage and Cope have to consider these misconceptions when planning and strategizing their recruiting efforts. Companies are generally familiar with branding for the purpose of reaching their customers, but branding for the purpose of reaching potential interns and employees creates a different challenge. 

To address this challenge of branding and awareness among students, Savage and Cope work to develop strong relationships with campus career centers and target particular groups of students. For example, Cope only attends focused career fairs, such as career fairs for engineering students, to target students with the academic background she’s looking for. Focused efforts like this help to ensure that clearly established messages and opportunities are provided to the students who have the academic background and skills to fit the company and available opportunities.

Developing relationships with campus career support allows Savage and Cope to help bring brand awareness to the students they are targeting because they are able to convey company culture and opportunities to sources who help market and promote those opportunities to students.

Assistance with marketing and promotion from within career centers helps Savage clarify opportunities available for students and disseminate some initial concerns. “We’re a successful and stable company with a lot to offer and we hope that students will look to us when getting out of school,” Savage says.

In addition to looking to universities to promote opportunities, meeting with students face-to-face is one of the preferred ways to build brand awareness. Cope participates in mock interviews and other activities, which are beneficial for promoting Daimler as well has helping students to develop their career search skills.

“It’s a symbiotic relationship,” Cope says. “We really like the idea of community involvement.”

Career centers can help employers increase their community involvement at universities by making opportunities for involvement known to employers. Mock interviews, information sessions, and other networking activities that offer face time with students are great ways to connect students and employers as well as give employers the chance to promote the opportunities within their company. But with recruiters reaching out to multiple universities – sometimes on a national scope – knowing what kind of on-campus involvement is available can be an issue.

“Sometimes I’m asked, ‘What would you like to do?’ and I don’t always know what the options are. Being brought the opportunities is really helpful,” Cope says.

Career centers can greatly assist employers’ recruiting efforts simply by understanding the company and the culture,then expanding on that knowledge.

“There have been many a time where recruitment isn’t getting the applicants that we know are out there,” Cope says. She adds that having a well-developed relationship with career centers would help in terms of specific recommendations. If a career center’s staff doesn’t have specific recommendations, they might be able to direct employers to student groups or faculty who might have suggestions.

As company branding for potential employees became a more apparent issue, Savage and Cope adjusted their approaches to recruiting, from the job posting to the interview.

“When I first started, I would just call people and have them come in for interviews,” Savage says. “I found that it’s helpful to have a screening call before they come in. I educate the applicant on our company and the specifics of the position to ensure that it will be a fit for them.”

Cope adjusted her methods by reaching out to applicants during the interview. She asks how the student heard about the opportunity – where they found the opportunity, where they are looking – then going to those places to promote jobs and internships. Through these conversations, Cope learned that going through LinkedIn and career services offices is more valuable than posting positions on Monster or CareerBuilder when targeting students.

By using their experiences to evaluate and adapt recruiting methods in combination with building strong relationships with career centers, Savage and Cope might be able to brand their respective companies in ways to help alleviate misconceptions. Over time, maybe Savage won’t have to answer questions about driving trucks and Cope won’t have to tell students that, no, Daimler doesn’t haul freight.

Career centers can also help employer recruiting efforts by sharing with students the following tips from Cope and Savage:

  1. Read the job description. Generic resumes don’t stand out. Tailor it for what the employer is looking for.
  2. Research the company. It’s very frustrating for recruiters to be asked during an interview what the company does.
  3. PDF your resume. Differences in software versions and tracking programs can ruin carefully structured formatting and make your resume look horrible.
  4. Ask questions. Asking questions at the end of the interview shows interest in the company and can illustrate how thoroughly they have researched the company and read the job posting.

Stephanie Savage
HR Corporate Recruiter
U-Haul International
Phoenix, AZ

Marie Cope
CAReer – The Talent Program
Talent Acquisition Management Group
Daimler Trucks North America
Portland, OR


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