Blog: Moses Lee

Since its inception, TechArb, U-M's student start-up accelerator, has put $5 million into 97 student-run ventures. Moses Lee, co-founder of truApp and director of TechArb, writes about recruiting college students and this summer's crop of student entrepreneurs.

How to Recruit College Students to Your Company

Campus recruiting is back, and it's as strong as it has ever been.  

I recently had a conversation with a key executive at a mid-sized tech company in Michigan and he told me that at a staff meeting, the company announced it intended to actively recruit college students to fill positions because it was losing relevancy with the younger demographic and the company needed an injection of fresh ideas.

Lots of companies today are starting to figure out that college graduates can do a lot more than just make great coffee; if you empower them correctly, they can add significant value to product development, branding, marketing, sales, and culture.  As one college student told me, "We can help make a company cool." And in a day and age when consumers and businesses are making purchasing decisions base on the reviews they read online, "cool" can go a long way.

But how do you successfully recruit the modern day college student?  And more broadly speaking, how can we keep great collegiate talent from leaving the state of Michigan?

Here are some thoughts to consider:

Culture Counts
The college student today cares deeply about organizational culture. When deciding where to work, students want to know about the environment and what it's like to work with the people in a company. Do employees work in cubicles or in an open, collaborative space? (The latter is more attractive, btw.) Do people go out together after work?  Is the workplace collegial or hierarchical? How open are executives to the opinions of junior employees? Is there any unique flair in the organization that makes it special? Culture can be a competitive advantage when recruiting college students. Make sure to emphasize it (or invest in it!).

Impact Driven
The college student today is very thoughtful about how his or her work impacts people and society. A failing campus recruiting strategy is approaching college students as cheap labor to do remedial tasks.  College students are more skilled and accomplished than ever before and they aren't afraid to work long hours as long as they know it's for a good reason. As one student recently told me, "I don't want to work for the sake of working. I want my work to have meaning, even if it means making less money."  

What will I learn? How will I grow?
Good or bad, most college students see their first job out of college as a transition and really want to make sure that wherever they end up, they are growing and learning. That is why it is so important to communicate what an employee will learn on the job and who they will learn from.  If you haven't done so already, it might be good for your company to come up with a talent development plan.  In the long run, it will pay dividends.   

The Medium is the Message
College students are very web savvy and will do a lot of internet research on you and your company when deciding where to work.  Does your company have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a website? Are you trying out various online tools to try and reach talented college students? Are your key employees and executives on LinkedIn? As much as you want to do research on potential hires online, young people are doing research about your company online. And the key question is: are you properly engaging and communicating the right message? A poor online presence could spell doom.

The above insights come from years of working with college students at the University of Michigan and my startup, truApp. These are also generalizations and won't apply to everyone. I am hoping that my reflections will help you better recruit talented college students to work for your company and #KeepTalentInMichigan.  

Reach Moses at or @mosesklee.