The Future of Campus Recruitment is Talents, Not Skills and Knowledge

By Emily Sider

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How Psychometric Testing Can Spotlight Top Millennial and Gen Z Talent


Whether your campus recruitment program involves booths at job fairs, on-campus interviews, relationships with career centers, or everything in-between, the goal is always the same: to attract and retain bright student and new grad talent.

[Read the press release: Find out how Plum is partnering with the world's largest school and work integrated program to place 21,000+ students into roles where they thrive]

The aches and pains of campus recruiters are pretty universal, too. Just to name a few…

  • You see a high volume of resumes come in for a job that all pretty much look the same after all, students and new grads don’t often have a rich history of job experience.
  • You know the race for top young talent is fierce after all, in the U.S. there are currently the same number of job openings as there are job seekers, and in Canada there are currently more people over the age of 65 than under 15.
  • The location of your company is facing the threat of “brain drain” (or the emigration of highly trained or top performing talent) to Silicon Valley or elsewhere.
  • You see the competitive edge that diverse young talent can bring to organizations and your company could use some of that innovative spirit.
  • Your product/brand needs some increased recognition among Millennials and Gen Z-ers.

At Plum, we believe that there’s a common thread that underlies these struggles, and we call it skills and knowledge vs. talents. We can’t take credit for it though. Buckingham and Coffman coined the model in their book First, Break All the Rules. In the workplace, people get hired for skills and knowledge, but get fired for talent. Let’s elaborate.

Buckingham and Coffman's model of skills, knowledge, and talents

“Skills” refers to the “how-to’s” of a role. Whether you know how to use MS Excel, Javascript, Photoshop, and so on. “Knowledge” refers to literally knowing something, and can usually be quantified in a degree or designation, like a CPA, MBA, or PhD. And you guessed it these are essentially the components of a resume. These are what people get hired for.

“Talents,” however, are recurring patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior. Talents include innovation, adaptation, communication (and more), and they’re how we understand and measure human potential. Not exactly what you’d find on the average resume. But 89% of the time, talents are what people are getting fired for.

89% of failed hires are due to insufficient talents, not skills and knowledge.

Talents are the future of effective campus recruitment programs. How? Well, let’s dig a little deeper.

Talents are a differentiator in a high volume of resumes

Can we be honest here for a second? Student and new grad resumes pretty much all look the same. Same education levels, and same absence of a history of on-the-job skills and experience. And for those entry-level positions, you’re probably seeing a whole lot of resumes come in, too. Finding top performers in those seas of resumes often feels like one big guessing game, doesn’t it?

Talents can suddenly become the differentiator that pinpoint what students and new grads in your talent pool will be top performers. Is your organization looking for more creative thinkers? Narrow your shortlist down to candidates who exhibit innovation. Do you want more interpersonal team players contributing to your company culture? Interview the candidates that prioritize teamwork and communication. After all, talents are 4X more accurate at predicting on-the-job success than a resume!

Talents are 4X more predictive of on-the-job success than a resume.

Talents attract young talent with a diverse culture

Nearly half of millennials say a diverse and inclusive workplace is an important factor in a job search. Building a culture that prioritizes diversity and inclusion is more than just the right thing to do it’s critical to attracting young talent.

Talents are measured using a combination of general mental ability, social intelligence, and personality, which are far less likely to trigger bias than the experience and education sections of a resume. So not only are talents a whole lot more predictive than a resume, but they bring a lot more diverse talent into your pipeline, too. And the research shows that simply having a more diverse talent pool will result in more diverse hires (just Google search “the Rooney Rule”).

Building a truly diverse and inclusive workplace requires intentional planning, measuring, and goal-setting at every stage of the employee lifecycle. But it all starts at your top-of-funnel hiring processes, so replacing skills and knowledge with talents as a primary shortlisting tool is a great place to start.

Talents retain students for the future of work

66% of Millennials expect to leave their organization by 2020, and 81% of Millennials are continuously looking for a new opportunity. Gone are the days of 30-year career commitments at a single company, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on employee retention completely. After all, turnover can cost up to 5X a bad hire's salary. And campus recruitment is a proven catalyst to higher retention rates companies that recruit talent from campuses have been known to see up to a 98.6% retention rate.

Companies that recruit talent from campuses have been known to see up to a 98.6% retention rate.

Employee retention will be especially critical in the future of work. Some 65% of today’s students will be applying for jobs that don’t exist yet. Some of those potential jobs could include Augmented Reality Journey Builder, AI-Assisted Healthcare Technician, and Chief Trust Officer. It’s not like you’ll be able to hire someone with a Masters in “trust” or 10 years experience in Healthcare AI. We will no longer be able to depend on past education and experience to place people into roles we will need to rely on future potential, and therefore talents.

According to the World Economic Forum, talents such as coordinating with others, negotiation, and teaching others will be especially critical in the future of work. And the Harvard Business Review says that the future of human work is imagination, creativity, and strategy.

Not only will talents help you retain student talent now, but they will be the differentiator that allow you to quantify the potential of your workforce to shift your retained talent into net new roles in the future.

Tying it all together

Whether it’s managing volume, fostering diversity, or hiring students to prepare for the future of work, talents (rather than skills and knowledge) will be the differentiator that revolutionizes campus recruitment strategies.

Whether it's managing volume, fostering diversity, or preparing for the future of work, talents will be the differentiator that revolutionizes campus recruitment strategies. 

Plum works with campus recruitment teams to quantify the potential of Millennial and Gen-Z job seekers. We measure 10 talents, including innovation, adaptability, and communication, right at the top of your hiring funnel. Find out more about how Plum helps provide students and new grads with better work experiences (even in the absence of a history of on-the-job skills and experience) by checking out our Campus Recruitment Solutions Page.