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Universities’ Recruitment Strategies Case Study


Competition among public and private institutions is intensifying, and universities are no exception. With minimal support from governments, institutions of higher learning must market themselves as employers of choice. They ought to work on their image to increase enrollment rates and stakeholder satisfaction. Marketing an institution as an employer of choice not only has a significant effect on the nature of talent in the institution, but it also harms how other parties judge the institution.

Linking recruitment strategies to organizational culture

Universities have realized that the working population has changed. Younger employees have different expectations from their employers. The older generation was quite loyal and would dedicate their professional careers to one institution. However, newer faculty have more options now, so they are less loyal than older workers. Employers have learned that proactive recruitment strategies are essential to survival. This means linking their recruitment efforts to organizational culture. Universities must now make a case for their corporate values through their recruitment efforts. This means having a focused message that conveys the university’s culture and identity compellingly. Companies now have a long term vision of the systems, values, and policies that define employee and employer expectations in the institution1.

The starting point in linking organizational culture with recruitment is making an inventory of the nature of candidates that the university wants to have. In this regard, institutional stakeholders need to decide on the values they expect applicants to possess. They should also determine what these potential employees want from a tertiary educational institution. Furthermore, a university should know the job search tools that these target workers use to find work. After determining the qualities of the applicants they want, universities then think about the process of application that candidates go through when getting to them. After that, they will examine the factors that make them an employer of choice. A self-analysis of the key strengths in the institution is imperative at this point. Usually, organizations get this information from workshops or interviews with employers and employees. Unless one can differentiate between perceived organizational value and real value, then branding and recruiting will be ineffective. The idea is to determine what the organizational culture in the university is like. After that, a firm must synergize its corporate brand with recruitment efforts. Recruitment styles ought to match the culture of the university as soon as employees enter the institution. In the internal environment, an organization can work on its orientation programs for new workers. It can also provide training for the newly employed as well as intranet services to faculty. Firms need to facilitate open communication with their workers to build a healthy organizational culture. This will have a bearing on recruitment endeavors, especially concerning championing the firm among potential applicants2.

While many universities may demonstrate elements of the strategies mentioned above, it is obvious that not all of them succeed in their attempts. Those that do a poor job of linking organizational culture to recruitment are the ones that treat a recruitment effort as an ad campaign. If they merely focus on a cliché, then potential employees will not understand the culture, and they will not approach the institution. Furthermore, universities that do not practice what they market are likely to report poor outcomes. These institutions do not nurture their organizational culture by practicing what they promise. If applicants learn that a university does not have any of the programs that it markets in place, then future applications will reduce. Perhaps the most crucial cause of failure is the lack of a long term focus. When companies do not have a vision, then they are less likely to create a link between recruitment and retention among the masses.

Marketing the organization

Several institutions of higher learning are under pressure to market their organizations to potential employees. However, the pressure is even more intense for relatively unknown universities as they often bear the brunt of ambiguity and uncertainty about the institution. Some schools have utilized various external and internal features to differentiate themselves from their competitors in the field of tertiary education. For instance, some have used natural settings like location and proximity to landmark sites to market themselves. Others opt to focus on internal features that are attractive to employees and faculty members. The latter approaches are more effective than superficial features. 3

Branding is a fundamental aspect of the marketing process. Here, tertiary institutions work on their logos, slogans, and brands to raise their profile. Many organizations now realize that it is not sufficient to have the same branding strategy for decades on end. Instead, a number of them may engage in rebranding exercises. They attempt to furnish the masses with information about the university and its relevance as an employer of choice. Not all tertiary education bodies are always successful at achieving this. When all the members of a university do not understand the essence of a branding strategy, then it is likely that they may fail in marketing themselves as employers of choice. Their representatives will send mixed messages to the recruitment pool, and this could backfire on them. The extent to which an organization incorporates various members in branding also affects outcomes. Those that view rebranding and branding as HR reserves will not have sufficient support to make their marketing efforts successful. 4

When marketing an organization, a company needs to highlight how it is a suitable environment for innovators. For instance, the university may talk about the level of support it gives to game changers and innovators. It may also foster pride in the institution as a place that differs from competitors. The idea is to make an organizational culture so valuable to employees that they will be willing to refer other employees to the institution. These universities use their existing employees as referral markets by keeping their promises and creating a conducive work environment. During these referral programs, employees can share stores about their experiences at the university and thus offer information that would have been hard to find using other platforms.

It should be noted that leaving the referral program entirely in the hands of employees could be detrimental to a university. An organization can formalize the referral program by training its workers and teaching them ways of sending compelling messages to target audiences. They can show them key communication channels and support for using those platforms. Universities should also give information concerning how well their management exhibits leaders or how it motivates workers.

Budgetary constraints in public universities limit the number of financial incentives they can promise their applicants. As a result, many of them may be perceived as uncompetitive when compared to the private sector. To counteract this negative image, universities often focus on other reward mechanisms such as pension, life and health insurance, career development as well as opportunities for training and development. The younger generation is highly interested in the concept of work-life balance, so universities are in a unique position to take advantage of this need. 5

Strategies and initiatives to attract applicants

Universities are quite fond of job fairs as a strategy for attracting applicants. They may also use other events to show job seekers that they are an institution of choice. In these scenarios, the firms will talk about the perks and rewards that come with working for them. They will also mention other non-monetary benefits of working for the institution, such as access to sufficient teaching aids and information for the classroom. Job fairs often allow university officials to interact with job seekers and respond to questions that they may have about the organizations. These sometimes work in their favor, although they usually apply to graduates and lower-level faculty.

Universities also make advertisements for a recruitment effort. In this regard, they will inform the public about a vacancy, the qualifications, and experience needed to secure the job. Most may use local newspapers for this purpose. The main advantage of such an approach is that it reaches a wide pool of applicants. On the flip side, it is not a targeted strategy, so it could attract a vast pool of unskilled or unwanted job applicants.

Furthermore, advertising, when done plainly, could not differentiate a university as a place of choice. It often focuses on what employers can bring to the university rather than what the institution can do for them. Pragmatic institutions take the time to outline what employees could gain if they select the university as a place of choice.

Technology has become a vital player in employer branding within tertiary educational institutions. Companies now communicate with potential employees through blogs, social media, and recruitment websites. It is possible to offer in-depth and unbiased information about a tertiary institution through a blog or social media. Here, visitors would have the opportunity to talk about their experiences as employees in the company. Potential applicants are more likely to believe information from third parties than what is available on company websites. Continuous engagement with the labor pool can go a long way in marketing an institution as the employer of choice. Firms also have the option of building an internet presence through the use of cutting-edge technology. In this regard, they can talk about programs or people management practices at their university. The websites should also facilitate dialogue between the employer and the employee. In certain respects, this will work by providing those who need information about the institution directly from the horse’s mouth. 6

Sometimes internship programs are unique opportunities for universities to access the right pool of workers. Many final year students may choose to do an internship at an institution. Tertiary bodies have the option of building an image amongst these potential applicants in a direct way. They can give them a taste of what is to come by treating them fairly and supporting them. While private institutions get their interns from external firms, universities often use their students. As a result, potential employees assess them with greater scrutiny than external interns. This means that tertiary educational entities must be as transparent as possible during the internship.

Not all university vacancies are filled are the same rate. Some specialized courses have a scarcity of applicants. To attract and retain applicants, some learning bodies have created partnerships with other learning bodies to facilitate sharing between different institutions. For example, it is possible to find that one professor in nuclear physics teaches students in various universities. Conversely, some institutions of higher learning may suffer from an abundance of candidates with the same skills. In this regard, they can make trade-offs with other institutions that do not have those surpluses. 7

How organizations measure the effect of branding and recruitment exercises

If branding and recruitment exercises are effective, then universities ought to report changes in their human resource pool. First, they ought to attract applicants with the right skill sets. If they want to know whether an employer branding exercise has been successful, then they must measure the number of rightly-skilled candidates in their applicant pool. Additionally, employee retention testifies to an organizations’ status as an employer of choice. When workers are satisfied with their institutions, then they are likely to stay loyal. Therefore, tertiary education institutions also measure turnover rates after employer branding. If the record decreases in turnover rates, then recruitment efforts were effective. However, if the opposite occurs, then they must reorganize and change their branding strategies. In some circumstances, they can measure the number of workers that complete their probation periods. For these measures to work well, then companies need to have baseline goals which they must aspire towards before branding. After a branding exercise, they can then evaluate the figures based on the goals they set. For instance, a company can decide to reduce its turnover rates by 5% by the end of its employer branding exercise. Turnover rates may also be measured through the vacancy rates within a university. Alternatively, it could decide to increase the number of skilled faculty by 10%. These are all percentages and targets that must be selected realistically and appropriately. 8

Specific measures may also be essential in demonstrating the success of recruitment efforts immediately after branding. For instance, a university can assess the degree of employee satisfaction shortly after hiring them. Alternatively, it may measure the flow of applicants that come into the university whenever they announce an opening. In certain circumstances, they can use financial parameters to assess these outcomes. For instance, they may measure the cost of bringing each applicant and compare it to overall figures before the rebranding exercise. Many experts caution organizations about the financial approach because cost savings may come at the expense of quality improvements. Additionally, short term gains may mitigate the long term benefits of higher employee retention as well as greater faculty satisfaction.

The time it takes for an organization to hire its employees also indicates the relative success or failure of the branding and recruitment experience. If recruitment lags on for months, then the chances are that the company did not achieve its goals. It may achieve this by measuring average hiring times and comparing them with time-to-hire after a branding strategy. 9

Certain firms may use technology as a resource for measuring branding effects. If the level of media exposure is high, then the chances are that more people will want to work for the institution, and this will be a successful endeavor. One way of assessing the extent of media exposure is through placement on best-places-to-work websites. Many industries, companies or analysts have created websites in which they list the best places to work in their area of concern. Therefore, if a company has done relatively successfully in this parameter, it may consider analyzing the extent to which it has risen the ranks. For instance, if it was position 23 before employer branding, it may aspire towards position ten after the exercise. However, universities must be careful about this parameter because not all of them are capable of making it to the lists. Only those organizations that have already featured in these lists can successfully use them. It can be quite frustrating if a university continually aspires to be in the top 50 employers list but never gets there. Factors like size and length of existence of the university affect how well websites respond to them. 10


In these highly competitive times, universities must be proactive about their recruitment endeavors. First, they need to create an organizational culture that fosters employee loyalty and causes potential applicants to perceive the university as an employer of choice. Successful firms also foster communication and offer applicants rewards that are not just monetary. Perhaps the most effective approach to recruitment as a strategy is thinking of it as a long term endeavor and having visions and objectives to work towards.


Boudreau, John and Peter Ramstad. Beyond HR: The new science of human capital. Boston. MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2007.

Clarke, Gerladine. “An examination of self-monitoring and the influence of others as determinants of attitude to the higher education application service process in the UK.” Journal of Marketing for Higher Education 15, no.2 (2005): 1-22.

Dill, David & Marja Soo. Transparency and quality in higher education markets. Kluwer: Dorndrecht, 2004.

Fulmer, Ingrid, Barry Gerhart and Kimberly Scott. “Are the 100 best better? an empirical investigation of the relationship between being a ‘great place to work’ and firm performance.” Personnel Psychology 56, no. 4(2003): 965–993.

Huselid, Mark, Brian Becker and Richard Beatty. The workforce scorecard: managing human capital to execute strategy. Boston, MA.: Harvard Business School Press, 2005.

Lievens, Filip, Greet Van hoye and Frederick Anseel. “Organizational identity and employer image: towards a unifying framework.” British Journal of Management 18, no. S1(2007): ppS45–S59.

Martin, Graeme and Susan Hetrick. Corporate reputations, branding and people management: a strategic approach to HR. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2006.

Mason, Geoff and Gareth Williams and Sue Cranmer. Employability skills initiatives in higher education: what effects do they have on graduate labour outcomes? Philadelphia: Taylor and Francis, 2006.

Nixon, Iain. Work-based Learning: Impact Study. London: London Higher Education Academy, 2008.

Sitanshu, Das & Byomkesh Debata. “Employer branding: A strategy for attracting and retaining talents.” International Journal for Business, strategy & Management 1, no.3(2011): 1-44.


1. Geoff Mason and Gareth Williams and Sue Cranmer, Employability skills initiatives in higher education: what effects do they have on graduate labor outcomes? (Philadelphia: Taylor and Francis, 2006), 51.

2 David Dill & Marja Soo, Transparency, and quality in higher education markets (Kluwer: Dordrecht, 2004), 103.

3 John Boudreau and Peter Ramstad, Beyond HR: The new science of human capital (Boston. MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2007), 44.

4 Das Sitanshu & Byomkesh Debata, “Employer branding: A strategy for attracting and retaining talents,” International Journal for Business, strategy & Management 1, no.3(2011): 1-44.

5Mark Huselid, Brian Becker and Richard Beatty, The workforce scorecard: managing human capital to execute strategy (Boston, MA.: Harvard Business School Press, 2005), 95.

6Filip Lievens, Greet Van Hoye and Frederick Anseel, “Organizational identity and employer image: towards a unifying framework,” British Journal of Management 18, no. S1(2007): ppS45–S59.

7 Nixon, Iain, Work-based Learning: Impact Study (London: London Higher Education Academy, 2008), 80.

8 Graeme Martin and Susan Hetrick, Corporate reputations, branding, and people management: a strategic approach to HR, (Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2006), 72.

9 Geraldine Clarke, “An examination of self-monitoring and the influence of others as determinants of attitude to the higher education application service process in the UK,” Journal of Marketing for Higher Education 15, no.2 (2005): 1-22.

10 Ingrid Fulmer, Barry Gerhart, and Kimberly Scott, “Are the 100 best better? An empirical investigation of the relationship between being a ‘great place to work’ and firm performance,” Personnel Psychology 56, no. 4(2003): 965–993.

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