Companies tend to avoid recruiting on campus at liberal arts colleges because the economics don’t make sense. I don’t fault them. Small liberal arts colleges oftentimes do not teach applicable professional courses and the return on investment of sending a recruiter to a remote college town, like Northfield in Minnesota, is very low.
Let’s look at it from the lens of a F500 campus recruiter. Of the 2,000 students at a liberal arts college, 500 of them are juniors who can feed into your summer analyst program. More than half of them are going to grad school and a good percentage of them want nothing to do with capitalism. Between the economics, STEM and social sciences, you might find 100 students interested in working in the private sector. Most of those students have little to no professional experience, considering they didn’t even declare their major until their sophomore year. You are essentially giving up two days of recruiter time and racking up significant travel costs to find 10 or 20 high quality candidates who will fit in your organization.
On the flip side, you could drive 20 minutes to the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management career fair and hit 1,000 business, finance and marketing majors. You have a relationship with the school, hired 20 interns there last year and your company has been recruiting there for the past 20 years. The choice seems pretty obvious.
That said, here are some thoughts on why you should consider hiring from liberal arts colleges:
They have learned how to learn.
Liberal arts colleges pride themselves in offering students a holistic education. This is higher ed jargon that essentially means: They take a ton of thought-inducing courses, juggle a lot of extracurriculars and are really good at coming up with creative solutions to problems.
Think about how that translates into project work. You are essentially picking up a well rounded and intellectually curious hire who you can throw at any problem. The best part about it is that person will bang their head against the wall, or Google creatively, until they figure it out. They might not have taken industry courses, but I would challenge you to point out one business school class that cannot be learned within a few months on the job.
They are hungry.
I like to think I have a chip on my shoulder. It comes from applying to hundreds of jobs and not hearing back from them because I didn’t go to a target school. It comes from people constantly mixing up Carleton for Carlson. It really started when the managing director at Morgan Stanley Hong Kong who looked at my resume and asked if I had gone to an online school.
All those things drove me to be better. It made me want to prove that the only liberal arts kid on the trading floor could do just as good of a job, if not better, than the Harvard, Wharton, Oxford and Cambridge bros. I think that mentality will take you very far in your career. At least that’s what my old boss used to tell me when he dumped a pile load of work on my desk at 6pm on a Friday.
They can write.
I am genuinely blown away by the number of students who come out of 4 year institutions and cannot write good. Writing permeates every facet of our business lives. Think about all the emails, internal messaging, marketing content, sales reports and general updates you read on a day to day basis. I can’t speak for every college, but Carleton forces students to take a writing course, submit a comprehensive writing portfolio and write an extensive 20+ page comprehensive thesis in order to graduate.
They’ll solve your Inclusion and Diversity problem
Liberal arts college campuses are some of the most diverse places in the world. The admissions office has done your job for you. Campuses are filled with students constantly pushing the envelope when it comes to advocating for social issues. Most importantly, you will find that liberal arts campuses are much more inclusive than your large public institutions. It’s a product of having a small number of highly empathetic people living together in the middle of nowhere. I’m not saying that they’ve got this whole D&I thing figured out. No one does. But at least they’re asking the right questions.
These are my thoughts. Would love to hear perspectives from folks in recruiting as well as other liberal arts college graduates.
Originally published June 12, 2018