How to Build a Student Ambassador Program
January 16, 2015
A great way to positively influence student’s opinion and interest in your company is through a Student Ambassador Program. Students can be tricky to recruit - they tend to apply to the “hot” companies that they are already familiar with (Google and Facebook come to mind). So, if you’re not a company that already resonates with the student demographic, building an engaged pipeline can be a challenge.
With traditional recruiting, you show up to campus once or twice for a career fair and an info session, hope to collect resumes, and go forward from there. You have a few minutes, maybe even just seconds to connect with students and explain why they should bother to apply to your company.
Imagine this: by the time you set foot on campus, students are already aware of your company, have positive feelings towards your brand, are excited about your products/services, and have already applied to your requisitions. That’s the impact a student ambassador program can have on your college recruiting efforts.
Here are some steps to get one going for your company:
1. Define your goals
Identify what you want to get out of your ambassador program: do you want your brand to be more recognizable on campus? Are you trying to gain more student users of your product? Is your goal to drive students to your recruiting events, and get more applicants? Are you trying to penetrate a niche group? Whatever your goal, put it in writing and use it to guide all the decisions you make moving forward.
2. Select your schools
Once you’ve defined your goals, it should be easier to determine the schools where you would like to have ambassadors. If you know your recruiters are having a hard time gaining traction at one of their target universities, that’s a great place to start.
Bonus tip: You can use LinkedIn University Rankings to help get your search going.
3. Find your champions
One of the most important parts of an ambassador program is the students who will be representing your brand on campus. If you have an intern program, consider rehiring them as ambassadors when they return to school. They can speak to your company culture, what it’s really like to work there, and be a truly authentic student voice.
If you don’t have an intern program, make sure to run a thorough interview process. To get a large pool of potential ambassadors, advertise the opening in a variety of ways – utilize campus job boards, reach out to the career center, leverage any alumni connections you have, source on LinkedIn and search for clubs/groups/associations that are relevant to your industry. The interviews can be tailored to your needs, but a few basic ways to start are with a written assessment, followed by a phone interview. This way, you can assess non-verbal and verbal communication. You will want students who are self-starters, outgoing, resourceful, and well-connected on campus.
Before offering a position, you might want to check out their social media pages to make sure they are presenting themselves in a professional manner.
Bonus tip: Ambassadors can do harm or good, so choose wisely. Keep in mind that you are asking a college student, who most likely does not much professional experience, to represent your company. If you pick a student who often portrays themself in a poor light, that can reflect on you.
4. Understand school rules (and state laws)
Some universities have rules around how ambassadors can operate – if email aliases can be used, what can be posted and where, etc. If this information isn’t readily available online, reach out to the career center to find out what the regulations are. Make sure you understand any laws that pertain to your program – as mentioned above, there can be legal ramifications if you are not paying your ambassadors. Work with your company’s legal department if you have questions – better safe than sorry.
5. Create incentive
Attracting student ambassadors isn’t as daunting as it sounds - most students are looking for a way to bulk up their resume with real experience. Incentives can be anything from swag (t-shirts, pens, etc.), to the opportunity to plan fun events, to a letter of recommendation.
Whether it’s a stipend or an hourly wage, make sure to compensate your ambassadors. It’s the easiest way to avoid legal issues and make sure your ambassadors feel appreciated. Your campus reps are an important part of your team, so treat them that way!
6. Provide resources
Once you hire them, make sure that your ambassadors can tell the company’s story. Take time to train them on what you want the message to be at their school, and provide reference guides that they can look to as a refresher. Leverage your colleagues as it makes sense – do you have a product specialist? Have them run a webinar. How about a recruiting guru? Ask them to train your ambassadors on how to identify and attract rockstar candidates. Once they are trained, your ambassadors can add value in a variety of ways by:
- Meeting with students one-on-one to talk about the company and discuss career paths.
- Organizing sponsored social gatherings.
- Gathering resumes from their peers.
- Posting company updates on social media.
- Wearing and handing out swag with your logo on it.
- Partnering with the Career Center Presenting at club meetings.
- Conducting phone screens.
Expert tip: Record training sessions so you can use them in the future.
7. Get social
One of the best ways to utilize your ambassadors is to get them engaged in social media. Odds are they are already well-versed in how to use a variety of platforms, and probably already have a steady following on social media. Encourage them to post on a regular basis – biweekly is a great cadence.
Social media is great because you can track engagement metrics (likes, follows, comments). Challenge your ambassadors to increase your company’s number of followers! Posts don’t have to be directly related to your company or your products, as long as they develop your voice. Here is an example of one we put on our LinkedInU account:
8. Stay in touch
Talk to your ambassadors on a regular basis. Find out what they’ve been doing, what’s working, what isn’t, and ask if there are any initiatives they would like to launch. They know their student demographic better than you do, so don’t be afraid to use their insights and let them be creative (just make sure they align with #4 above)! Never forget that first and foremost, ambassadors are students. Take the time to find out how their workload is looking and make sure they know their priority is always school.
9. Measure effectiveness
There are different ways to tell how your ambassadors are doing. Here are a few indicators:
- Number of company followers.
- Number of resumes collected.
- Number of applicants to requisitions.
- Number of events conducted.
- Number of students attending recruiting info sessions.
Keep track of what’s working and what’s not and communicate best practices and examples to your ambassadors.
What do you think of the recommendations above? Do you have an existing program already? If so, what do you think would be useful for someone who is just getting started?