Building and Leveraging College Connections to Secure New Talent

As a Microsoft Dynamics Partner, you are likely all too familiar with the challenges of finding new talent to sustain and expand your business. The candidates are few and far between, and attracting experienced hires to your organization can be an

Academy 2expensive proposition. More and more of the top-performing Microsoft Dynamics Partners are focusing on bringing in net-new, junior resources by making recruiting new college graduates a priority. Getting the best talent – and getting those candidates early – is key to expanding not only your business, but also the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem.

“We know from our work with Partners large and small that focusing on college recruiting pays off,” says Katie Hasbargen, worldwide program lead for the Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance.

During the last Microsoft fiscal year, more than 500 junior resources were hired into the channel worldwide (as reported by Partners that work with the Academic Alliance) and more than 284,000 students experienced Microsoft Dynamics in the classroom. This resource pool is the result of the Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance, a free Microsoft program that provides Microsoft Dynamics CRM and ERP licenses to colleges and universities to use in their curriculum. Currently, the Academic Alliance has 1,423 academic members worldwide.

Getting in touch with this rich pool of resources is as simple as making connections and building relationships with your local colleges and universities.

Start Early and Think Long Term

Begin by evaluating the current and future needs of your organization. How many new hires do you need to meet your future business needs? How many of those hires should be new graduates? Where would a new-graduate hire best fit in your organization? Do you have a plan in place for training and mentorship? Answering these type of questions is key to building an effective strategy for your organization.

In the world of recruiting new college graduates, it is important to be proactive and not reactive. Start early and think long term when developing your strategy.

“We encourage Partners to talk to students early in their college careers about opportunities, and then work to secure a hire no later than the fall of their senior year,” says Katie. “The best candidates are recruited early.”

Getting to the right students requires laying the groundwork by building a relationship with the institution.

“Start with a good idea of what kind of candidates you’re looking for and where they would best fit in your organization,” Katie explains. “Then target the schools that best fit the bill of what you need.”

Use Your Alumni Connections

Look at where your current employees attended college or university. From where have your most successful hires come? If these colleges are regional and have programs that are a good fit for your organization, target those schools and work on building relationships with them. Sometimes your employees may still have connections to these institutions, which can make it easier to build a relationship.

Leverage the Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance

“When we start working with Partners, we help them identify schools in their area that are already using Microsoft Dynamics in their curriculum and, thus, would be ideal institutions to target for recruiting,” says Katie.

Working with Partners to build their recruiting strategies and getting connected to the right schools is a major focus of the Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance.

“Our goal is to get students hired into the Microsoft Dynamics channel,” Katie says.  “We’re here to assist with and encourage this process.”

Once target schools have been identified, the Academic Alliance can facilitate a connection to the school to build a relationship. If the target schools are not members of the program, the Academic Alliance can help recruit them.

“If we can get students exposed to Microsoft Dynamics during their college careers, they are more likely to choose Microsoft Dynamics-related careers and are also easier to train, making their billable time happen faster,” explains Katie.

Get to Know the Faculty

Once a connection is made, getting to know the faculty’s needs and goals is next. Faculty are interested in their students’ success. Partners need to consider how their organization’s knowledge and talent can add to the classroom experience, in addition to providing future job opportunities to the students.

“We find that these relationships work best when they are mutually beneficial to both the school and the Partner,” Katie says. “And, no two relationships are alike.”

Partners can participate in a variety of activities that contribute to student success, including providing technical expertise to faculty setting up their systems, advising on current industry needs, and contributing to curriculum development.

One of the most effective ways for Partners to get to know the best students is to get in the classroom themselves. Partners can offer to speak to classes about career opportunities or as subject matter experts.

“We have several Partners that teach entire classes at their local universities,” explains Katie. “In this instance, they get to know the students directly and know their abilities before the recruiting process begins.”

Start an Internship Program

Another great way to get to know the best students and attract them to your organization is to start an internship program. Interns can add value and energy to your organization at a low cost. Consider working with your academic contacts to set up a program for college credit so that it adds to students’ transcripts.

“Internships are a great way to observe the student before making a long-term commitment in order to find the best fit,” Katie says. “Interns are also likely to want to stay with an employer after an internship ends, making for a short and successful recruiting process.”

If offering a full internship is not an option for your organization, consider offering job shadowing and mentorship opportunities through your school contacts.

“The more students understand what careers in the Microsoft Dynamics channel look like, the more they’re likely to choose that path,” explains Katie.

Connect with College Career Offices

At the most basic level, casting your net by connecting with your local colleges’ career offices is a simple way to begin attracting college graduates. Most college career offices maintain a job and internship posting board that you can leverage. These career offices can also help you participate in campus career fairs and related campus events.

“In the end, it’s all about getting connected in your community,” concludes Katie. “Your efforts will help build your brand in the region, increase the visibility of Microsoft Dynamics, and influence future business decision makers.”

The Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance provides free software and support to educational institutions who want to use Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM software in their curriculum. The Academic Alliance also cultivates and supports relationships between member institutions and Microsoft Dynamics Partners and customers to connect businesses with students interested in pursuing Microsoft Dynamics–related careers. To learn more, visit
www.microsoft.com/dynamicsaa or email Dynaa@microsoft.com.

Check out more articles from the Fall 2015 Magazine here

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