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Key takeaways:

  • Rebranding Challenges: Jennifer Newbill, as Director of University Relations and Recruitment at Dell, successfully reshaped the company’s image among university students post-merger, emphasizing Dell’s diverse offerings beyond hardware to attract top talent.
  • Multi-Pronged Engagement Strategy: Dell’s recruitment strategy included engaging students through business units, enhancing candidate experience, and fostering strong partnerships with schools, ensuring a comprehensive approach to talent acquisition.
  • Student-Centric Approach: Leveraging social media, campus events, and ambassador programs, Dell prioritized student involvement and advocacy, recognizing the power of peer influence in shaping brand perception and attracting future talent.

As Director of University Relations and Recruitment at Dell, Jennifer Newbill is tasked with connecting their employer brand to university students and getting them excited about the idea of making a career for themselves at Dell Technologies -– specifically Dell, Dell EMC, RSA, Virtustream, and Boomi business units.

After their merger with EMC two and a half years ago, Jennifer said a big part of the job became repositioning Dell to that audience.

According to Jennifer, for many students, they have more awareness of consumer and end-user brands — as opposed to BtoB brands, where there’s less familiarity.

“That’s where it can get challenging for organizations that are BtoB,” Jennifer explained. “After the merger of Dell, Inc. and EMC in 2016, our portfolio of IT solutions has expanded dramatically and includes many Fortune 500 companies. But frequently, we find that students still associate Dell and Dell Technologies with hardware and laptops only. We offer our customers so much more than that.”

For the past year, Jennifer and her team’s focus is changing that perception.

To do that, Jennifer and her team use a three-pronged approach to reach their audience and get their messaging across: reaching them from Dell’s 40+ business units, improving the candidate experience, and fostering good relationships with the schools.

According to Jennifer, engaging with candidates through their business units not only focuses each unit’s needs, but also increases her team’s capacity.

“Having a strong engagement model with how we operate across the business — and having it be very collaborative — has been instrumental to our success,” said Jennifer.

She explains, “Without a strong relationship, our ability to execute on campus and at events is strained considerably.”

To help her team gain clarity on each business unit’s priorities and help her team of 30 deal with their high-volume hiring needs, they have champions or advocates from within the business to make their recruiting efforts successful.

“They partner with the recruiter and project lead on my team to make sure we’re going to the right schools and check in on how the recruiting events went,” explained Jennifer.

She said they will also partner together for events like case competitions and hackathons — like the upcoming HBCU Battle of the Brains at SXSW — to get an executive presence who can speak on behalf of the business unit.

“It demonstrates a level of commitment to have an executive at these events to tell their story,” said Jennifer. “And that can make a big difference to students.”

At their events, Jennifer and her team also prioritized getting their message in front of a diverse group of students.

Through events like Changing the Faces of Technology, Jennifer said they focus on driving their message home that you don’t have to look or be a certain way to be in tech. “Basically, the message is, ‘We welcome everybody to tech,’” explained Jennifer.

She said these events also have the benefit of being in a format where employees can talk about their experiences with the company, then open up to a networking opportunity for the students to engage further and ask important questions.

According to Jennifer, they wouldn’t have had as much success executing this strategy without the help of the business units.

“This is a space that takes a lot of curation, content, dialogue, education, time, and energy — and my team can’t do all of it.” said Jennifer. “So we have to rely on the business units.”

“Fortunately, they’ve been extremely engaged, and even came up with some of these events themselves — like the Changing Faces of Technology, which is an event we are now talking about growing. This was the idea of a group within one of our business units, which again demonstrates how creative our teams are and how committed they are to attracting talent,” shared Jennifer.

She said they have found these panels, hackathons, and other events they sponsor and invite students to attend to be particularly effective because they add another level of intimacy.

“At a career fair, there’s thousands of people who we never even get a chance to talk to,” explained Jennifer. “But, if you bring in 200 students and have 40 or 50 people there on behalf of Dell, you actually get to talk to every single person.

She also said they are placing a large focus on their candidate experience and making sure it’s consistent — and positive — throughout.

“Students from this generation share a lot of information, whether that’s about the specific offer they received, what their interview was like, or just overall how they were treated,” said Jennifer. “So, if you focus on candidate experience and give each candidate the best experience possible, even if they decline the offer, they will still go back to their friends and speak well of you.”

She emphasized that while her team wants to see their acceptance rates grow — which indicates that people are excited about the brand — it’s also important that, even when someone is declining, they are declining with a good experience.

The final portion of her strategy is making sure they have a strong partnership with their schools.

“We want to make sure we’re partnering with them effectively and attracting great talent,” said Jennifer. “And that involves building a great relationship with the school.”

Jennifer said whether they’re physically visiting the schools or partnering with them through virtual events, having open, transparent communication channels with them is critical to maintaining both their reputation as a brand on campus and access to student talent.

To further connect with students, they launched their Dell On Campus Instagram account to show their university events in action.

“We launched @delloncampus a couple of weeks ago with the goal of building a community on Instagram,” said Jennifer. “We’re looking to build it out this year as a vehicle for students and Dell employees on campus to do takeovers and showcase the work we’re doing there.”

She said she and her team are planning to focus content on campus events, hackathons, competitions — and they recently did their first takeover at the University of Alabama, where they went to a career fair and showed off some of the campus.

“That way, we’re featuring our partner university as well as promoting Dell,” explained Jennifer.

Moving forward, Jennifer and her team are planning to grow their Campus Ambassador Program — so more students can be the voice of Dell on campus.

“A huge part of our branding is students who’ve interned with us before who go back to their respective campus and help get the word out about other internships or full-time roles,” said Jennifer.

Her team helps them host parties or events for their particular focus or major to talk about how Dell could be a good option for them.

According to Jennifer, this is an integral part of their work, because people are the best advocates for a brand — and a big factor in changing a brand’s perception.

“Our ambassadors’ friends are going to listen to them far more than they’d listen to a Dell employee. They’ve helped us tremendously, so we’re going to continue to grow that program,” said Jennifer. “We had 20 campus ambassadors at 15 different schools the year before last, this last year we had 24, and we’re are hoping to have at least 30 by the end of this year.”

For anyone hoping to improve university recruitment efforts, Jennifer recommended going where the students are — and making use of a robust, multi-pronged approach.

“You can’t just be digital, and you can’t just be on campus,” said Jennifer. “I think that’s the challenge for a lot of companies, it’s a big investment. It takes a lot of time and effort, but we’re finding that having a strategy that is a combination of both digital and face-to-face is where we start to see the most lift.”

She also emphasized to get your business involved and make sure they feel a sense of ownership.

“This is not just for you, a team of 10 people can’t solve for a company of 5,000 without support,” she said. “It takes a village to help share our brand and talk about the opportunities at Dell. You need a lot of discussion, education, and translation to get students excited about your opportunities.”

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