Aligning higher ed messaging with hiring demands


A common thread among a proportion of Ivy League students is that they often hail from higher household incomes. Intelligent and talented individuals to be sure – but the reality is, if you were raised in a bottom 20% income household, you have less than half the chance of being admitted into the country’s top schools, despite getting the same grades as your wealthier counterparts.

While tackling the economic diversity of Ivy Leagues is not high on the priority list of every university marketer, mitigating the impact of economic elitism and promoting equity should be. 

Workforce hiring trends are already signaling a shift. A recent Forbes survey indicated 33% of hiring managers were less likely to hire Ivy League graduates than they were five years ago. In the same time frame, 42% of responding hiring managers were more likely to hire state university graduates. 

Why? One factor hiring managers see is that Ivy League students, who have graduated from universities that one-third of US presidents are products of, are perhaps under-prepared for the practicalities of workplaces. And this perception is continuing to grow among employers.


Implementing strong employability messaging


For university marketers at state and ascending private universities, this situation offers an opportunity to strengthen their university brands and their outcomes – not only with prospective students but among employers as well.  

Aligning your brand with employer values

University brands speak to more than prospective students. They speak to alumni, potential donors, and the people in charge of hiring graduates. In an attempt to secure internship programs, or get companies down to college job fairs, college brand messaging to potential industry partners must speak to themes that matter. To employers, this means hard-work, perseverance, dedication. For example, the story of a student’s resilience, someone who has had to work that extra bit harder to get where they are today, represents something more compelling for an employer when considering talent pools to draw from.

The domino benefit of aligning your brand messaging with employers' values is that, in turn, you will attract the types of students that employers are looking for. Students who consider themselves to be collaborative, hard-working, and have a growth mindset will be drawn to your messaging which reflects these values. It may seem platitudinal, but these traits are exactly what employers are looking for in their hiring processes.

Soft skills over academic rigor

Specialization in a particular subject area is often thought of as a skill set that employers come to expect when working with freshly minted baccalaureates. But in a recent survey, employers in North America ranked the importance of different skill-sets. Communication, team-work, problem solving were the top 3 most important, with subject knowledge ranking 11th. This report highlights that for an increasing number of employers, academic rigor is becoming less important and soft skills are the most coveted a graduate can have.

As with any skill, soft-skills come with experience. A recent survey found that students who had completed a paid internship received, on average, 1.61 job offers after graduating, while unpaid interns averaged 0.94. With the competition for internships higher than ever, offerings of networks of local, regional and national internships that students can tap in to should be highlighted now more than ever.

Differentiating your recruitment events

Students often recognize the potential of using career services to boost their employability after graduation. The third most used service, and what 64% of students want from career centers is high-quality recruitment events. The opportunity for students to meet face-to-face with potential employers is invaluable for students looking to land their first gig.

The key for running an effective recruitment event is differentiation. Using immersive technologies like VR, hosting speed networking sessions and facilitating interactive workshops with employers are just a few ways to ensure the events have more of an X-factor for employers and students. Not only will it entice current students to attend, but is a great opportunity to capture content to showcase to future students as well.


Ivy League universities still have a significant social pull, both in the US and beyond. But shifts in perceptions should always be monitored by higher ed professionals, in order to stay in touch with the supply and demands of the industry. Due to technology evolving at a rapid pace and continually shifting workplace attitudes, the labor market is now demanding more flexible, softer skills that graduates from non-Ivy’s often possess. For higher ed marketers, being savvy to this and reflecting such in your messaging will give your brand the edge with both students and industry partnerships alike.  


If you’re ready to show prospective students how your HEI is remaining relevant to the job market demands of today, get in touch to start formulating a strategy.