The weekly column
Article 46, January 2001
Harnessing the Power of e-Recruitment
By Cheryl Darrup Boychuck
Harnessing the Power of the Internet for Efficient International Student Recruitment
The internet is really about automating existing processes in virtually every industry on the planet, from travel agents to bank tellers, and yes, even international educators. This ever-evolving communications medium is truly a blessing, because it can eliminate mundane tasks so that advisors have more time and resources to actually interact with prospective and current students. Most colleagues welcome the end of order-taking drudgery, and appreciate the challenge to add more value to their work environment.
The staff of the U.S. Journal of Academics reviews scores of post-secondary academic websites, and we speak to literally hundreds of international admissions counselors each month. Unfortunately we've discovered gross inefficiencies in the vast majority of sites and systems - which isn't terribly surprising, given the frantic frenzy to boast an online presence just a few short years ago.
But now that the 'net novelty has worn off, there is no excuse for not harnessing the incredible efficiencies of the internet.
As with any office task, colleagues must decide whether to tackle the responsibility internally or with the assistance of external sources. The argument for outsourcing web promotion is solid, because internet technology is changing at lightning speed. For example, current mechanisms enable superb means to filter and track your efforts. Consequently, the success of internet-based promotional campaigns is more easily measured, when compared to other recruitment approaches.
Another advantage lies in the incredibly enhanced efficiencies that can accompany online recruitment strategies. For instance, prospective overseas students may type their pertinent information (name, address, academic interests...) into specially-formatted online forms; that information may then be fed directly into a compatible spreadsheet or database in the international admissions office - thus eliminating the mundane task of re-keying that same data.
Because new and improved processes emerge literally everyday, an increasing number of offices are choosing to outsource their online international student recruitment efforts. Another reason includes frustration over the lack of support from on-campus computer staff. And many colleagues simply lack the time, talent and temperament to stay ahead of the technology curve themselves.
Limited budgets also play a significant role in determining how to manage international student recruitment. There are plenty of legitimate - though pricey - prospect management options that integrate campus-wide systems. But there are also simple, lowest-common-denominator models that may be implemented without breaking the bank, and without the cooperation of other offices.
Through interacting with colleagues online, on the phone and at international education conferences, we know that a lot of misinformation pervades the industry, particularly with regard to what can and cannot be accomplished online. One colleague, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, commented, "I've given up on trying to approach our tech support about adding new features to our site. If they don't know how to do something, they just say that it can't be done. But I know it can, because I've seen it on other sites!"
In order for the industry to advance, we've developed a list of items to be considered when determining whether to handle online international student recruitment internally or externally. Remember that a few relatively fundamental tweaks to a campus website and database can go an awfully long way in maximizing efficiencies.
(These recommendations are valid across the board, but are perhaps most effective for international offices with full reign over their portion of the campus' web domain.)
The bottom line: Mountains of e-mail messages ARE manageable. Utilize readily-available tools to achieve our fundamental objective of facilitating interaction between international admissions counselors and overseas students most likely to enroll in your particular programs.
Keep in mind that technology is only as good as the systems in place. Carefully choose the team that will implement that technology. Be sure that they study ever-evolving internet trends. Encourage them to apply that knowledge in a very focused way - namely to maximize efficiencies so that you can concentrate on your core competency of advising students.
About the Author
As an active member of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, Darrup Boychuck has chaired and presented a number of international student recruitment sessions in recent years. This May, she will address the topic of "e-Recruitment Trends and Techniques" at NAFSA's International Conference in Philadelphia. You can read more about Cheryl here, or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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