It can be difficult to connect with students when they are focused on their studies and their social lives on campus. Even though we specialize in working with and talking to college students across the United States, we didn’t get here without a lot of introspection along the way.

Why it’s not easy.

Staffing for “gig” work is inherently different from the conventional hiring process. In the case of The Black Sheep, we’re hiring for as many spots as we can fill, as opposed to having dozens or hundreds of applicants fight for one role. Since we aim for authentic student-to-student engagement, our campaigns have the greatest impact when we have a high ratio of student contractors filtering throughout a campus – and so we are playing a volume game when it comes to converting potential applicants into candidates and candidates into members of the team. And while 77% of college seniors say they ran out of money at some point in their college career, achieving that volume takes some work.

What we learned and what we did.

Our in-house staffing team is always working to answer the question: “How do we effectively find candidates for our on-campus student roles?” In the last year, we shifted our perspective and started to view our staffing goals as a sales scenario. 

We started with the data. It was encouraging to see that 86% of student contractors who accepted a position with us completed training and of that group, 97% were introduced to our corporate full-timer managing the campaign.

Then we found the problem. Only 31% of our potential candidates actually scheduled an interview. Of the candidates who scheduled an interview, only 69% of them actually bothered to show up. With these staggering numbers in mind, our team started to dig around for the root of this lack of engagement from our applicants.

Increasing the conversion from lead, to applicant, to candidate has truly boiled down to messaging. Once we start having conversations with an applicant, it isn’t difficult to get them onboard. Our challenge was, and is, to get these busy students to talk to us, period. Communicating with students on campus takes nuance that we had been missing.

One ethos to rule them all.

In the time since this discovery, we’ve worked to make sure our initial communication with potential staffers follows a simple ethos: communication must be respectful, functional, and valuable

Previously, we would send out vague, impersonal messages to hundreds or thousands of students at a time and filter candidates from there. Rather than leading with a job description, we have shifted towards telling these potential candidates the ways they benefit from working with The Black Sheep. We have also prioritized improving our referral program, so that students can easily share these benefits with their social circles.

Changing our approach to a sales perspective allowed us to see that we needed to solve a problem for our candidates, not simply offer a position. This change in perspective has not only started to improve our staffing conversions, but it has created an opportunity for mentorship and growth among our existing team. 

Making progress.

We’re not yet achieving a 40% conversion rate from applicant to interview, or a 75% arrival rate for the interview, but we’re making progress. All it took was approaching the problem from a new angle.