Seeing headlines about unemployed college graduates might make it hard to believe that there's intense competition underway among employers for top grads. There is, and it's getting more heated.
And like a lot of other aspects of business, it isn't always a fair fight.
General Electric Co. will likely beat Acme Manufacturing Co. for the cream of Princeton University's engineering programs. So where is Acme to go to find its best candidates?
It's a question that entrepreneur Tom Borgerding thinks he can help answer with the just-launched service, Mytasca. Borgerding's creation helps employers complete the legwork necessary to find out which universities have the students they should be interviewing.
It's inexpensive information like Mytasca provides that helps level the playing field for all players, and it's always worth cheering when the entrepreneurs that created solutions like it succeed.
Borgerding's company is called Campus Media Group, and it's not exactly in the field of career development and recruiting. The Bloomington-based firm has been around since 2002 helping ad agencies and advertisers reach university students with traditional advertising, events and street promotions.
One group interested in getting a message across to students is large employers. A few years ago Borgerding was meeting with a corporate recruiter who both loved and hated her job.
Interviewing students was great, but she dreaded having to put together a list of where to go every year. When looking to add to her list of universities, she never knew without some digging which academic programs produced the most graduates.
Even keeping track of when the job fairs were at universities she visited every year was a hassle.
"She was the whole university recruiting department," Borgerding said. "It was a decent-sized engineering firm, looking to hire maybe 30 to 60 students a year."
Borgerding was amazed to learn that there wasn't really a service in the market that provided basic information to ease the research function for recruiters.
His Mytasca is a subscription-based service with an initial cost of $2,500 per year for one license and $500 for a second. It allows employers to spark up their Internet browser and do a search, by popular fields of study, universities or ever geographic areas.
In a brief demonstration, in two or three clicks of the mouse a corporate recruiter could find out about the hundreds of communications majors at Temple University in Philadelphia.
It's a good place to find them, and all the information about Temple's career center is there, too, including the date and time of the October job fair.
Much of Mytasca's data comes from a unit of the U.S. Department of Education. Known as IPEDS, it's a great database free for all to use.
"Have you ever worked with IPEDS data?" said Jeff Goodman, a Dallas-based consultant who formerly directed the recruiting program for Raytheon and Texas Instruments. "It's far from easy."
Sending recruiters out to universities that have good programs is a pretty basic idea, he explained, but good luck to the novice using only the federal database to create the plan.
For example, he said, two top schools in the field of supply-chain management are Michigan State University and Arizona State University. Because the way information is coded, a search in the government database would not turn up either one.
If just your larger competitor knew that, it's recruiters would be setting up a table at an Arizona State job fair you didn't know you should even attend.
When Goodman worked for Raytheon, it maintained its own in-depth database. But it's not a long list of companies with that much budget and sophistication.
He said there are two other groups of employers that want to recruit on college campuses. One is made up of companies that know what they are doing, but have less to spend than the likes of Raytheon. Then there's another group of companies without the experience to really know where to begin.
The toughest question for each to answer is where to go to find candidates. The two default sources are the extensive rankings produced by U.S. News & World Report and the alma maters of company managers.
Goodman said competing effectively is not just a challenge for smaller companies. Big-name technology companies recruit grads of top technical and engineering schools, but insurance companies and retailers want some of those bright young people, too, and find it hard to go head-to-head with Google.
Mytasca will evolve, Borgerding said, "to be able to give recommendations on where to go. We really want to help smaller employers find maybe some public schools, or smaller schools, or just different schools to find the right employees."
While he's just getting started, the first enthusiastic users of Mytasca are big companies we've all heard of. There's a telecommunications giant he can't let me name, and he recently heard from a recruiting manager for Microsoft.
He didn't get into this market, of course, to make it a little easier for Microsoft to recruit at Stanford.
"That's why we priced it the way we did," he said, with a low annual cost of $2,500. "The big guys have the money for these things. We're trying to help everyone … make better decisions."