Is Your Early Talent Program Working?

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

“Throw something at a wall and see what sticks.” Before COVID, that’s how campus recruiters described their recruiting efforts on campus. Schedule one-off events, show up to career fairs without knowing students/faculty beforehand and hope that a perfect candidate drops into their pipeline. If this reminds you of your current workflow, how can this be sustainable? Campus visits, events and pipelining talent is expensive. What about now that those campus touch-points are off the table? Are you utilizing your resources to succeed?

LET’S SAY…Your campus recruiter earns $60,000/yr.During their 8-hour workday, 3 hours are spent on unproductive activities. 3 unproductive hours over the course of1-year costs the company roughly $22,500 per recruiter. 3 hours is a conservative number. A recruiter that oversees multiple campuses is juggling multiple things at once. It’s like the saying goes…“Person who chases two rabbits catches neither."


Now, the blame always shifts onto the recruiter. They need to hire better, reduce the time to hire, improve the candidate experience and find top talent. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Look, the reality is, most of us couldn’t walk a mile in their shoes. It’s such a tough job that most people end up leaving quickly and once they do, the relationships they built, the students they knew and the faculty they interacted with, go away too. Ask yourself, if you or your teammates leave, what happens to the information they’ve collected?


So now you’re here. Spending thousands of dollars every year and working harder to only end up back at square one. The solution is simple: build an ambassador program that lets your interns do the work for you. However, either you think you can’t afford one or the only thing your ambassadors do for you is wear a t-shirt and hand out water bottles. Here are some numbers to help understand the impact of underutilizing your ambassadors and overworking your campus recruiters.

Can you afford to run a flawed ambassador program? Or not have one in the first place? Depending on the size of your organization, failure to build and maintain a successful ambassador program can cost your company millions of dollars. This is when we start to the calculate the total cost of attrition. Attrition is when a business experiences reduction in its workforce because people are leaving. Whenever they leave, your business also suffers, but have you sat down to calculate what those numbers look like for you?

One Example: Formula = (Company Size) x (Your Attrition Rate) x (Avg. Base Salary) x (Total Cost of Attrition)

Now, using the formula above, let’s say, your firm has 500 employees with an attrition rate of 15% and average base salary of the people leaving comes out to around $60K yielding a 50% total cost of attrition. The total cost of attrition using the formula above equals $2.25 million dollars.

So, what does an ambassador program have to do with this cost?

Studies have shown that a candidate that is referred stays longer. In addition to this, the people who are bringing in those referred candidates, tend to stay longer as well.

Now, if you built a successful ambassador program and reduce the attrition rate by just 2%, using the numbers above, the company will save roughly $300,000 in total cost of attrition within just one year.

Here are two surprising data points brought to us by the HBS. First, friends outrank job boards & on campus channels when asked about how they hear about companies.

Second, people & culture fit outrank compensation. So why does this matter to you? Well, if the top-rated channel for learning about your company is through friends, why is your organization prioritizing reactive job boards that compete within the same eco-system?

Next, how are you placing people and culture fit at the forefront of your recruitment strategy? It's easy to say that you will bring relevant individuals to your recruitment events, but how quickly can you get those individuals to commit to an on- campus event? Next, how you can create consistency for a candidate that sees a different face each time they interact with your employees?



Most individuals agree that an ambassador is needed for their campus recruitment strategy. However, most ambassador programs have failed to demonstrate any return of investment for the company or have generated an authentic relationship between the students and the employers.

This is when we started to put our thinking caps on and asked ourselves: Why?

After hours (300+) of research into this space, we’ve recognized a failure-inducing pattern plaguing most ambassador programs. As current co-hosts of a podcast that has hosted Wes Bush, former CEO of Northrop Grumman, Brad Casper, Past President of the Phoenix Suns, and successful associates, we have garnered a community designed to empower young professionals. To extend the relationship even further, we’ve published our book, Experience Over Degrees, that became an international bestseller and sold over 1,000 copies in 48 hours. This has allowed us to engage in conversations with members within the Board of Directors at NACE, University Career Executives, top campus recruiters and talent leaders within the university recruitment landscape. We’ve compiled our findings into a framework that we refer to as “D.A.R.T.”

Define the success – Most ambassador programs fail to document and answer the question, “what does a successful ambassador program look like?” Is it an increase in quality applicants, brand engagement or intern conversion rate? Is it a combination of the three? Whatever the answer may be, most organizations were not able to clearly articulate the purpose and the goal of their program.

Accessible Communication – It’s no secret that current students communicate frequently through texts, group messages, and other avenues that are quick and seamless. These same students perceive e-mail to be a formal model of communication that takes time, focus and attention. Most recruiters voiced their displeasure in having consistent communication with their ambassadors and when we asked them about their mode of communication, their primary response was only one: e-mail. This is as if you’re listening to classic rock while your ambassadors are listening to Electronic Dance Music and you’re expecting them to move at the same pace/rhythm as you. So, beyond emails, are you implementing a communication channel that is quick and seamless for you and your ambassador to communicate consistently?

Return on Investment Tracking – Whether it’s every 2 weeks, every month or every semester, if an organization is allocating resources to build an ambassador program, you need to be able to justify the investment. Questions such as “What campus events have given us the best candidates?” “How does my College X pipeline compare to College Y?” “What are the students’ organizations that I need to connect with and who’s in their current executive board?” “Who are the current faculty members that can help me attract the right students for my organization?” These questions need to be readily available and shouldn’t take email chains, disparate Excel spreadsheets or memory to articulate. Most ambassador programs that were defunded couldn’t report on these questions whatsoever.

Togetherness – In an age where online social groups, collegiate organizations and associations are integrated with a student’s identity, your ambassador program needs to do the same. This generation thrives on a sense of belonging to a community acting on a purpose that’s bigger than their personal desires. It’s the reason why we’re starting to see mission drive companies win out in the talent war. Most ambassador programs have multiple ambassadors spread out across multiple campuses, but does it mean anything to your ambassador that they’re a part of this program? If yes, what mechanisms do you have in place to ensure that they belong to a community of like-minded young professionals? Furthermore, how do you create this authentically without burdening the ambassador to align themselves with something that they may perceive as stuffy and formalized? By no means, is this an easy thing to accomplish. If you are starting an ambassador program or are reviewing its purpose, be sure to utilize this framework to ensure its success while avoiding the tendency to throw something at a wall and see what sticks.


Define Success - What does a successful ambassador program look like?

Accessible Communication - How do I communicate frequently with my ambassadors on a medium that makes sense for them?

ROI Tracking - How do I track the impact my ambassadors have had on the bottom line?

Togetherness - How do I create a community for my ambassadors?


According to research from Keller Fay Group, overall, only 8% of brand conversations are truly negative, and 66% of brand conversations are truly positive. Meaning that if you have brand ambassadors out there endorsing your company, they are slowly turning people into potential customers. In your case, potential hires. Furthermore, there are 3 main value propositions that an ambassador provides to your business IF there’s a structure in place:

1) Resource Management: You can better utilize your resources to reduce cost per hire since you can now tap into the relationships that your ambassadors have built. Simply put, imagine the power of your recruiting efforts if there’s an army of “mini you’s” around your campuses on a daily basis? However, the question remains on whether you can do this effectively without taxing your current recruitment team who are already juggling a million things at once.

2) Reducing the risk of information loss: Through an ambassador program, your information is updated by people that have their eyes and ears low to the ground so you can easily track the progress on each campus, see a granular break down of your campus to know where you should focus your efforts. Without using back and forth email chains that have proven to fail or disparate Excel spreadsheets that get complicated, how are you keeping track of all this information and utilizing it to build a game plan for your campus recruitment efforts?

3) Event Management Tracking: Lastly, you can set up events, invite students within your pipeline, and receive feedback from those events. Now, how are you connecting this data with everything else and utilizing this data to objectively show you where you’re having the most success on every single one of your campuses?

These are difficult questions to answer and that’s why we do what we do. Send a note at to learn and chat about what this means for you and your campus talent acquisition team and we wish you the best of luck with your journey

Written for you September 10th, 2020 by Rishav Khanal, CEO and Co-Founder of inPerson