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College Professors: The New Headhunters (Part 1)

May 5, 2015, by Mihaela Georgieva in: FutureHeroes Contribution

From conversations with clients, at networking events, and with friends, I keep hearing the same business problem showing up again and again:

We can’t find good talent!

This is a problem I have discussed in several places, but all of those articles discuss how to find and hire good talent. Businesses also need to figure out where they are going to find fantastic people to fit their carefully-considered job openings. Among the excellent suggestions are asking internally and meeting people at conferences and networking events, but I am often surprised that many businesses miss an obvious one:

Ask a college professor!

Most teaching professors have hundreds of students crossing their desks every year and, by the very nature of their courses, professors are assessing students’ work ethic, intelligence, creativity, guts, insightfulness, and ability to work with others. In short, faculty are already selecting for many of the very traits desired by the workplace, and only the best students will stand out. Given the extensive responsibilities of faculty, they have limited time to get to know students, and only the standouts are likely to make the cut. These students are not just the ones who get good grades, but the ones who show initiative, come to office hours with insightful questions, participate in class, and show potential for excellence in the field. In short, those are the very students you want in your talent pool!

0125_recruit_400x400-300x30012In fact, with the rising tide of contingent faculty, we see many college professors spanning the professional and academic worlds. As such, they can comment not only on academic prowess, but also on whether students have the requisite job readiness and professionalism to succeed in the business world. This is especially true for entry-level positions, internships, and even positions that require a bit of experience (any student with whom a professor would keep in touch over the years is almost always worth interviewing!).

The caveat that is probably running through most heads right about now is that college professors are pretty hard to find unless they are adjuncts and/or clinical professors with business contacts. Thankfully, there are plenty of the latter, but even then the overwhelming majority of faculty do not want to answer emails from recruiters. That’s to your advantage! Since college professors are not required to link students to jobs or write letters of recommendation, they are going to volunteer this effort only for first-rate students that they believe are worth their very-limited time.

I offer myself as an example. An email from a recruiter is going to be deleted, and the sender’s future email routed to spam. I work 60-80 hours per week, and I have no time for recruiters. Because of conflict of interest, not only will I refuse any money for recommendations, I will be forced to report anyone who offers, so recruiters can’t even pay me as an incentive. But, if a friend or a business contact asks me if I know of a good student for a job, odds are very good that, since I teach a number of general courses that have a wide range of majors (Intro Psych, Statistics, Research Methods, and Intro Management), I know some pretty talented folks. Even in the semesters where I teach more specialized classes, I am likely to remember the better students, and might even be in touch with some of them. Though hundreds of students crossed my desk, I have made fewer than 30 recommendations to jobs. But, every last one of them was considered worthwhile for both the student and the company (in some cases, the fit between the student and company did not lead to a hire, but both parties felt that it was a good connection that was worth exploring!).


In Part 2 of College Professors: The New Headhunters, read about how to connect with faculty and some final pro-tips from Orin Davis.

The author thanks John Skylar for feedback on an earlier version of this article.



This article is a contribution from our own FutureHero – Orin C. Davis.

Orin C. Davis is a self-actualization engineer who enables people to do and be their best. His consulting focuses on making workplaces great places to work, and his research is on flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. In addition to being the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory, the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark, a science advisor at Happify, and an advisor at FutureIdeas. Dr. Davis is an adjunct professor of Psychology and Management at Baruch College and a lecturer in Critical and Creative Thinking at UMass Boston. He writes and speaks avidly about human capital, creativity and innovation, and positive psychology.

You can get in contact with Orin Davis on Twitter


Mihaela Georgieva is a Communications Specialist at Future Ideas.

You can contact the author on Twitter, Facebook or via e-mail.