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Recruiting Intelligence

International Student Recruiting with Limited Resources (and NAFSA 2017!)


This is it – NAFSA is only one week away! As we prepare to travel and present our latest research, we find ourselves reflecting on how you do all that you do. The limited resources and hectic schedules as you meet with students from around the world. As always, we’re looking for ways to help. 

This week we are considering – how can you do more, with less?  We all wish we had more – more time in a day, a bigger budget, a larger team – the list goes on. As you know too well, in international student recruiting, the ideal strategy is often out of reach due the many distractions of running a complex office, limited funding and supersized expectations from above. Not to mention the fact that the rest of the campus seems to never understand your role.

We hear this a lot from international recruitment professionals. In fact, it was one of most cited “pain points” from a recent survey we conducted with our blog readers. So, if you find yourself facing these challenges, you’re not alone.

Any solace there? Maybe a bit. Better yet, let’s look at how to proactively make your situation better and your results stronger.

Read on for recruiting tips and a list of how/where to get the best data available to guide your global recruiting program…First of all, you have something invaluable – a passion for what you do, to make your institution better, to enrich the lives of students and to enhance global education. We know that’s not always enough to get the job done, but it’s a really good start.

To fill in the gaps, we’ve pulled together tips for international recruitment offices of every size to help you think about, and strategically use, the resources you do have.

The following includes short excerpts from the 3rd Edition of NAFSA’s Guide to International Student Recruitment. Be sure to purchase the full book and check out our chapter, “Marketing in International Student Recruitment: Simplifying the Complexity of Academic Global Branding,” for more marketing tips and techniques. And join Jessica Sandberg and David DiMaria in Los Angeles at their NAFSA presentation, “Survey of Essential Publications for International Recruitment and Admissions” for a review of many new and valuable recruitment resources available to you this year! 

Playing to Your Advantages

Every international recruitment office is unique. Often, what works for you won’t work for another institution simply due to internal departmental structures – who controls budgets and the like. The trick is identifying and effectively utilizing the advantages of your position at your institution. Some of this may sound like common sense, but it is important to remember that tackling the biggest challenges often starts with the simplest adjustments. Here we offer a quick summary of several different institutional classifications and a few techniques that you can find, among many others, in NAFSA’s Guide.

The tips below are a few of our recommendations to focus your energy in areas that might produce the biggest bang for your limited buck (and hours).

The Powerful One-Person Office

One-person offices face a unique challenge in the form of severely limited resources and nearly no time to spend on developing or implementing marketing strategies. However, the advantage in very small offices is often a stronger, less bureaucratic operational connection to the information technology (IT) and marketing departments. 

  • Use any available connection to IT and marketing to establish automated “set and forget” marketing tools (Mailchimp?) that will allow you to focus on other demands.
  • Leverage your faculty’s international travel to include coffees and other informal recruitment gatherings. Be sure to check in with them before and after travel. Every student lead counts.

 The Efficient Small Office

Although small offices often suffer from limited resources in the same manner as one-person offices, they have the advantage of being able to divide up projects and roles, which can relieve some of the pressure on any one individual. Use the tips above, and:

  • Clearly divide and define work and project roles. Distracted professionals often duplicate efforts.

  • Consider managing a small set of carefully selected recruiting agents to help you recruit in your target regions. A small, highly focused and motivated set of agents will produce results for you. Managing a large number of agents when you have such a small staff will become overwhelming and make you feel like you are spinning your wheels (poor results).

The Regionally-Focused Large Office

Large international recruitment offices often have a more robust marketing platform in place that provides a launching pad for strategic initiatives. With a larger staff it is also possible to divide work and project roles based on international regions.

  • Asign specific staff to each region to build relationships, implement consistent recruitment efforts, attend college fairs, manage your carefully selected agent network, and develop other in-country partnerships.

  • Implement, and train your staff to use, a CRM and Marketing Automation Platform to allow audience segmentation and automated, customized email marketing and lead nurturing tied to landing pages on your website. (That was a mouthful. We can help you parse that – come to our NAFSA session on CRMs and hear Kellie Faulkner and Megan Prettyman spell it all out – Wed. 5/31 at 1:15pm, LACC, Room 408A).

The Influential Senior International Officer (SIO)

Institutions with SIO positions typically have a more robust internationalization program throughout the campus. The SIO's office focuses on raising institutional awareness about the role of international education across the campus. This internal alignment effort is valuable from a marketing point of view.

  • Build campus alignment to leverage all corners of the campus in international recruiting. Many hands playing small roles make for lighter work. But this approach also requires a lot of time holding and managing all those hands doing small tasks. Orchestrate the many resources you have and stay out of the weeds.

Have we piqued your interest? There are far more tips and tricks for offices of your size. Buy NAFSA’s Guide to International Student Recruitment here. Despite what you may think, you have a lot to work with whether you are a one-person show, part of a larger team, or running a full-scale international recruitment office. It all depends on how you leverage those resources to work for you to reach your recruiting goals. Usually, it comes down to how well you manage the many distractions and remain focused on the priorities.

Intead @ NAFSA

Here’s a recap of how you can learn more with us at NAFSA. We have a few slots left on our dance card if you’d like to meet over coffee next week. We’ll have a great team out in Los Angeles (Kellie, Kate, Cathryn, Elaine and Ben). Take the opportunity to meet and discuss our latest findings. And here’s where you will definitely find us: 

  • 1) How to Select a CRM System that Works
    Megan Prettyman, Director of International Recruitment & Admissions, Montana State University & Kellie Faulkner, Director Marketing Strategy, Intead
    Wednesday May 31st @ 1:15 pm, LACC, Room 408A 

  • 2) Our Latest Research:
    Brexit & U.S. Executive Order Travel Ban: Implications for International Student Motivations

    Julio Ronchetti, President, FPP EDU Media & Ben Waxman, CEO, Intead
    Thursday June 1st @ 2pm, LACC, Room 404 

  • 3) Survey of Essential Publications for International Recruitment and Admissions
    Jessica Black Sandberg, Director of International Admissions, Temple University & David Di Maria, Associate Provost for International Programs, Montana State University
    Wednesday May 31st @ 10:00 am, LACC, Room 518 

  • 4) Effective Use of Agents and Student Recruitment Communications
    AIRC Staff; AIRC Certified Agents; and Kellie Faulkner, Director Marketing Strategy, & Ben Waxman, CEO, Intead,
    Wednesday May 31st @ 11:30 am - 12:30 pm, AIRC Booth #847, Expo Floor

 Looking forward to a great conference. Hoping to see you there!