RPA's ethos in everything it does is to be 'People First'. That filters through to the work it does for its clients but also the group of people that work at the LA agency every day. When it comes to attracting the best and the brightest, RPA's goal is to connect with potential new hires in meaningful and memorable ways, and with this in mind it launched Student Hours, a platform platform that gives it the opportunity to support students and familiarise them with RPA, its capabilities and way of working.
For future creatives participating in ad programmes that RPA has recently visited, such as VCU Brandcenter, Savannah College of Art and Design, Miami Ad School and Creative Circus, Student Hours connects ad students with RPA creatives who provide one-on-one, informal guidance and expertise through video chat. Students may want feedback on a project they are working on or to talk about what an average day is like and can do so without the pressure of sharing their portfolio.
Those outside creative pursuits also have access to Student Hours when RPA's recruiters are at college campuses and career fairs. The agency debuted this effort last year at five colleges or events and about 125 students participated. Students video chat via a customised interface with RPA Associates from a variety of disciplines, such as account management, digital marketing or project management, and ask questions about what they do, how they got into the industry, etc.
Student Hours was inspired by a desire for the RPA talent team to cast fresh eyes on how it recruits university students. They enlisted a pair of creatives to strategise new ideas that the talent team would flesh out. The creatives were one to two years out of school and really understood how it felt to be on the other side of table.
LBB's Addison Capper found out more.
LBB> Tell me about Student Hours. When did you launch the initiative and what inspired it?
RPA> When we’re out on college campuses recruiting, we found that it is getting harder and harder to stand out. So, we discussed the challenge with our internal marketing committee, and we saw an opportunity to make recruiting into a more personalised experience so that students could better understand RPA, our vast number of disciplines, and how we work.
LBB> A pair of creatives came up with the idea of Student Hours – What was their brief in the first place? And did the initiative go through many other iterations before landing on Student Hours?
RPA> We asked a pair of creatives to think of innovative, breakthrough ways to connect with students through a People First lens. The programme first launched during the 2017–2018 school year. The recruiting team focused on using our RPA-built technology at career fairs with non-creative students. The programme then spanned into ‘Student Hours’, which is inclusive of all departments. Typically, associates video-chat with students throughout the country; we also bring this real-time capability to career fairs. We’re now able to connect students and our talent from anywhere in the country.
LBB> How does Student Hours fit in with RPA's People First approach?
RPA> Part philosophy, part mission statement, People First guides everything we do. It means creating ideas and experiences that matter to people, for brands that matter to people, in an environment where people matter. So, it makes sense that we want to help students informally connect with our talent so that they can figure out which career path is best for them.
LBB> Why is it necessary for an agency to run an initiative like this? What are the challenges that come with recruitment in 2019?
RPA> It is an extremely tight labour market, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to find top candidates, especially those who haven’t considered advertising as a career option. We needed to insert innovation into the tried-and-true mechanisms of recruiting.
LBB> How do you enlist RPA employees to take part in Student Hours? Is it optional?
RPA> Student Hours is completely voluntary, although we have a long list of hand-raisers. We find it’s pretty typical that associates want to help those who are just starting out.
LBB> How do the conversations feed back into the actual recruitment process?
RPA> Student Hours is twofold. We’re able to have associates who are on the front lines chat with students. This is an educational opportunity for the students but also an opportunity for our hiring managers and associates to weigh in on the talent they meet. With our RPA-built technology, we’re able to capture the students’ information and directly enter feedback on the conversation. They then enter a pipeline list that our recruiters keep track of and follow up with.
LBB> How do you ensure that students from outside of advertising courses get involved in the scheme? Providing that's something you are looking to achieve!
RPA> That’s a big part of this year’s initiative. We’re on the hunt for the best of the best, and that includes students who may not even realise advertising is a career option. This year we’ll be proactively building connections with non-advertising programs, and part of our university recruitment plan will include introducing ‘Student Hours’.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
RPA> We’re excited to see the program continue to grow and to see amazing talent blossom in an innovative industry. Recruiting is a fun and rewarding place to let our creativity run wild — we hope to do much more to make recruiting more successful for both the candidates and the agency.