Skip to main content

Stafanie Hanz, a recruiter for energy, oil and gas companies.

When choosing which university you'll attend and which program you'll enrol in, there are countless pros and cons to weigh before you even apply. Here's one more thing to consider: whether employers are hiring at your school.

Are some schools more attractive to employers than others? The answer to that question is complicated and varies widely between organizations – and even between individual recruiters and hiring managers.

For example, some might favour their own alma mater. Other factors could come into play, such as which program you're enrolled in, how your school is ranked in publications such as this one, where the company's executives went to school, or what your school is contributing to its local community.

How do employers decide which schools to recruit from?

Each fall, campus recruiters crisscross the country to attend career fairs and information sessions on university campuses, and to conduct early-stage interviews with graduating students. They attempt to recruit the best and brightest for their company's entry-level jobs before their competitors snatch up the best talent.

With only a few weeks to accomplish this, it comes down to two things: time and money. "Not everybody has the ability to go to all universities across Canada," says Nancy Moulday of TD Business Banking, who recruits students from 35 universities across Canada. "We have to manage our expenses as well as the limited time we have for on-campus visits in the fall."

With that in mind, employers with national offices and operations will focus their efforts on schools that will give them the most bang for their buck, says Stefanie Hanz, an independent recruitment consultant working in the energy and oil and gas industries: "They might target schools with programs that serve a number of their business areas," such as a university with a combination of business, engineering and other in-demand programs. "An employer might place more importance on a school not necessarily because it's a better school or it has a better reputation," she says, "but because it makes more financial sense."

Bigger isn't always better

This is often why Canada's biggest schools, such as the University of Toronto, York University or the University of British Columbia, appear to have better opportunities to connect with employers – they can simply reach more students from more programs on one campus.

But before you frantically send out applications to all of the big schools, keep one thing in mind: More students mean more competition. It's a lot harder to stand out to potential employers when you're up against hundreds of other students who have the same education and experience as you.

"Employers want the best hires," Hanz says. "It really doesn't come down to the name of your school – it comes down to how you've built up your own résumé, how you interview and how well prepared you are."

Good grades, strong community involvement and well-rounded résumés top the list for Moulday. "The school name is not as important any more," she says. "It's all about what you get out of your experience while you're at school."

Location, location, location

Some schools are heavily recruited by employers thanks to their proximity to local industry, so it's essential to consider location when choosing where you'll go to school.

The University of Waterloo, known for its computer science and other high-tech grads, is in the middle of southern Ontario's "technology triangle." Meanwhile, the University of Calgary is surrounded by the head offices of the largest natural resources companies in the country, and is just a stone's throw away from Alberta's oil and gas operations. The universities of Guelph and Saskatchewan, both surrounded by fertile farmland, are well known for their agriculture programs.

Moulday says recruiting from communities where TD Business Banking locations operate is an essential part of her strategy. "We have 60 commercial banking centres across Canada and many of the universities I recruit at are located in those communities."

Plan a career, choose a school

What can you do? Talk to anyone and everyone you know about where they went to school, how easy or how difficult it was for them to find a job and which schools are in demand in the industry they work in.

Tour campus. Go on campus tours and take note of which employers have a presence at each university. You'll find posters, flyers and banners for past, present and future recruitment events taped to bathroom stalls, pinned to bulletin boards and posted in the school's career centre.

Look online. Search career websites for your dream job and pay close attention to which employers are hiring and what they're looking for. Then, take it a step further by checking out employee profiles on employers' career websites, which often list where they went to school.

Cassandra Jowett is a content manager at