by Garrett Seelinger, InCred – International Credential Evaluations, Team Lead / Senior Evaluator
My favorite sessions at conferences are generally interactive, engaged with the audience, and none that I attended was more so than the “International Recruitment Agents - Friends or Foes?” session on the Tuesday afternoon at the 2019 Annual Meeting. To start, Staci Bernhard and Vanessa Andrade asked the audience about their current partnerships with recruiting agents and consistently related the material of the presentation to the needs of the audience.
The title of “friend or foes” was a little leading. The presenters knew that there can be pitfalls in dealing with recruiting partners, but also that the value of having representatives on the ground who understand the culture of the prospective students and their families. Therefore, the focus was on how to get the most benefit from the use of recruiting agents.
First pointing out that agent partnerships top the list of how international students get connected to their eventual U.S. institutions, the presenters went on to detail the methods and resources that can help institutional staff vet, develop, and maintain relationships with recruiting agents. Each institution needs to have a strategic action plan for engaging recruiting agents. This includes knowing what resources there are that can help, such as white papers from NACAC, further guidelines from AIRC, and EducationUSA, which now allows agents to attend fairs for the first time. In addition, ICEF also has a list of blacklisted agents, but the presenters wanted everyone to know that they can develop their own vetting process to meet their institutional needs. The session was also sprinkled with helpful tips, such as noting that you don’t have to pay an agency a marketing fee, especially if you already have your own in-country marketing efforts, which is sensible advice for anyone trying to develop a commission structure that makes sense.
As much as the various resources were helpful, the refrain was to maintain relationships. Relationships with agents need to be nurtured. This means only engaging with as many agents as you can maintain, given the dedicated resources. It also means having a singular, possibly dedicated, contact for recruiting partners. Judging by the audience engagement at the session, I suspect the presenters knew what they were talking about.