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Niklas Jungegard, Sqore, Sweden

Combining online competitions and international student recruitment, Sqore is attempting to elevate the approach to attracting overseas students by appealing to their values and passions. Co-founder Niklas Jungegard tells The PIE about ‘smart recruiting’ and how to get more women interested in electrical engineering.

The PIE: In your words what exactly does Sqore do?

The average competition has 1,000 participants and around 300 complete all the steps

NJ: Sqore is a digital student marketing tool which sets up a Sqore challenge which is basically a light and fun assessment test on our platform and you offer an exciting prize like a scholarship or travel grant to catch prospective students’ attention. We distribute this challenge and market it to very specific target groups and then you can take advantage of the chance to connect to the students while they take the challenge and showcase your school and study destination.

The PIE: How do you find these student audiences, where do you post this test?

NJ: We have Sqore.com which is the largest challenge platform in the world. We are close to celebrating a million people that have gone through our platform and we can segment them on country or specific skills areas or whatever our clients are interested in. We are very active on social media, on Facebook and so on.  I would say that the key here is to find the digital channel where these people are active.

“It is quite big machinery and depending on where in the world you have your interest, we have digital channels to find these people”

If you look for women who might be interested in electrical engineering but in their last year of high school, they might not be on Facebook. So then you have to use the digital channels where they are. You potentially have to use influencers, Snapchat or texting to find out where they are and how they think.

We have built up this expertise to find the relevant digital channels and we also use a lot of referrals where students share it with a friend. We have 2,000 university partners who distribute the information because they see it as positive activity for their students and we have 1,200 marketing partners that help us distribute information and then we have our own community. So it is quite big machinery and depending on where in the world you have your interest, we have digital channels to find these people.

The PIE: I’ve heard you use this term ‘smart recruiting’, but what does that mean?

NJ: Seven years ago we started Sqore with the ambition to match students with educational opportunities based on their talents and skills rather than anything else. The smart recruitment comes because you need these guys and girls – let’s say that we cater for the millennials, basically anyone up to 40 years of age – to be challenged. They want to apply for opportunities that they share a passion for.

So how do you get an 18-year-old woman to apply for electrical engineering? Well, you put her to the test. You give her a few questions, quite low barrier entry about the topic, and once she starts to answer a few questions she might think ‘this is actually for me, I might actually be pretty good at this’ and then all of a sudden you have changed her mindset from not being at all relevant for this field to this could be a good match.

What happens is we take them through the process, get a lot of interesting insight and data about the user and then we can basically see not only is this person interested in joining this university or joining this employer but you can also find out what this person is interested in, their passion, their values that they might share with the company or the university and not least what skills the person has.

Smart recruitment for me is catering for the next generation of the workforce who want to be working for a company or studying at a university with a vision, sharing the same values, where they can continue to cultivate their skills.

The PIE: The idea for Sqore originally came from corporate recruitment for employees, correct?

NJ: We started by making big challenges and campaigns for open innovation to recruitment for companies. But we realised that these challenges can be used to find and attract relevant students into universities by basically communicating what the university is all about, what the study destination is all about and what the master’s or bachelor’s program is about. So this challenges method creates very strong engagement and we saw that it triggers many more people to apply and ultimately enrol into the university and become extremely good students when in school.

“We started Sqore with the ambition to match students with educational opportunities based on their talents and skills rather than anything else”

The PIE:  Are you still working with corporations to find employees?

NJ: Yes and it is a nice because everyone is talking about bridging the skills gap and we believe that we have found a way to do that. When we work with corporates, it is usually for graduate recruitment. These employers want to look beyond a traditional diploma to what this person is actually good at. You can use the Sqore methodology to attract and assess relevant candidates into job positions.

The PIE: You said you work with 2,000 universities, is that right?

NJ: We work with around 200 universities as clients but we have around 2,000 university partners who distribute information and who we attract students to continue their senior education somewhere else. For example, maybe from a bachelor’s program to master’s program, or master’s to MBA.

We work with most of the universities in Sweden, we work with a lot of business schools and engineering institutes in the UK and France, around three fourths of our clients are in Europe and then we have a growing base in the States.

The PIE: On average how many people does each competition convert to an enrolment?

NJ: The average is 1,000 participants and around 300 complete all the steps. Approximately 10% of those who complete all the steps also apply to the university.

The PIE: What is one of the competitions or tests that really stands out to you as being specifically unique or attracting the most number of participants?

NJ: We had extremely high participation with the English language centre at the University of Denver. It was called Future English Instructors Challenge and it had a record number of participants, around 37,000 people from 160 countries but primarily from South America. And out of these, 10,000 submitted different essays about why you should study at the University of Denver. The winner received full scholarships, including a housing stipend and also to study an intensive three quarters of an academic year at the English language centre.

“High English proficiency, a high concentration of talent and a willingness to move abroad is the sweet spot”

The PIE: Who went through and read those 10,000 essays?

NJ: All the essays were checked, firstly for falsification and doing a screening on the web to see that there are no duplicates and so on. And then the University of Denver focused on the top ones to see who has got what it takes to study there.

The PIE: And where are your university clients interested in recruiting students from, where are you doing most of your work right now?

NJ: You have English becoming the global language of the world, so it is easy to see the trend where there is a higher level of English proficiency and that includes the US, many countries in Europe, but not in the least India and some of the fast growing economies in South East Asia including Vietnam and Indonesia.

Wherever there’s a student population with high English proficiency but also a high concentration of talent and a willingness to move abroad or to boost their careers, that is the sweet spot. Now we are starting to use it more on a domestic level. We can work with American universities on their home turf, Swedish universities attracting Swedish students and so on.

The PIE: Are most of the exams in English? Is anything ever translated into Chinese or Spanish for example?

NJ: There are some exceptions, but normally we do everything in English because that is where we see most demand. Sometimes we do custom projects for clients for example targeting China where you have to consider the Chinese firewall, but it is a good pre-qualification to have everything in English as that is the global language.

The PIE: How do you think international student recruitment is going to develop, how is smart recruitment going to evolve?

“Most young people want to work for an organisation or study at a university with a vision”

NJ: Seventy-five percent of the workforce will be constituted of millennials in ten years’ time. Most young people want to work for an organisation or study at a university with a vision, where they can basically show their full range of skills and have an effect on the world.

So we see that this target group wants to opt in, they’re not going to make their decision the way it has been done before, they are going to base their decision on if this is an organisation or university that shares their values.

Online education and the way people learn will change. People will have short-term or consultancy employment and then study to cultivate their skills and move on. People will have 20 jobs in their lifespan as opposed to four like our parents had.

So when all these people can learn in different ways how do you validate a person’s skills and how do you match them to the right opportunity? You need a fun, engaging online way to do this. Sqore and smart recruitment levels the playing field, so even if you have studied in Bangladesh, Copenhagen or Spain, you should still be able to compete on similar conditions. We try to look at the individual, what this person values or what skills this person has, that is the only thing that matters.

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