The ABC Plan for Recruitment

Do you know what you’ll do if your first option for recruitment doesn’t work out?

It’s always our hope that you’ll have the opportunity to pursue your top choice option, but in recruitment and applying to opportunities, there is a lot out of your control. So let’s help you get ahead of this question. Consider trying the ABC approach for your interest areas before jumping into recruitment.

When the higher traffic recruiting months occur in fall and spring, it’s common for students to put all of their time and attention on one interest area. But what happens if for any reason you don’t secure an opportunity from that one interest area or organization? Experiencing this or anticipating this happening can bring a lot of anxiety with it which takes a toll on your mental health and wellness.

What if you could get ahead of this possibility? Feel empowered in your search? Make intentional decisions to choose which opportunities win your time and attention?

This is where the ABC plan can help. Now this method may not work for everyone, and I highly encourage you to adapt it to fit you best, but over the years I’ve found that this approach, developed from my experience advising students over many years, can help alleviate some anxiety.

The point of this approach is to give you the opportunity to get ahead, to have a 1000ft view, to organize and manage the timelines and processes for each of these options. We don’t want you to feel like the process is controlling you, we want you to have control over the process. This method can prevent you being so hyper focused on one recruiting option that you miss other opportunities that are also of interest to you. You’re then keeping track of the alternate options before they’re not options anymore.


Step 1: Decide what your top 3 options are.

Interested in consulting in Boston? Considering marketing in NYC? What about that start-up your old boss said they’d love to have you work at? Your three options can be any opportunity. Being somewhat specific is helpful instead of really broad. Making marketing one of your options is tough, marketing in a specific location or industry, much better.  

Step 2: Decide how important or exciting each option is to you, your career trajectory and/or skill development goal.

The option that gets the highest rating is option A. The next highest rating is option B and the lowest rating is C. If you’re uncertain of how to decide, consider working through the reflective questions and activities in the Career Development Process for Know Yourself and Focus and Prepare. Your reflections through those steps can build a strong foundation for this work.

Step 3: Decide what level of energy each one gets.

Option A, B, and C are not option 1, 2, 3. This is important and the key to this approach. Each of these options is researched and pursued at the same time, but at different levels of effort and energy. Option A getting the most attention from you, Option B less, and Option C the least. Your time is finite and you have other priorities and obligations to attend to. Decide a percent breakdown of the amount of time and energy each option will receive out of the total time you’re able to dedicate to the search process. Maybe it’s 60%-30%-10%, 80%-15%-5% or even 50%-30%-20%. How that breaks down is up to you.


Now that you have your ABC plan and how you’re going to divide your time and energy, it’s time to research and plan your next steps. The place I recommend starting is building out your timeline. The reason for this is that you may find from this exercise that the timelines of your options overlap nicely OR you’ll discover they don’t align and this is where you have to start making some decisions. Ex. You discover that Option A recruits in spring semester and Option B recruits in the fall semester. You now need to consider if you’ll pass on Option B in order to target Option A in spring, or if you’ll recruit for Option B and potentially accept a position before being able to recruit for Option A. You might also decide to switch Option B to Option A or try recruiting for Option B and if it doesn’t work you’re okay with that because you still have Option A recruiting in the spring. There are many considerations and approaches. The point is, you’re in control. You are empowered to make intentional decisions about how you move forward. From here, you can now move onto the Take Action step of the Career Development Process.

Are you already in the recruitment process? That’s ok. Still consider what your A, B, and C options are. You can pivot if needed.

If you’re trying to build out your ABC plan and need help, schedule an appointment with a career adviser in Handshake to discuss it. If you’re struggling with anxiety or other mental health concerns, please seek assistance through CAPS and review other resources available to you outlines in the Duke Mental Health Guide.

By Meredith McCook (she/hers)
Meredith McCook (she/hers) Assistant Director