Alec Baldwin taught us in Glengarry Glen Ross to “always be closing” and “telling isn’t selling”. Whether it’s the meat market of NASPA or the one-to-one connection of a campus tour on a campus interview, the successful departments in the recruitment realm are the ones that figure out how to differentiate their department and make it stand out from the myriad others that are doing exactly the same thing.
For some, the “sales” aspect of recruitment isn’t looked favorably on. Perhaps staff feels like selling adds stress or makes the search less authentic or fit-focused. Maybe it’s a department or university whose name and reputation alone precludes the perceived need to have to sell a candidate on why they should work there. That departmental hubris can often be just as off-putting as a recruitment full court press.
Resting on your laurels leads to mediocre candidates and is a disservice to the current employees who are counting on their search teams to land the best and brightest. I’ve worked at top-flight institutions and also at hidden gems, but the selling of our brand, positions, and culture was uniform in our approach. In the SA search from the employer side, it is about what you do, when you do it, and how you do it that makes the difference between a first choice and a failed search.
To capture the “what” you have to determine through our own employees what makes your campus different. I’ve been fortunate to be employed at a campus with a dairy and ice cream shop right by the main entrance, another campus with a trailhead to the Appalachian Trail, and a third with a winter ski resort 30 minutes away. All those things made those campuses unique and noteworthy. Most every campus has similar uniform things, so it becomes the nonconventional ones that make candidates notice you.
The “what” should also be cognizant of the things that aren’t so good and what the rebuttals to those questions and issues should be. In our latest search, we were recruiting a candidate from Atlanta, GA to a position in eastern Kentucky. We knew we would need to give pointed information about the nearest metropolitan areas, travel times, closest name stores, etc. This has impacts not only in the search, but also in retaining those employees who now have an accurate picture of what they are signing up for.
The “when” of recruitment is EARLY! How early? There’s no such thing as too early. If you have the ability to leave a recruitment page up on your website to begin the process of selling prospective job seekers why your campus is the best, do it! You never know when next years dream candidate will visit your site and check out your department. When searches get underway, it is also helpful to have a dedicated web home for the search with timelines, testimonials, and what it’s like for that position at your campus. Knowledge of the search and the position is critical, and chatting at a table at TPE is too late.
The “how” is the art of recruitment. Search teams I’ve been a part of have opted for fancy graphic design publications sent to candidates after phone interviews, welcome baskets and swag bags on campus interviews, or the aforementioned web warehouses. The method isn’t as important as the message, one that’s authentic to your departmental culture and one that treats the candidate with an ethic of care. It’s easy to lose sight amidst the sea of resumes and cover letters that any one of these folks could be a future colleague. The tone set from the first communication sets the tone for the entire search and (if all goes according to plan) the position.
Selling carries with it an inherent negative connotation of high-pressure tactics to get someone to sign on the line that is dotted. That doesn’t have to, and definitely shouldn’t, be the case in search season. But be sure, on every interview a sale is made. Either you sell the candidate on why that position is perfect for them, or they sell themselves on why it isn’t.
This post is part of our #SArecruits series, which will share experiences from a variety of #SApros who have hired new employees. We hope that these stories will give great insight for both professionals looking to improve their hiring tactics, and also those on the job search looking for an inside perspective. For more information, please see Bill Mattera’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series!