In a world that is increasingly data-driven, words like metrics, call-to-action, and ROI (Return on Investment) have become often discussed terms in work day conversation. Our higher education environment is not sequestered from this business influence and we can feel this impact changing the ways we go about our important student affairs work each day. Universities across the nation are spending growing amounts of real dollars on marketing and brand management. Our collective organizations have been increasingly interested with our Institutional Brand.
University marketing and communication divisions have established protocols for all departments of our universities for functions like advertising and recruitment. Everything from the way we “look” (logo and color guidelines), the way we “talk” (voice), and those unique parts of our institution (brand differentiators) have been carefully crafted by the experts. For a quick overview of a “Brand” check out this blog from Spellbrand. These guidelines can present wonderful lines within which to color or they can feel restrictive and limiting.
Beyond the colors, images and key statements embedded in your university brand, are the subtext and preconceived notions that might be communicated to a potential candidate. Messages of prestige might be interpreted as inaccessible. Additionally, faith based vernacular could evoke feelings of exclusion in a candidate. Finally, regional language might elicit feelings of bias that candidate possesses about that region of the country. These feelings are real and must be processed with the candidate during their recruitment.
Working at a faith based institution located in the Midwest, these conversations with candidates have been very real and honest. As many in this series will talk about, the recruitment process is about fit, both for the hiring department and the candidate. Our departments should mirror our campus communities—dynamic and increasingly diverse. So, if you identify with some of the challenges your university messaging might communicate, do not shy from the conversations, rather, we must lean in to this tension in order to honor our institutions and the candidate.
However, I believe that there are some things that go beyond honest conversation on the phone, at a candidate dinner table or the on-campus interview.
First, before you start the search or recruitment process, have intentional conversations as a department. During these conversations, identify areas of growth on your staff. Use information gathered from all levels of your department to build a well intentioned recruitment strategy. Areas to consider could be regional diversity, experience (both in time and type), race and ethnic diversity, personality types, etc. Through this process, establish recruitment buy-in and mutually shared expectations that support those key pieces of your institutional brand.
Second. Be proactive. Leverage the connections of your current staff members. Most often, your entry level professionals still have connections to their undergrad and graduate programs. These connections can be utilized for the betterment of your organization. These connections offer invaluable word of month advertising while also providing a friendly face to a candidate.
Next. Interview smart. Create a diverse interview team. Utilizing the experience of recently hired professionals can provide the “well, if she/he is successful there, maybe I could be too” thought in a candidate. This makes a previously “inaccessible” institution a possibility for this candidate.
Lastly, and most importantly, Involve your students. For most this takes place when the candidate has reached the on-campus interview stage. During these days on campus, be sure to involve the candidate with students from a variety backgrounds and interests. These students’ authentic reflections, both of the joys and struggles, of attending their institution can provide the most sincere feedback for the candidate. Hopefully, that candidate will feel that call to want to work with those students.
Inevitably, institutional mission, which is reflected in brand messaging, (or at least should be) will have an influence on the work the candidate will complete at their future institution. However, at least in my experience, that influence on the pedagogy of the work has no impact on professional support which we can provide to that new employee to make them successful—its about reframing. (If your mind goes to our friends Boleman and Deal, don’t worry, mine too).
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!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Quint Geis on #SAGrad, Life, and Job Searching