For someone completing my fifth year as a full time professional in student affairs I have had my fair share of search processes. From being a graduate student at The Placement Exchange navigating my way through the conference center to find the next interviewer, to assisting offices with searches to find that special candidate that will transform their team. Being on both sides of the process provided some insight on what to do and what not to do.
As a member of search committees, one thing I found interesting were the conversations taking place about candidates with primarily residence life and housing experience seeking positions outside of that area. To be honest, I found it disheartening to know that some people are closed minded to the opportunities that come with having candidates with residential experience. As someone who started in residence life and housing, I remember the scrutiny I faced when I decided to transition into multicultural affairs. Plenty of the messages were discouraging and made me feel like I had no other option. However, once I removed people from my thoughts I was able to focus and secure another student affairs job outside of residence life and housing. That experience proved to me that people were wrong and experience gained from residence life and housing can open other doors if you plan right. Now when I’m serving on search committees I make it a point to discuss transferable skills from residential experience when it comes to making the best candidate selection.
Here are some tips for all of the recruiters out there with a candidate pool filled with residence life and housing professionals:
Be strategic with your committee member selection.
This should be a given, but you would be surprised. I’ve been on search committees where there was absolutely no reason to have certain members on there. Why is this important? Because you need members on a committee that are truly invested in your process. They should be there to help you find the best match for the position and that can only be done if they have an idea of what your office may need outside of the job description. Do you have a living learning community with an academic office attached to it? Ask a faculty member to serve on the committee. Do you have an office that primarily serves students? As a student leader to serve on the committee. Is diversity a factor? Consider someone from your diversity and equity office. Being intentional with the selection of your committee members is just as important as selecting the candidate. Not only will that help you find the right person but it will also give committee members a chance to consider things they would need from the candidate that can strengthen their relationship with your office.
Be Open Minded.
Have you really considered what a transferable skill looks like on paper? If not… Do it! With the job market being so limited, candidates are diversifying their experiences to stay competitive. I’m not saying consider every candidate based on every bullet point OR that it is the recruiter’s job to translate transferrable skills, but sometimes you have to read between the lines. If candidates have a list of programs they facilitated that relate to your opening, chances are they have some level of understanding and are willing to learn more.
Finally, ask the right questions.
So you selected a candidate and you have your standard questions you ask every single person, every…single…time. Change it up! Some of the questions I tend to ask candidates looking to get out of residence life and housing include “What interests you about this position? What are some of your transferrable skills? How do you respond to change? What do you think will be your biggest challenge transitioning into this role?” That should give you some more insight as to why they are interested in your department and what you may need to assist them with if offered the position.
I hope this can help some recruiters out there with their search. Good luck!
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 Danny Malave on New Professional Retrospective on the Job Search