It’s currently hiring season on our campus for Orientation Team Leaders (OTL), Resident Assistants (RA), and Program Assistants (PA). This means countless hours of individual interviews, group process, rubrics, spreadsheets, and mail merge. It also means quality time with students learning about their passion, drive to give back, and willingness to create a positive environment and experience for their peers.
In these student leader positions we often have minimum requirements that address things like GPA, judicial standing, and credits completed. It is important that we hire students that will be accountable employees, role models, and hard workers. We need to think about employee retention, academic success, ability to balance, and diversity of the team. It is also important to think about how student leaders will respond to you as their supervisor, work with their peers, and assist students.
It can be easy to get caught up in thoughts about how student employees will perform in their positions. It is important that we also think about how the positions will impact the student employee. It has always been my personal philosophy that, although I could select all students who are at the top of their class academically, and involved throughout campus, I like to take a risk. Yes, an Orientation Team Leader will change lives and impact the experiences of first-year students. However, being an Orientation Team Leader can also change someone’s life. If I only chose people who have held similar positions in the past, I limit the amount of growth that could happen for students hired to fill this position.
When we have a large applicant pool the need to make the hiring process manageable often causes us to be extremely critical of applications. We may need to take a hard line when it comes to position requirements. For example, this year I had an applicant miss their interview. Shortly after, the student sent an email riddled with typos, to apologize for their mistake and ask to reschedule. I reminded myself that for many students, this is their first time going through an application process, and this could be an educational opportunity. The student ended up having an amazing interview; they were engaging, excited, and knowledgeable. I spoke with them about their email and the reflection it had on them in the hiring process, and that although I have the luxury to look holistically at applicants, that may not always be the case in future job hunts. As it turned out, the student has a language-processing disorder that causes them to spell phonetically when writing quickly. They appreciated that I had mentioned it, because they do not often have the chance to explain. We discussed strategies they could use in the future when corresponding with employers.
Despite my focus on taking risks and hiring a diverse team, I had to take a step back, and remind myself to focus on the student. Although we need to have a functioning team, it is necessary that we think about applicants in a way that considers potential growth in the position, as well as their current attributes. We also need to be aware that many students who apply may not have experience in job applications, so it is important that we take the time to educate as well as evaluate.