The focus of the “SACandidEx” series is to share stories about the on-campus interview. In this post, the author reflects on two different on-campus interviews and sees patterns that also translated into the new employee on-boarding experience. The author of this post has chosen to remain anonymous.
After discussing my preference for a computer set-up and checking with me about my department apparel size in our initial on-boarding call, the Office Manager in my new department at my new institution asked, “Do you have any food allergies? What about foods you won’t eat? We’re hosting a welcome potluck on your first day and everyone wants to make you comfortable.” I hung up the phone and turned to my then-supervisor and said “I think I accepted a job in Narnia.”
I believe that an important and frequently overlooked aspect of the candidate experience is what happens between accepting the offer and the first week of work. After I considered and ultimately accepted the offer for my new position, my future co-workers offered advice on where to live and volunteered to check out apartment buildings on my behalf. My new supervisor gave me a paid day off to deal with my movers bringing my belongings to my new apartment in the middle of the week. They arranged for parking on my first day and walked me to the ID Center and the parking office to take care of business. And, as mentioned above, the entire department hosted a welcome luncheon for me. Needless to say, I felt included in the team right away.
On a daily basis, I have contrasted my new experience with my previous position, which was at an institution I had been intentionally pursuing within a location-based job search because of its excellent reputation and commitment to values I shared, yet everything about my candidacy could be described as one giant red flag. In my search that led me to my previous institution:
- The hiring manager scheduled our phone interview for 8:00 a.m. in his time zone on a Monday morning. Shockingly, the search committee members were all late and I only got 10 minutes on the phone with the group because they had to be free for their 8:30 a.m. interview call.
- After my on-campus interview, the hiring manager went on vacation for two weeks. I received my offer over the phone, and asked for something official in writing, and was told “oh, it’s summer hours, so good luck with that!” Two weeks later, I flew in for a whirlwind house-hunting trip and was still unable to provide documentation from my employer about my new salary, so I had to secure an apartment using a voicemail that included the offered salary number.
- On my first day, everyone in the (very small) office was in meetings all day. I sat in my office by myself, unable to log onto my computer or leave the office suite since I still didn’t have an ID card and didn’t know where to get one. I went to lunch by myself and tried not to burst into tears from sheer frustration.
So what have I learned from these most recent candidate experiences? The experience between the offer and the training period are critical for developing a high level of employee engagement and a successful on-boarding experience.
As a candidate:
- Trust your instincts. An unpleasant on-campus interview experience may very well lead to an undesirable on-boarding experience, which sets the tone for a brand-new job. It’s easier to turn down an opportunity than it is to extract yourself from a job or workplace culture that don’t fit you very well.
- Discuss your search with a trusted friend or mentor. Ask that person to identify red flags and help you see past your desire to work in a certain place or for a certain institution so that you can evaluate the search objectively. I was so determined to relocate to a particular city that along the way, I lost sight of what mattered most to me in an employer.
- Keep an open mind. The situations I described are two extremes, but it’s possible that a hiring manager is inexperienced in running an effective search process or reports to someone who is making the process unnecessarily difficult.
And what can employers take away from my experience?
- Hospitality is free (or pretty close to it). My new department did not spend a dime to make me feel welcome. Ask your staff to send welcome e-mails to your new hire. Reimburse your staff if they treat your new hire to a meal or a cup of coffee. Put some department swag in their new work space.
- Consider Maslow’s hierarchy when welcoming new hires. People need to know where they are sitting and need to be able to access that space. Make sure someone is around for lunch with your new hire on their first day. Show them the restrooms and explain the office norms about lunch, breaks, and attending to personal matters. This is even more critical for employees who have relocated because it seems like there is nothing that can be done outside of Monday through Friday business hours when setting up a new household. Provide a private space with a land-line phone for their use, if possible.
- Provide more information than you think your new employee needs. My new employer sent benefits selection forms, the payroll schedule, paid time off accrual rules, and other important information well in advance of my start date. As a result, I was able to easily make benefits decisions, budget for my move and beyond, and plan a vacation before I even started my job.
- Remember that new employees feel like they have a lot to lose in a new employment relationship. For example, I never would have asked my new co-workers for advice on where to live, but I’m grateful that they offered it up on their own.
The candidate experience works best for all involved parties when the process is transparent and the employer makes an effort to provide deep hospitality for the new hire.
What do you do at your institution to support your new hires between the offer acceptance and their first day of work?