Recruiting for higher education positions can potentially become a stressful task, without applying some specific ‘ground rules’. Like so many other tasks that we’re challenged with, recruitment is a process. There are key steps needed to refine this process and once in place, these can easily facilitate success.
Defining the responsibilities of the academic position is the first important step in beginning this process. This isn’t always as simple as taking the job description of the previous employee—there are oftentimes changes in the direction of the department; direction of the institution. Secondly, it is important to understand the ‘fit’ of the individual within the department and ultimately within the higher education environment. Ultimately, the contribution(s) the individual provides will enable the department/organization continued success in its mission.
Of these steps, probably the most nebulous aspect—understanding the importance of the fit of the individual—should be a priority. Involving peers and co-workers (staff that are subordinate to this higher education position) is crucial in helping to determine how prospective interviewees ‘fit in’. Although it may seem laborious, the more staff that participate in the interview process, the greater the feedback and the variety of the feedback. Further, involving subordinate staff is a win-win situation, as it lends credibility to statements made by management that staff is important!
Feedback, while obviously non-scientific, will enable staff to provide direct commentary about how they perceived each interviewee, as well as their comfort level with each. This feedback, while subjective, can essentially lead to providing management with quality information with which to make a more objective decision in the hiring of the candidate. This ‘qualitative data’ will provide some rich descriptors of characteristics, attributes, and personality that will enable management to reach an objective conclusion regarding the ‘best fit’ candidate.
John McCarthy is Associate Dean for the College of Education at Kutztown University, Kutztown, PA.
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