This time of year is always a crazy month in the world of higher education. While students are moving in and educators are planning and preparing for the semester, most don’t consider that things that go on behind the scenes in preparing the university for them, such as recruiting and onboarding the faculty and staff.
I serve as an HR Generalist at Tennessee State University, where we have processed over 400 employment contracts between July 1 and October 1. To help you understand the magnitude of the hiring process, the above figure doesn’t even include the hundreds of temporary and student workers and graduate assistants that are also starting assignments.
Because there are so many different departments and colleges within a university, Human Resources has to be very deliberate in their role to assist with the hiring process. While we want to protect and enhance a certain culture and standard, we cannot hijack the process from the hiring managers. They know the needs of their departments better than we do, so it’s our responsibility to make the hiring process smooth and consistent for the candidate and the university.
Where It Starts
While so many are hired and there always seems to be some type of opening, getting to that posting is a long, bureaucratic process. A position can’t be created just because it’s wanted…there has to be a legitimate need and enough money in the departmental budget to support it.
Once the job description has been ironed out, the required qualifications have been determined and the money has been allotted, the hiring manager creates a hiring proposal and submits it to different decisions makers within the organization. Human Resources manages this process ensuring that each level of approval is being held accountable and approving positions and action with little or no delay. If necessary, depending on the level of the position, (Director, Dean, etc.) the HR office will work with the hiring managers to select Search Committees to assist in selecting qualified candidates.
Putting It Out There
We are fortunate in that we always have a deep candidate pool for staff positions and a great academic reputation for attracting faculty.
We start by posting positions on our website, with the occasional posting to HigherEd Jobs and sites like CareerBuilder. Postings that are active for 2 weeks will average anywhere from 150-200 applicants. Thankfully, we use an applicant tracking system that helps to narrow the field of applicants, so that the process of weeding out most unqualified candidates does not have to be a manual one.
Hiring managers are then tasked with selecting candidates for an interview that not only meet the requirements but have the experience that leads us to believe they will fit in our organization. Once the candidates are selected, they are routed to our Office of Equal Opportunity & Affirmative Action to ensure that the pool is diverse and balanced.
While all organizations have to take a chance on a candidate being a good fit, we are able to “home grow” a lot of our talent. In our community, we have have many interested and talented people who have:
- attended the university,
- grown up near the institution,
- know someone that has been positively impacted by the school or by one of its many initiatives that they want to help it grow and help maintain its spirit of excellence.
Having graduated from a different university, I find myself in the staff minority by having not attended the school. Being able to balance that mixture is very important for the university so that traditions are maintained and new ideas, philosophies and best practices can also be implemented and added to the mix.
Results Of The Mix
As a university employee that doesn’t work directly with students, it can be difficult to keep perspective that everything we do impacts the university’s most important clients… our students. Faculty members have the task of pouring directly into their lives educationally, while Human Resources and other university departments directly impact those faculty members and the environment in which they learn and grow.
All departments and all employees (new and old) must work together in harmony to create pride and cohesiveness. When the university employees take pride in what they do and where they work, that feeling trickles into the classroom. When organizational objectives are clear, when morale is high and retention is low, it becomes easier to deal with any challenges that do arise and employees can continue to pour into the minds and lives of our youth.
Justin Harris, PHR, M.B.A. is an HR Practitioner and Cigar Aficionado specializing in Employee Relations, Management Development and Organizational Behavior. Justin prides himself on being an “Unlikely HR Guy” and uses practical, everyday examples to teach lessons on employee engagement, communication and self development.
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