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Five Recruiting and Hiring Tips for Higher Ed Admissions Leaders

Updated 10/23/2023

Imagine you have called an institution’s admissions office to find out more about their online programs. Who picks up the phone? The admission counselor. This representative is the first and likely most influential person in the selection process because they can make or break the experience. Hiring for this role is sometimes more complex than what it used to be. So, what happens when institutions must recruit for themselves?

It is a candidate’s market after all.  A recent Harvard Business Review  article noted today’s job market is increasingly candidate-driven. In this competitive market, employers need to gain mindshare among workers who now have more choices than they’ve had in nearly a decade.

Hiring new staff is an incredibly taxing effort. As the hiring manager, you do your best to write a comprehensive and realistic job description. However, through the interviewing and hiring process, the realization that the candidates are missing the mark often become reality. How can admissions get better at hiring quality staff to recruit and reflect the university’s brand? We provided five hiring tips to keep in mind when it comes time to recruit top talent in admissions.

      1. Start with the “why”

Your university’s mission and vision should provide the backbone to the admissions hiring purpose. Highlighting the “why” of the university is critical to motivating prospective staff. Not convinced? Starting with ‘why’ communicates purpose and direction. Prospective recruiters need to know what drives your admissions office and more importantly better understand why students are drawn to the university. Painting the big picture is key not only with students, but also with hiring staff as they brand ambassadors.

2. Be clear on performance metrics

Clearly defined performance metrics will enable staff to know where they stand– allowing for more productive coaching and development, increased accountability, and increased ability to reward exceptional performance. Metrics alone will not lead to success. It is important to increase communication and accountability among teams to create a more collaborative culture.

3. Provide a Consistent Hiring Experience from Recruiting to Onboarding

It is critical to have an enhanced, consistent standard of practice for admissions hiring, on-boarding, performance management, and leadership development. Consistency in procedures and processes will increase employee engagement. In a recent report, Deloitte noted several factors to contribute to a positive employee experience including supportive management, transparency in goals, and continuous training.  Consistency in experience will not only attract and retain the right-fit employee, but also minimize employee turnover and associated expenses.

4. Remove Roadblocks

Clearly defined procedures such as the process for managing the student lifecycle (from initial inquiry to document collection, application completion, and student hand-off, etc.) will enhance internal relationships, clarify expectations, minimize confusion for students, and send a unified message to students. A strong internal relationship with colleagues and clear expectations results in improved retention of staff and a stronger brand for the institution.

5. Provide Constant, On-the-Job Training

A 2014 NACAC report, Career Paths for Admissions Officers stated survey respondents needed most for overall success in admission roles were 1) training programs for new counselors, 2) academic programs, including undergraduate courses, in enrollment management, 3) financial aid training, 4) management training, and 5) leadership training. While conferences and seminars are a great supplement to training, highly effective admissions teams know in-house training is critical to employee retention and overall success.