If your recreation department has a job opening, welcome to the club. So does everyone else in this job seeker’s market.
There’s nothing “normal” about this hiring season. Not only are you competing with other recreation departments for candidates, but you’re competing against other industries more than ever thanks to the Great Resignation. It’s no secret that people are leaving recreation and higher education jobs. As I write this today, there are 300 job postings on BlueFishJobs.com alone, and we’re not even in the “busy” season yet.
So, what’s a hiring manager to do in order to attract top talent and convince a job seeker that a job in campus recreation is right for them? I recently spoke with Lisa Shea, the associate director of Programs, Marketing and Development at the University of Michigan Recreational Sports, about the recruitment strategy their unit has recalibrated. They have eight job openings on the horizon due to a number of career changes and retirements.
EXTRA CREDIT: Read more about the Great Resignation here.
Agility and flexibility are at the center of the strategy, Shea told me. Here are seven takeaways from our conversation you can use to recalibrate your department’s recruitment efforts and remain competitive in this job seeker’s market:
1. Communicate with Your HR Team
Before you do anything drastic, get in touch with your HR partners. Communicate your needs up front and inquire about where efficiencies can be found in the process. Once you’ve agreed on an approach, keep your HR team up to date with your progress. Many HR teams are understaffed themselves and are trying to help units with multiple job openings, too. Jumping in on the work can keep your process moving.
2. Review Your Job Descriptions
Think of your job descriptions like a dating profile. This is your one shot at piquing someone’s interest. Don’t be a bore. Be clear and concise about job responsibilities and candidate skills. Infuse the description with your unit’s brand personality. Cut out jargon and avoid words that sound conceited. Without compromising certifications, consider reducing qualifications to widen your pool. The team at the University of Michigan is using Datapeople, a tool that uses AI to analyze the language in their job descriptions to help job postings perform well. This makes for more inclusive descriptions that resonate with job seekers more broadly. Finally, question how this position helps your students and customers, and determine if that experience can improve. Job descriptions should not only reflect current departmental needs, but should also be written with future growth in mind.
3. Establish a Rolling Application and Interview Process
Don’t waste time waiting for a job to close before reviewing applications. Work with your HR business partners to find out if you can accept and review candidate materials on a rolling basis. This will allow you to see candidate materials in real time and make faster moves to interview. Shea shared her team — and candidates — have responded favorably to this approach. There’s nothing worse for a job candidate than waiting forever to hear from a potential employer. And with the market we’re in, if you snooze, you lose.
4. Share Interview Questions
Yes, you read that right. Share your interview questions. And here’s why: it sends a message of transparency to your candidate, something job seekers are craving right now. But make sure that transparency extends throughout your organization or else you risk being seen as disingenuous. Sharing questions should hopefully better prepare your candidates for what to expect and can communicate what you’re looking for in a candidate.
5. Evaluate What’s Necessary
Time is of the essence when you’re recruiting and interviewing. This is true not just for a candidate and the hiring manager, but also for the colleagues helping you in the process. Respect everyone’s time by reevaluating how many rounds of interviews you conduct, using what methods and for how long. Now that they’ve moved to a rolling interview process, staff members don’t feel like they have to put giant holds on their calendars to spend time with a candidate, Shea shared. Technology is our friend. Leverage the efficiency it can bring to your hiring process.
6. Spread the Word
There’s no shortage of job sites out there, but now is the time to get creative. Leverage personal networks and encourage staff to share postings on their LinkedIn accounts. Consider posting on job sites outside of recreation or higher education. University communication tools like Slack can reach folks who might not be looking for a job but are internal and familiar with your work.
7. Highlight Value-Added Benefits
Candidates applying to jobs in recreation should already know they’re not going to strike it rich in this field. Many departments’ hands are tied when it comes to salary negotiation often because of how units are funded. As the employer, what’s your best holistic offer? Paint an encompassing picture of all the amenities available in order to be competitive. This could look like a mix of benefits, retirement, professional development spending, opportunities to travel, upward mobility, and perhaps a hybrid or remote work environment. And don’t forget your people. Having an all-star team to work with is an asset, too.
Every interaction a job candidate has with you — from job posting, to emails sent, the interview process and onboarding — communicates your culture and where you’re headed as a unit.
While the tips above can improve the recruitment and interview process for you and your candidates, don’t sleep on the honest, reflective work your unit should be doing right now. Candidates are observant, savvy and know the ball is in their court in this job seeker’s market. Use this time to get your future right, and hopefully, the right people will join you.
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