Hiring the right admissions counselor can be daunting, particularly because of the turnover most enrollment team leaders have experienced. It’s a complex puzzle with a multitude of factors that need to be considered. Do they meet all your criteria? Will they fit in with the current team?
Which matters more: this person’s skills or their values and temperament? Will they be happy working for the institution? In the end will you be satisfied with your hiring decision? In our 30+ years in Higher Ed, we recommend implementing these seven secrets to improve your hiring process and finding that admissions "unicorn": the career admissions counselor.
1. Know The Institution's Brand and Reputation
Before you even post the job opening, know where the institution stands. Research both yourself and the institution online. Check out the various social media channels. Be an expert on your own brand and the institution's brand by looking at reviews, employment testimonials, and assessing any concerns from past and present employees and job candidates alike (e.g. Glassdoor, etc.). In this digital age it’s easier than ever to research employers and find "dirt", so make sure that you are continuously addressing any and all things circulating about the institution and culture.
2. Write Better Job Descriptions
Be transparent. Don't be concerned with making this the most appealing job in the world, but do tell a story that helps the applicant visualize if they'd be a good match...or not. We know that making calls, traveling during the "dog days" of the school year, and other aspects of admissions aren't glamorous, so make sure to share how this person will find themselves working with a dynamite team, how their leader will invest in them, and how they will make a tangible difference in students' lives. But don't embellish: If the description doesn’t match the actual job then chances of matching the right person with it are greatly diminished—or worse, you'll have to start the search again when they find out it's not all it was cracked up to be.
3. Be Creative with How You Interview
Chances are that you already have a good understanding of the applicant's hard skills based on their resume, cover letter, and application. Don’t waste crucial interview time with questions that can be answered by these resources. (Another pre-interview step is to have each applicant complete a temperament assessment (e.g. DISC, Meyers-Briggs, CVI, etc.) that when compared with the combined assessments of successful, career counselors of the past. How each applicant compares to your ideal counselor profile can tell you a lot. Some VPs and Directors only interview those candidates that match up well against the ideal profile.
4. Break the Boring Interview Streak
Get them out of the standard interview mindset and put them in situations that encourage them to show their true colors. Candidates can answer your plethora of questions, but this won’t mirror what they are like in the day to day. Answering questions is great, but give them the opportunity to show you their true selves. You may need to be sure they can go from paperwork to people-work at a moment's notice. Or how they respond to having a creative assignment.
5. Let Your Institution & Team-Culture Shine Through
Don’t focus the entire interview on your needs. The candidates have questions they need answered as well as needs and expectations that they want met—even if they don’t know it!
6. Provide Candidates with a Walk-Through
Whether it’s a walk-through of your institution or a verbal walk-through of a day in the life of a counselor,, give your candidates an idea of what they will experience working in your company. Better yet, let a team member play the role of a Counselor and let the candidate be the prospective student.
7. Involve Your Employees
You aren’t the only individual who will be working with this person. Involve their potential peers and supervisors in the hiring process. Assess current needs, create thorough job descriptions that are preferably based upon the consolidated ideal candidate referenced in # 3. Making an effort to determine the core values and temperament best suited for the job and the culture of the team.
In a perfect world we'd hire a person who immediately fit into the institution and our team-culture. Unfortunately, it's more rare than enrollment leaders would like, which is why they constantly face building and re-building the team. However, it"s possible to build a strong, effective enrollment team that serves students and yields results. (For a blog post on building a strong enrollment team, click here. For a blog post on retaining these effective counselors once you've hired them, click here.)
The Team at Value Based