Not enough fish in the sea? How to staff your higher ed. institution in an employee-driven market.

Hitting major roadblocks trying to hire staff for your higher ed. marketing and communications teams? It’s not you. It’s today’s employment environment.

Nearly everyone — in higher ed. and beyond — is struggling to properly staff their organizations. Filling open positions used to be about attracting right-fit employees to your university. Now it’s a struggle to attract or hire any employees thanks to the current candidate-driven market (candidates have options). 

As a result, your marketing and communications team might be running on fumes — hustling to keep up with project demands. Meanwhile, you don’t even have a full complement of professionals to manage day-to-day MarCom tasks. 

The good news? There’s so much you can do to “sell” your higher ed. institution’s brand to promising hires. Read on to discover tactics to level up your school’s employee recruitment protocol, and maintain an adequately staffed MarCom department. 

The problem with most higher ed. staffing processes. 

Many colleges and universities — especially the largest ones — have very rote recruitment processes in place: 

  • The HR department posts canned job descriptions on a setlist of recruitment outlets. 
  • A candidate applies for a job via an online portal and receives an automated confirmation email. 
  • An algorithm (or maybe a human in the HR department) reviews their CV.
  • Based on set criteria, the robot or human decides if that person moves on in the hiring process. 
  • There are a couple (or more – depending on the experience level of the job) of interviews, normally first with HR and then with the hiring department. 
  • An offer is (or isn’t) extended. 

These higher ed. staffing processes might’ve been effective before candidates began controlling the hiring market. But it’s unlikely to be enough now. 

Reassess your institution’s recruitment regimen. 

We’re not HR professionals. And we know you aren’t either. Still, it’s safe to say that much of the standard hiring practices can be seriously improved upon. It’s time to reflect internally on your university’s standard processes – because you better believe that every touchpoint in your HR process impacts how your institution’s brand is perceived.

Is your school regularly conducting too many interviews? Could the number of interviews for marketing hires be reduced? Candidates are likely to find another job if the runway between applying and hiring is too long. Or if the interview process itself is unnecessarily grueling. 

Is there ample communication about what an applicant can expect? If they apply through a portal on your school’s website, make sure you indicate when they can expect to hear from someone on next steps. 

One surefire way to better hiring is by contacting good candidates who turned the position down. Ask them via a quick survey or simple email if there was something about the process that turned them off — and fix it for next time. 

Get involved in hiring to woo alternative candidates. 

Admittedly, you might not have much control over your institution’s hiring steps — HR is probably managing the whole thing. 

But is it time for that to change? 

The most qualified person to make decisions about staff for the marketing/communications department is you. And how lucky that you’re a marketer! Use your marketing chops to customize you-facing and enticing job descriptions that will impress other knowledgeable MarCom professionals. Ensure the compensation and benefits package is appealing to marketing and communications people specifically, and that it’s on par with (or better than) what else is out there. 

If you have the bandwidth, you should also consider reading through applicant CVs yourself. You might pick up on a candidate that an algorithm or someone outside of your field would overlook. Someone with a nontraditional background or experience in another industry who’s actually the perfect fit for what you need. 

Treat prospective employees like prospective students. 

You work so hard to paint a picture of an idealistic campus life and culture for prospective students. There’s no reason you can’t borrow a little of that magic to recruit employees. 

Let job candidates see what it’s like to work for your university by showcasing your organizational culture. Illustrate how your team supports one another. Talk about how rewarding the career path can be, or anything else that sets your higher ed. institution apart from other universities that applicants might be considering.

And it’s not just other universities you’re competing with. MarCom professionals have the option to work in almost any industry. Why choose a corporate setting when they can choose a higher ed. one? Detail how it’s noble to work for a college or university. They could be a part of an institution that’s shaping people who will go out and impact the world. The same may not be said for the corporate or agency world. 

Sidenote: You know what can be said of agencies and corporations? They generally offer more flexibility when it comes to remote and hybrid work. Higher ed. marketing doesn’t have to be done on campus. It might be time for you to at least consider work-from-home options. It’ll certainly broaden your applicant pool. 

The key is to be as creative about recruiting employees as you are about recruiting students. Don’t shy away from touting your university’s distinctiveness just because employees don’t pay tuition. 

Swipe right on your marketing agency to support your immediate needs. 

These hiring tips will revamp your recruitment process and attract more and better candidates for your higher ed. MarCom job openings. But that can’t happen overnight. So what can you do to support your stretched-too-thin marketing team right now? Find out how your agency partner can fill in the gaps, completing duties you normally fulfill internally when you’re fully staffed. 

At ED. Marketing, we make it a point to be your marketing partner, not just another vendor. Let us earn your trust so we can interact with your internal team on your behalf. Because you can’t be everywhere at once, we can help keep you in the loop and capably represent your team. 

We can meaningfully extend your department’s bandwidth while the candidate pool remains shallow — and (fingers crossed) beyond.

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