It is hard to believe we are more than half way through the winter semester at Oakland University Career Services. Spring is in the air and we are celebrating the successful completion of many of our large-scale signature events. As cycles tend to go, this can only mean one thing: time to start planning for the upcoming year! March is a critical month of the recruiting, interviewing, and hiring of career ambassadors at Oakland University. In the spirit of continued sharing, Mary T. Calhoon from the University of Nevada-Reno and I hosted a call in late February on best practices for recruiting, interviewing, and hiring of peer career educators.
This is the fifth call in our series dedicated to Career Studio best practices. We had a great time engaging and learning from peers across the country as they shared their success stories on the topic. In case you missed it, here are some key takeaways from the call. (Notes are available in the NACE Community.)
Here are some of the key highlights from the call:
Question: What does the role of peer career educator look like? What is the job description? What title does the student take?
Best Practices Shared:
- Call your student team whatever works best for your institution; whether it be peer ambassadors, advisers, or mentors, try to have a naming convention which lends itself to a peer-to-peer relationship
- Job descriptions will vary depending on the structure of the studio:
- At the University of Nevada, Reno, the Career Studio is all drop-in all the time facilitated by a team of 15-20 peer mentors
- At Oakland University, the Career Studio supplements the services provided by professional staff; a team of 10 career ambassadors supervised by a graduate assistant facilitate drop-in Career Studio engagement where the primary topics addressed are resume/cover letter, Handshake, LinkedIn, and event preparation.
Question: How do you know how many students to hire? How do you ensure you have the right number of people?
Best Practices Shared:
- Consider how many hours per week your studio will be open and staff accordingly; two to three peer career educators per shift is a common practice.
- Think about whether the peer career educators will have responsibility outside of the facilitating career studio hours, for example, at events, presentations, tabling etc.
- Host weekly meetings with your peer career educators to keep a finger on the pulse of appropriate staffing levels, projects, etc.
- Plan for turnover; think about hiring at least one additional peer career educator beyond what you think you will need.
Question: What does your interview process look like?
Best Practices Shared:
- Recruit, interview, and hire in the spring for the upcoming academic year; make availability for summer training part of the hiring criteria
- Require students to submit an online application, resume, and cover letter; consider including questions on the application to help assess interest.
- Think about the core skills you are trying to assess such as communication skills, independent decision making skills, professionalism, and career-mindedness.
- Group interviews are a great way to get started; conduct a group process for five or six students at a time. Have students complete an activity or solve a problem as a group. Staff sit on the perimeter of the room and take notes, looking for students’ ability to interact with each other, listen actively, not dominate the conversation, but also not hang back.
- Conduct individual interviews with candidates invited back following the group interview.
- Leverage technology such as Doodle or the on-campus interview feature in Handshake to ease scheduling process.
Question: Do peer career educators come back each year?
- Make clear upon hire that position is projected to last one year. Peer career educators should not assume they will be hired back. Have those who would like to return participate in a modified interview process such as a presentation stating why they should be rehired.
- Include on-going coaching and evaluation so that peer career educators have clear idea of their performance.
- Returning peer career educators are great resources to help with new team members.
If you would like to see more details regarding the discussion on our last call, don’t forget to check out the notes posted in the NACE Community. Mary T. Calhoon and I also plan to host another call this spring.
We are also excited to be part of a panel presentation at NACE 2019: 4 Schools Share Their Career Studio Journey: Experiments With Drop-In Peer Coaching with Dr. Joey-Lynn Bialkowski from Concordia University and Edward Cruz from the University of Miami. This session is scheduled 10:45-11:45 a.m., Tuesday, in the Ballroom level, Northern Hemisphere, Salon E 3/4. We hope to see you there!