Volume 80 | Issue 6
November 2012

Involve Students in the Hiring and Training Process

Angel Flowers

Last year, I learned an important lesson: Listen to students. Their input is invaluable in many areas, but I found my student-staff members to be an important asset in the hiring and training process of not only fellow student employees, but also professional staff.

In the three-month span after I accepted an assistantship at the Baker University Center and before I arrived on campus, I cycled through three supervisors due to department and staffing restructures. While it was frustrating to be three hours away, struggling to understand the events happening in an office I had yet to officially join, I was still excited to begin my paraprofessional career. Six Angel Flowersmonths after I finally arrived on campus to begin my assistantship, several other staffing changes in the administration occurred. But I was not alone in finding this period of department and staffing restructure overwhelming; the most affected were the student employees enduring the transition as it was happening.

Following one of these vacancies came a period of search committee formation, interviews, and candidate evaluations. Our administrative associate asked me to nominate a student-staff member to participate in the interview process for this vacancy. Later, this student received notice of my recommendation with a mixture of anxiety and excitement. She was thrilled to be recognized and unaware that her perception of the interview candidates would matter to the search. In addition to her specific involvement, group interview sessions for the students were added to each professional candidate’s itinerary; the turnout was extraordinary. Beyond the presence of numerous students in these group interviews, the amount of conversation among the student staff about each candidate was impressive. The students discussed a variety of topics—resume content, question responses, composure, personality, and outfit choices. The conversations mirrored those that were happening among the administration staff, essentially validating the necessity for student input.

Around the same time, I began considering one of my job responsibilities: hiring and assisting in the training of new student staff for the start of the next academic year. I was about to lose a handful of employees to graduation, many of whom had several years of experience working for event services. Some of my building managers expressed concern over the impending hiring process. Due to professional staff changes the previous year, someone unfamiliar with the department and building manager position conducted the student employee training; it was seemingly disjointed and irrelevant. In addition, several student employees quit before the training had even been completed. The students felt that their training took a backseat to filling professional positions. The students even visited me during office hours, suggesting how the training process could be better, which proved to me that they were invested in the job and wanted others to be successful. Seeing the apparent desperation of my students for a group of reliable and productive new student hires, it made sense to solicit their opinions and recommendations. After reviewing a fairly large pool of student applications, my supervisor and I moved on to the second step of the recruitment process: extending invitations for student employee candidates to interview with “representative stakeholders” in the department, such as current building managers, to ask questions directly related to everyday expectations of the job.

But it is not just interviews where current student employees can provide valuable feedback. Even as their supervisor, I do not perform the exact same job duties for which the students are responsible. Therefore, returning student employees should play a larger role orienting new student employees. We do not hire students who can simply carry out the duties of their position, but those who can also showcase the values, traditions, and culture of the organization. In my mind, the most qualified person to begin that training is a current student employee.

Once again, the moral of my story is to listen to students; include students early in the hiring and training process, and trust that your students are dedicated to making your organization better.