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Voices of the Global Community

Linda Chalmers, Advising Administration Commission Chair

I profess that the most important job duty of an advising administrator is to hire the right people, because no other function done improperly or poorly will so quickly damage the advising operation and the mission of providing quality advising services to students. Over the twenty plus years that I have been an administrator/manager, both in higher education and private industry, I have observed that the art of hiring the right people is constantly cussed and discussed. One must continually hone hiring skills, especially in light of the ever-changing workforce landscape.

There remains a constant within the forces of human-resource changes that I always use when hiring. My mantra is “hire the attitude and train the skill.” I learned this valuable lesson early on, when I discovered that a bad attitude will poison an office staff very quickly. Bad attitudes rarely change to good. A person’s worldview comes early as decision-making patterns are developed early in life. Just take the person who sees the world through the “half-empty” filter and try to change them to see it “half-full”; you soon will discover that no human power can perform that magic!

I have always willingly given people “the benefit of the doubt,” but early on I learned the valuable lesson of listening. I will never forget the administrative assistant I hired for a front desk-receptionist position. During the job interview, I emphasized that this position required that the individual be on-time and dependable. While I heard, I did not listen to the candidate as she responded with a saga that included living across town, childcare issues, and her need to learn a new route to work. Unfortunately, I did not understand this cue to her future performance. Instead, I looked at the candidates’ qualifications on paper; she was the “best qualified” of the pool, so I hired her. Alas, during her first month she was up to 30 minutes late every day (if only I had listened!). Soon we parted amiably, and I learned a valuable lesson.

In my twenty-plus supervisory years, I have had many positive hiring experiences. Much of this success stems from a few solid hiring principles and techniques:

  • Be sure you know what the job entails. Have you served “time” in the position you are hiring? Have you shadowed each staff position to experience what these individuals do and how each must perform to be successful on a daily basis?
  • Break down the job into essential functions – what must be done or the job fails. Identify the performance outcome for each function and define the needed skill or skill set. For example, an advisor position’s essential job functions may be the following:
    • Communicates well and builds rapport with advisees;
    • Pays attention to details for accuracy;
    • Focuses on the positive, using a strengths-based or developmental advising approach, etc.;
    • Uses technology well to gain, analyze, and communicate information (uses PC, Microsoft Office Suite, email, the institution’s records system, etc.);
    • Is adaptable and flexible with institutional changes, policies; and
    • Understands and relates well with multigenerational advisees.

Map this on paper and consider the types of questions you and your search committee will need to ask interviewees in order to yield the best information for making a hiring decision. (Note: It is often wise to develop these questions with the search committee since HR laws dictate that the same questions be asked of all interviewees.)

Recently I was surprised to learn that, “…when surveyed, over 90% of people (employers) indicate they hate to interview” (Peak Search, 2005). If that is true, then how can we expect to hire good people? It’s all in the preparation. In a recent issue of Employee Recruitment & Retention, a report states that of the ten worst hiring practices, #7 is “no plans for interviewing” (Sennett, 2004). Interview preparation is, indeed, important.

Linda Chalmers
University of Texas at San Antonio
Linda.Chalmers@utsa.edu

References

Peak Search. (2005). Interviewing for Employers, Winning the Best in the 21 st Century. Retrieved from the World Wide Web at www.peaksearch.net/hiringtips.htm.

Sennett, Frank. (2004). Special report: The 10 worst hiring practices – and how to avoid them.

Employee Recruitment & Retention. Lawrence Ragan Communications, Inc., Chicago, IL, Sample Issue, pp 6-7

Cite this article using APA style as: Chalmers, L. (2005, September). An advising administrator's duty. Academic Advising Today, 28(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]

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