By MARTY LEVINE
A more efficient hiring program that finds better candidates — and simultaneously secures new hires for multiple openings at once — is seeing success in its first few months at the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences and the College of General Studies. It uses hiring committees to perform early screening of candidates and assist with interviews, making each department’s hiring tasks easier.
“We have been hit hard by staff retirements” during the University’s last early retirement incentive program in 2020, said Maureen Lazar, director of workforce efficiency by Dietrich. “Then we entered the pandemic and there was the hiring freeze. We were 25% short of our already reduced staff. So much to do with so few people.
The school found itself, she said, hiring “hot bodies” in a “competitive market.”
After consultation with Michele Montag, Executive Director of Administration, in October 2021, the school created several hiring committees to manage the initial work of recruiting and vetting candidates for Administrators I and II – entry-level business coordinators, assistants to chairs, graduate administrators and office administrators, as well as senior administrative coordinators for departments, executive assistants and program coordinators. In May, Hiring Committees expanded to manage student services jobs.
The committees span both the Dietrich School and the College of General Studies, and are intended to save department recruiting staff much of the initial work of using Pitt’s Talent Center software to post job openings and review all the application documents.
The plan, Lazar said, is “to increase the diversity of our staff, to have better and more consistent processes across the board, to increase the speed of hiring and to hire all the best candidates and to lose no one”. Sometimes a second or third choice can work just as well in another position.
At the end of the first telephone screenings conducted by the hiring committee, candidates are asked if they would be open to other jobs at Pitt. Those who say yes receive additional job descriptions and can then apply for any or all of those jobs in one process.
Hiring committees include Pitt staff members already in the positions candidates are selected for — those who have completed the Dietrich School’s HR-focused diversity training. “One of our goals is to increase opportunities to build inclusiveness within the school,” Lazar said, “and also attract as many applicants as possible.”
From December to April 2022, as part of the new hiring plan, Dietrich and Etudes Générales hired 22 new administrative staff. “That’s a pretty big number in a short period of time,” Lazar said.
In addition to participating in the main interview with a committee member, the department’s hiring manager conducts reference checks and makes the final hiring decision.
Despite some initial apprehension, Aryanna Hunter has found the new hiring process very helpful.
Hunter, director of the Office of Veterans Services (which is in the College of General Studies) found her department short of an administrative person amid the pandemic. After the hiring freeze was lifted, but before the new committee system was in place, she contacted HR to hire and found the process “complex – not sure of the right person to contact”, or how to hunt down the existing job description. She found reading 50 resumes and cover letters “daunting. The process for me was a lot of extra work.
And the result? “The first hire didn’t work out for us anyway. Now we had to start all over again. »
For the second round, the committee hiring program was created. All she had to do was advertise the position and the committee reviewed the CVs, requested the missing cover letters and made the first selections. “Now I only had to review a handful of applicants,” Hunter said.
She said she had concerns — would the program weed out veterans who hadn’t had time, due to service requirements, to get a master’s degree, as the job required? She asked for the chance to check out all the contestants herself, just to make sure. No problem, says the committee. She noted that the committee had not referred any qualified job seekers.
She also appreciated that the committee, during the interviews, focused on a standard set of questions, “so that everyone is examined on this same information”.
Overall, the process “went a lot smoother” this time around, she said. She was even able to simultaneously hire for a second job that opened up more recently.
“The two employees have been on the team for two and a half months,” Hunter said, “and it feels like they’ve always been there.
“Our next goal is to try to open up additional recruiting sources in the Pittsburgh area,” Lazar said. Salary is still a big issue for job seekers today, and “candidates are looking for flexibility in the work environment,” including hybrid work models and flexible hours. The committee phone screen now starts with a mention of the salary, so as not to waste everyone’s time.
“There are openings everywhere and we need to be as transparent as possible” about every job, Lazar said. In the seven months since the program was launched, “the pool of applicants has tightened. It’s a candidate market right now.
Marty Levine is an editor for the University Times. Join it at email@example.com or 412-758-4859.
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