University of Colorado Colorado Springs

Finding great candidates who will thrive in a diverse environment

“SkillSurvey provides information that we just can’t get during the application process or by interviewing.”

Kara Carragher

Business and HR Professional, College of Business, UCCS

The Goal

For the fastest growing campus in the state of Colorado, assembling a stellar faculty with the right skills to support and mentor a diverse student population is a campus-wide priority. For the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, UCCS, talent leaders strive to find faculty members who demonstrate their commitment to opening the door to opportunity for all and can work with fellow colleagues to teach and inspire a large population of minority students, students associated with the military, and a significant number of first-generation students (students who are among the first in their families to attend college).

The Challenge

Creating a learning environment where every student is both challenged and supported requires faculty with additional skills: the ability to listen, to convey information in new and creative ways, to motivate students who may be struggling, and to build relationships with colleagues in their departments and across campus.

In traditional faculty searches where the focus is often on scholarly achievements, assessing these qualities can be difficult, especially when hiring online faculty who live in other locations. At UCCS, faculty, deans, and business and HR professionals have collaborated to improve faculty hiring by implementing a new, scientifically-validated approach that provides hiring managers with data that can help them make more informed decisions about which candidates will succeed in teaching a diverse student population and collaborating with faculty peers.

“If you can’t hire right, you can’t build a successful organization. Because at the end of the day, it’s not the buildings, it’s not the computers, it’s the people.”

Venkat Reddy, PhD

Dean of the College of Business and Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Programs, UCCS

How We Helped

UCCS contacts references via easy-to-use, efficient online surveys.

UCCS has stopped attempting to gather information from faculty candidates’ references by phone and is now using SkillSurvey’s online reference checking solution. Letters of recommendation focus stringently on scholarly achievement and can be prone to bias, so the search committees and hiring managers are pleased with the change. “It sometimes takes a month to get written letters of recommendation. We’re getting the SkillSurvey online reference feedback within 48 hours,” said Lindsay Kneel, Business and HR Professional, School of Public Affairs at UCCS.

UCCS can now get insight beyond the academic accomplishments that a candidate possesses.

Efficiency is important, but the real power of SkillSurvey’s online reference solution is its ability to help search committees understand whether a candidate has displayed the kinds of “soft skills” that are necessary for successfully engaging and supporting students. Job-specific surveys researched and created by industrial and organizational psychologists are completed by the references and give UCCS a more complete picture of a candidate’s professionalism, interpersonal skills, problem solving, adaptability, and personal value commitment.

For example, surveys ask references how well a candidate has used a variety of instructional methods to accommodate diverse student populations, how well the candidate conveys information in a variety of formats, and if the candidate encourages students helping them rise to challenging tasks, among other relevant questions.

That specific, detailed feedback from each reference is summarized in a comprehensive candidate report. Since references are all answering the same survey for each candidate competing for a position, a comparison report enables search committees to compare candidates on equal footing. “It really brings all the references’ feedback together in one spot,” said Dr. Venkat Reddy, dean of the College of Business and associate vice chancellor for online programs. “So I get to take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates.”

Departments at UCCS have a better chance of determining whether a candidate will make a great colleague over the long haul.

UCCS understands that faculty hires are a commitment to the future. “We’re potentially picking a colleague for the next 20 to 30 years, and so we really do need to make sure that person is the right fit,” said Dr. Patrick McGuire, assistant professor of teaching and learning in the College of Education and co-director of the UCCSTeach Program.

The surveys also ask references for feedback about a faculty candidate’s collegiality: whether they are dependable, how well they are able to build and maintain relationships across the institution, and if they have demonstrated an ability to collaborate with other department members to achieve common goals.

“SkillSurvey gives us objective information about a number of variables—personal and interpersonal—that relate to a faculty member’s future effectiveness as a colleague.”

Donald Klingner, PhD

Distinguished Professor in the School of Public Affairs, UCCS

About UCCS

The University of Colorado Colorado Springs, located on Austin Bluffs Parkway in Colorado Springs, is one of the fastest-growing universities in Colorado. The university offers 39 bachelor’s, 20 master’s and five doctoral degrees. UCCS enrolls about 11,300 students on campus annually and another 2,000 in online programs. For more information, visit www.uccs.edu.

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