Part I – This post is part of a blog series on “Challenges in Higher Ed Hiring”

Guest post by Jann Gillingham, Higher Education Industry Specialist, SkillSurvey

From the cafeteria to the classroom, every touch made by every member of your campus staff can influence a student’s decision to attend – as well as to stay – at your institution. When positions are left vacant, students might feel under-served. Also, employee morale can suffer from increased workloads or perceptions of a slow hiring process, and that trickles down to the student population as well.

But no matter how fast you move, the hiring process stalls at reference checking. Days can turn into weeks as managers and selection committees play lengthy, no-fun games of phone tag with candidate references. Sadly, higher education shares with government the distinction of being the two worst performing industries for time-to-hire, says Josh Brown, talent acquisition manager at Clemson University. Clemson was one of the supporting statistics: taking months, sometimes longer, to get a candidate in place.

It’s a critical problem that’s getting worse. As unemployment rates decline, time-to-fill rates soar. The national average is the longest it’s been – 29 days – in the last 15 years, even in markets more efficient than higher ed[1]. The drawn-out reference checking process increases the likelihood that you’ll lose top talent to a competing institution that is moving more quickly than you.

The inefficient process also drives up hiring costs. That’s never good for budget-strapped institutions, especially when funding remains below pre-recession levels[2]. The laggard procedure not only drains finances; it also saps resource-strained departments. At the University of Iowa, getting candid feedback and coordinating schedules to review applications used to take about 16 hours of effort.

Don’t be a statistic

You don’t have to be among the ranks of “worst performing industries”. Moving your reference-checking process online saves time and money, and reduces the stress on HR, hiring managers, and selection committees. Organizations report a 92% reduction in time that staff spends checking a candidate’s references. And they’re getting responses from four references per candidate in less than two days. More importantly, automated online reference checking delivers rich, detailed, job-specific feedback because references can respond to surveys confidentially.

Clemson University’s unwieldy 13-week reference process is now a slim day-and-a-half, thanks to SkillSurvey’s Pre-Hire 360®.  And the University of Iowa reduced the size of its hiring committees, saving roughly $500 of effort for every person not on a search committee.  Improvements like these give hiring managers more time to focus on other important tasks.

The process is so efficient that institutions are checking references for more candidates – not just the top ones. Before using Pre-Hire 360®, The University of Colorado typically checked references only for the final candidate. Even then it took up to a week to connect with references. Now CU gets candid feedback on its top 3 to 5 candidates, in an average of 1.3 days!

The sleek and streamlined process is especially valuable at the start of the semester when institutions need to hire hundreds of adjunct faculty members. That fast turnaround lets you extend an offer to a desirable faculty member faster than the competition.  And the rich feedback cuts down the need for additional screening, shaving even more time off the process.

Learn more

Break out of the ranks of worst performers, and join the class of innovative institutions that are speeding up time-to-hire. Learn more about this and other hiring challenges in higher education in this on-demand webinar with me and Sharon Ewles from Mott Community College.

[1] ERE Media, More Openings Than Hires Push Time to Fill to 29 Days, September 2015,[2] Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, States are Still Funding Higher Education Below Pre-Recession Levels, May 2014

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