IT Forum Perspectives

Improve your IT talent pool with candidate-centric recruiting

by Anna Krenkel

Hiring is easier when candidates know who you are as an employer or when they feel a connection to the culture, management, mission, and professional growth that an employer promotes. Companies with a weak employer brand pay twice as much to hire staff as employers with a strong employer brand—and must increase salaries by 10% to compensate.

Most IT organizations in higher education do not have a distinctive employer brand—but that can change. Creating candidate-focused job descriptions, "get to know us" job sites, and customized on-campus experiences will increase recruitment success in today’s competitive talent pools.

Break the mold for job descriptions

Across industries, IT job descriptions tend towards bland: A dry, factual tone with third person pronouns that fail to invite the reader to imagine themselves in the role. For higher education IT postings, nothing suggests the contribution that an employee will make towards the institutional mission, or the professional and personal development they will achieve in the role.

Sometimes the requirements from HR for institutional job postings limit creativity, but a simple check list can help improve tone even in a constrained format. Below are some best practices to follow:

  • Use a balance of first and second person point of views
  • Ask questions
  • Be upbeat
  • Limit your overall word count to 600-700 words
  • Limit sentences to 13-17 words
  • Bullet about one-third of content
  • Be selective about what constitutes a job requirement

Candidates also do background checks

Job seekers will do their due diligence about a prospective employer before applying to an open position. If they’re met with a lack of information, they’re not likely to apply. "Get to know us" pages for IT organizations create an appealing narrative if they emphasize what differentiates a workplace in higher education:

  • Growth opportunities: Include a list of professional development resources available to employees, including subscriptions to training websites and internal programs. Call out related position descriptions on a job posting to demonstrate a career ladder for IT employees.
  • Impactful work: Use language from the institutional vision and mission statements to attract job candidates interested in serving institutional priorities.
  • Individual stories: Give the perspective of employment in IT in the words of current employees. Use these to demonstrate the workplace culture, workforce diversity, and mission orientation.

Customize on-campus experiences for candidates

As you evaluate candidates during the interview process, they are simultaneously evaluating the position, workplace, and community. As you ask them about their prior experiences and test their technical knowledge, they are weighing if they like the town or not, if their children will thrive in local schools, and why they should choose your college or university over others.

Campus visits often fail to impress from the candidate perspective because of insufficient communication and a focus only on institutional needs, rather than the candidate’s concerns. The first step to combat this is through preparatory email communications that articulate candidate travel information and schedules for the time they will spend in interviews, at meals, and on tours.

At Stephen F. Austin University, the person who sends this initial email is a staff member who will serve as a concierge for the prospective candidate. In addition to providing logistical details, the concierge also reviews the candidate’s resume and speaks with recruiters to get a sense of what recommendations might be of interest to the candidate.

The concierge also passes along their list of favorite local restaurants and attractions, which helps introduce the candidate to the community. They may also give the candidate a tour of campus and its surroundings during the visit. This requires the concierge to spend about three hours preparing and corresponding with the candidate the week prior to their campus visit.

Finding fit and building a brand

Improving your hiring process not only fills an immediate need, but ultimately increases retention as better ways of communicating organizational culture attracts employees who are more likely to stay with the college or university. Plus, building your employer brand of positive interactions across candidate pools will establish your reputation as an organized, responsive, and mission-oriented employer.

No IT talent? Four ways to change that.

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Watch our video to learn four ways your college or university can attract and retain the right IT talent.

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