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Managing student employees in campus card services

There is no one who knows better what kind of person will succeed in the role of Hub manager than a student who has worked with us. Because graduating student workers want to leave a positive legacy, they tend to recommend only students they truly believe will succeed in the role. So far this has held true every time.

A second word-of-mouth avenue sees current student employees recruit their friends to join the department while they’re still employed. One of the rules of employment at the Hub, after all, is to have fun.

Many of our current student employees work together with their friends and it’s proven to be a win/win for everyone involved. From the student worker perspective, they get to spend time with their friends while earning money and experience. The department wins as it benefits from a team environment where everyone works well with everyone. We do let our students know that while at work we expect everyone to perform assigned tasks first and socialize second, and it’s rare that we have to remind our students of this.

Narrowing the search

Once we’ve captured student interest we begin to screen applicants to determine who would work best in our team. Just as important, we determine individuals who may not be the right opportunity.

The two most effective channels for our card service office have been word-of-mouth and intra-departmental recruitment.

There are many screening techniques, but none offer ironclad guarantees that you are making a right decision. In general, however, good managers hire good people.

An interview will give an employer a bit of an insight about a perspective team member but the right questions need to be asked. Asking simple yes or no questions of a student just doesn’t offer the same value and insight as questions that require the student to form a unique response.

We ask questions designed to inspire the student to talk about their character and experience in dealing with difficult situations. For example, I routinely ask a student if there was ever a time in their professional or personal environment where they had to do something that was against policy or instruction of an authority figure, coach, supervisor, etc. And then I ask them why they made the decision. This question tells me a lot about a perspective student as we all have experienced that situation.

As with any job interview, what we ultimately look for here is honesty. Our office isn’t seeking a team of “yes people,” but rather we want independent thinkers who will allow our office to provide better service to the community. On the other hand, we’re also not looking for “loose cannons” who disregard instruction.

Lastly we ask questions that would help us insure the student is successful in their role. Questions such as: What makes you feel stress? What mode of communication works best for you? What form of recognition do you long for? What helps you experience gratification in the work you do? What are you looking for in a manager?

Through the interview process, we are evaluating customer service skills, IT skills, ability to work well independently and as member of the team. I do not disqualify students based on lack of knowledge, so long as the student displays an ability and willingness to learn.

Turning the table

It’s also important to recognize that while we are interviewing students, they are equally interviewing us. There’s a great deal of competition out there and students regularly have several other employment opportunities to choose from.

Most of our students are enabled to work through a federal work-study grant. The hourly wage that we pay is determined by either Federal or State minimum-wage law depending on which rate is higher. Restricted to only offering minimum wage, often work-study assignments are not as attractive as other opportunities.

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