The recruitment cycle

By Michael Ball, Residential Services Manager, University of Lincoln and ASRA Vice-Chair

Taking this month’s publication theme on recruitment, we thought taking a check back into the world of accommodation and its importance in the recruitment cycle may suit. When thinking of recruitment, Black Friday comes to mind. Many people looking and thinking they have to buy something today or the world could end! Of course some think there are guarantees in the market place which make the decision sometimes simpler; pick your course and your accommodation comes along with it. That’s not quite so I fear.

The increase in expectations of the customer, their parents’ need for supporting adults to know if their ‘child’ will be able to eat, and most everything else that will make their son or daughter as comfortable as possible. You know it’s just not so easy nowadays!  Students compare products, service levels, internet speeds, security (of which around 50% will forget we provided) parcel delivery opportunities, parking for free, short distances to walk and comfy beds with quiet bedrooms. ‘Probably, the best student accommodation in the world’ 

We are not all the same. One size does not fit all

We have websites full of information and advice, interjected with glossy images of room layouts, video clips of rooms and helpful and positive comments from previous users. We make ourselves available at everything from formal events like open days to ad-hoc events where someone from Essex just happened to be passing by Lincoln. If you are anything like our teams you will do your best to fit them all in and make sure they can see everything they wanted to see. Oh, and yes I forgot, the academic colleague who invited a few people up to have a chat about a course and sort of just brings them over and leaves them with you.

Challenging expectations from our internal departments never mind the potential customer!

We are, in fact, the vanguard of a changing and diverse sales pitch to an ever-changing and fluctuating customer base. All this without considering our international cohorts who are unable to attend any of the open day options mentioned above. I wonder how Sainsbury’s or a Currys or a bank might set their stall out to develop process and information to support the challenges and competition we now face between each other. My own view is that the applicant should rate their view of the quality of course content and delivery and then take a view on the accommodation. But sadly we are entrenched in a standard format of recruitment and therefore we will continue to be faced with the ‘race to decide’. I think it is fairly certain that a well supported and informed accommodation package will go a long way to helping an applicant and their family decide which university is their preferred choice.  Once the  applicant arrives and moves in, it’s over to us to keep up the delivery of expectations. 

The accommodation team, be it on-campus or off-campus, can do its very best to maintain rooms, keep order, be supportive and helpful, but we have no control over the other factors which may make an applicant change their mind. 

● I don’t like the course
● University is not for me
● Home-sickness
● Reactive mental health conditions 

These are only a few of the challenges, and I am not sure if we have had the move into Residence Life delivery, so far embedded to allow statistics to show that such services have reduced ‘drop out’ rates, but it is here that another area of the Accommodation Team is linked to supporting that early recruitment and thereby retention. But how much of that is really within our control?

I suppose I pose the question to see if the thoughts above mirror others who are seeing themselves isolated within demands. Happy recruiting!  


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