“Your reputation is at risk.”
That was the message relayed to Marist College Vice President and CIO Bill Thirsk by a hiring manager who had been contacted by a former employment candidate. The job seeker had attempted to apply for a position through the New York college’s online employment system, only to give up because the user experience was so frustrating.
This was not an isolated incident. The college had purchased and implemented a recruitment software package in hopes of streamlining the application process and attracting high-quality faculty and administrators. But things weren’t working out as planned.
“What we had hoped to have happen was the reverse,” says Peggy Kuck, director of Marist’s enterprise solutions group. “Because of the poor user experience, it was actually a detriment to our candidates to complete the hiring process.”
After a failed attempt to get the original vendor to improve the package the college had bought, Thirsk says, “it was time to look at other options.”
The best option was to take what Kuck calls “an intelligent risk” and develop an in-house solution—an open-source online recruitment system that Marist could customize.
The new system integrates in real time with Marist’s existing enterprise resource planning software, something the old software did not do. This saves time for candidates as well as HR staff. The system allows for easy uploading of resumes, cover letters and related documents that are converted to PDFs for review by hiring managers and search committees. It also produces a workflow that generates automatic emails to applicants, hiring managers, HR and others.
Marist’s applicant pool has increased and more candidates are completing the application process. “We’re now attracting the high-quality faculty and professional staff we had hoped for,” Kuck says. “That is a detail that shows we have done what we set out to do.”
Marist also saved the $18,000 it was paying the vendor in licensing fees each of the last two years.
And because the solution is open source, other institutions can benefit. Marist will share the code behind its new system with other colleges to help in controlling costs.
“There is massive disruption potential right now for colleges and universities to get together to form communities of practice to build software around certain disciplines,” Thirsk says. “We would love to see higher education invest in teaching and learning rather than buying commercial products. It’s a new way of doing business. You end up with a better product and a better experience.”
And that’s something to be proud of.