Hiring for Higher Ed: How UC Berkeley Successfully Competes for Talent

March 31, 2014

In August 2012, when Bruce Mattos joined UC Berkeley to lead Talent Acquisition and Employee Services, he arrived with a change mandate.

Despite being a historic, highly regarded university, Berkeley was facing significant talent acquisition headwinds and a new approach was needed.

The challenges

One challenge they had faced for a long time was recruiting top talent in the hyper-competitive Bay Area, with nearby tech companies offering perks and incentives far beyond what any public educational institution can rival. When the competition wins on compensation every time, a compelling employee value proposition and the ability to identify and meaningfully engage the right talent is vital.

But another factor was even more pressing. Like most higher education institutions, Berkeley faced a looming surge of faculty and staff retirements in coming years. Attracting the next generation of top performers for mission critical roles is no easy task, and its importance cannot be overstated. Failure to build the talent bench today introduces significant operational risk.

The need was clear but the road ahead was not. From his many years of experience in healthcare and corporate recruiting management, Bruce was well aware of the fundamental changes taking place in how a new generation of workers and professionals think, act, and manage their careers.

First steps

The first transformational step the Berkeley talent acquisition team took was starting to do competitive research. Bruce enlisted the help of two students to dig into what twenty of the most highly-regarded schools and corporations were doing to attract, engage, and hire top talent. How did they represent themselves on their career sites? What was their compelling value proposition? How were they using social media to amplify their message? How did they empower people throughout their organization as talent brand ambassadors?

Next, he went on a campus-wide listening tour. He spoke with executives, with hiring managers, and with HR staff across the organization. What were the biggest challenges they faced in hiring critical employees? Where were they winning and where were they losing? What would fundamental improvement look like from their perspective?

Fast forward to today

Twenty months later, Bruce and his team have built a truly transformative talent-centric organization. They regularly make key strategic hires in numerous areas. They have cut average time-to-fill in half from a previous high of almost 120 days.

The recruiting organization has gone from a support role to one of true strategic partnership. And the cherry on top? They’ve saved $2 million in the process.

* image by Joe Parks

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