10 Key Ways to Widen Your Student Job Applicant Pool Via More Transparent Ads

Student employee positions are often a win-win.

In addition to helping your office meet its goals, student employees gain many valuable experiences and skills that may be attractive to future employers. In fact, research from Rutgers University found that students who worked part-time or full-time averaged post-college earnings up to $20,000 higher than their non-working peers. 

However, navigating the student employment application and hiring processes can be daunting for any student. It may especially confuse, intimidate, and dissuade students with disabilities, first-generation students, and any student experiencing imposter syndrome. And if such students don’t apply for and secure campus jobs, the financial gaps between them and their more traditional student peers will widen.

Fortunately, you can welcome more students into the campus job search process by making your job postings more transparent and accessible. Here’s how:

1. Post the salary

Job postings that don’t include the wage range waste both employers’ and applicants’ time, perpetuate wage gaps, discourage people from applying, and minimize the importance of monetary compensation. 

Students who’ll need to take the time to apply between their other responsibilities — including coursework, volunteering, and club involvement — may be wary of interviewing for a position that will ultimately pay less than what they want or need.

Listing salary information makes it clear what’s in the offer. And if the offer is attractive enough, it will give candidates a reason to spend time crafting strong applications that’ll stand out to you, ultimately making the search process easier for everyone. 

2. Detail any other forms of compensation 

Many student jobs come with extra forms of compensation, including housing, meals, tech devices, transportation, or exclusive access to programs or events. Be upfront about these types of compensation, including if the quantities are negotiable and how they factor into the salary.

Be prepared to answer questions related to these benefits, especially on housing, that students may ask. You may also want to review your employee handbook or policies prior to starting your search.

3. State the potential for renewal

Some jobs may be temporary positions or are intended to be completed only once per student — such as internships, special projects, and for-credit research.

Again, being transparent about the position’s time frame, seasonality, and extension possibilities/restrictions ensures that you aren’t wasting anyone’s time in applying.

4. Be open about the work-to-study ratio

It’s no secret that some work-study positions, such as check-in desks and intersession jobs, allow students the flexibility to catch up on coursework while on the job. 

Be open about this in your listing; some students may be looking for a position that allows them to have set time to study, whereas others may care more about developing certain essential skills. Again, transparency will help you find the right student employees.

5. State the types of student employees you’re able to hire

Federal work-study provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses. Students often have a limit per year regarding how much work-study payment they can earn.

Post in bold font (and in a clear position) about whether your position is for work-study students only or if it’s open to all students. 

Also check if your campus has specific deadlines for work-study students to apply to your open position before it can be opened up to all students. Include the definition of federal work-study eligible positions in your job description, along with information on where students can find out if they’ve received this form of financial aid.

6. Use inclusive language

Your job listing can systematically exclude student applicants based on the language it uses. Avoid using the gendered he/she; use they/them, you, the employee, or the title of the position instead.

In addition to pronouns, certain descriptors and verbs may skew male or female in their cultural associations, subconsciously deterring individuals who identify with a certain gender. You use the Gender Decoder to spot and address subtle biases in your job ad.

Similarly, corporate jargon can intimidate students who have never worked in an office setting before. It can be especially off-putting to students of color.  

As Aubrey Blanche, Global Head of Equitable Design & Impact at Culture Amp, puts it: “Using highly corporate language is often a signal to people of color that they won’t thrive because that language was developed in predominantly white, male spaces.” 

So, you should turn cliches into more direct descriptions of what the position entails. Instead of “a competitive salary,” list the salary. And in lieu of “a fast-paced environment” describe what these fast-paced tasks are. Check out this list of additional job posting cliches to avoid.

7. Reduce the requirements or ‘must haves’

Having a sky-high list of candidate requirements and preferences may scare excellent applicants away, especially since many students will be applying for their very first job. 

Cut down your description of your ideal candidate to your absolute requirements. For jobs that are open to almost any skill set, make suggestions as to what academic majors and student interests your job may appeal to or develop important skills within. But be sure to clarify if these are mere suggestions, not requirements.And instead of specific experiences, your job posting could share that you are looking for some of these essential traits — which students may have acquired through other means that you hadn’t considered.

8. Highlight results and skills they’ll learn

Instead of job duties, call this section responsibilities or results to highlight the learning rewards of the position. Students who are looking for a job that’ll boost their employment prospects after graduation will value the list for helping them find the best-fitting campus role.

9. Offer different ways to apply

Many students won’t have a resume. They might also be unsure of how to write a cover letter or don’t have anyone to ask for a professional reference. 

So, towards the end of your job posting, highlight campus resources — such as the career center or writing center —  or free external resources that can assist them with these requisites.

Be mindful that your institution’s job application site may not be accessible to all students. Common barriers include PDF read-only applications and time limitations. So, offer paper applications and/or office hours for students to apply in person. Additionally, images and infographics are a great way to convey information about your job posting and a way for applicants to get to know your team. However, without alternative text or captions, students with visual impairments may be missing out on essential elements. 

10. Be upfront about job essentials 

Under your responsibilities or results section, explicitly state essential parts of the job and working conditions to help students gauge if this is the right position for them. This could include sitting/standing, noise level, time spent outdoors, hazards, or travel requirements.

Also include if this is a fully remote or in-person position, or if it’s flexible. (For more ideas on what tasks can be completed by student workers remotely check out this list.) 

You should also list the expected work schedule so that students can see if it’ll fit in with their course schedule, student activity plans, or other responsibilities. 

I hope these ideas help your office keep equity and inclusion as a forefront priority during your student employee search!

Ready to find your candidates? For additional related advice, check out 10 Ways to Reduce Biases and Boost Equity When Hiring Student Staff and 15 Rules to Help You Start Building an Inclusive Language Guide.

Continue the student employment conversation with us on Twitter at @themoderncampus.

Corinna Kraemer

About the author: Corinna Kraemer (she/her) works in ed tech and loves painting, running, and hanging out with her cat, Mr. K. She hopes her posts will finally help her dad understand what her career in student affairs is all about. Learn how we can help get your students involved.