Recruiting Grad Student and Postdoc Interns through Arts Amplifier Q&As

There’s an oft-told but rarely verified piece of anecdata that says men will apply for jobs if they meet 60% of the eligibility criteria, but women won’t apply unless they meet 100%. Here in the UBC Arts Amplifier, we’ve not been able to verify the accuracy of this claim, but from our experience working with women, genderqueer and non-binary people, and students from a range of intersecting equity-deserving groups, we’ve seen time and again how many people from marginalized populations rule themselves out of applying for a role based on the job description. This happens even when these potential applicants are extremely qualified, and even when employers write job descriptions that adhere to best practices for inclusive hiring.

The Q&A

Because the majority of UBC’s Arts grad students and postdocs belong to equity-deserving groups, we’re seeking ways to advance inclusivity in hiring practices. One strategy we use regularly is the pre-application Q&A. Q&As are 30-to-45-minute virtual meetings that provide prospective job applicants the opportunity to ask you questions about your organization, your project, and its goals and methods.

We recommend that you meet with graduate students for a Q&A before you solidify your job description for a role. We like to have students meet with you before you have a firm job description written because we want these students to have the chance to advocate for themselves, to understand your goals and needs, and to enable their expertise to shape the scope, parameters, or methods of your proposed work. Q&As work best when you approach them with a willingness to be flexible or accommodating about some aspects of the role you’re seeking to fill.

Q&As have benefits beyond diversifying your pool of potential applicants: they also enable you to draw on these students’ expertise in shaping how you’ll achieve your goals. For instance, if you’re looking to hire support for a research project, then a Q&A could help you consider new ways to collect data or share your results. If you’re clear on your end-goal, a Q&A with a group of keen graduate students can help you to chart the many possible pathways toward that goal.

Our masters and doctoral students and our postdoctoral fellows bring cutting-edge knowledge and methods to their work experiences, and, with a Q&A, you can begin to tap into these strengths even before you hire. Consider what questions you might like to ask of Q&A attendees, to gauge their input and perspective.

If you are hiring to meet an operational demand and aren’t able to be flexible about the scope of work, approach to work, timeline, or work hours, that’s OK! In this instance, we may ask you to be open to students with a range of experiences, qualifications and backgrounds. Your Q&A could enable you to demonstrate your flexibility in your timeline or hours of work.

We don’t require that prospective employers host Q&As with our students; it’s fine to simply circulate a job description if you have one already written. If you’d be open to meeting with prospective applicants before you have a job description written, though, we’d love to facilitate a conversation between you and our students. Get in touch to set up a Q&A for your next hire.

You can contact the Arts Amplifier at any time to set up a Q&A. Ideally, we like to give students two weeks’ notice in advance of a Q&A taking place, but we’ve been able to recruit attendees with less time when necessary.

Since your Q&A can help you to set the scope and parameters of your hiring, we recommend that key decision-makers attend and bring their perspective to the conversation.

Students will be ready to submit applications–a cover letter, resume, and any other application materials you need–around 5-10 days after your Q&A is held. If you’d like, the Arts Amplifier can collect application materials on your behalf, and we can help to schedule interviews too. If you prefer to collect applications on your own website, or arrange your own interviews, that’s OK too. We are happy with whatever process is easiest on your end!

The Arts Amplifier team will set up a Zoom meeting room and calendar invite, and will promote your Q&A through our student and postdoc networks. We find that videoconference Q&As are most accessible to graduate students and postdocs who may live far from UBC’s Vancouver campus. If Covid-19 protocols permit, we’d be open to discussing hosting your Q&A in person in your office.

In advance of the Q&A, we’ll collect any questions that potential applicants have in advance. We’ll share these pre-submitted questions with you when we send you the calendar invitation and Zoom meeting room details.

When the Q&A starts, we’ll introduce ourselves, do a land acknowledgement for UBC, and then pass the virtual microphone to you. We’ll ask you to introduce yourself, provide a land acknowledgement, and then give the prospective applicants a short introduction to your organization, the proposed work, and (if you like) yourself, your career history, and your interests in this work

We then open the floor for questions, and usually hold around a 30-minute conversation about your work and your planned hiring

Q&As can be small–we’ve been known to host Q&As with as few as three student attendees. However, we always record our Q&As and circulate the recording among all RSVPs, so it’s possible that some prospective job applicants may be watching asynchronously!

Consider explicitly stating where you’re excited to have input. Maybe you have specific questions, but aren’t yet certain how to get them answered. Perhaps you have a concrete goal but are open to a range of pathways to reach that destination. You might want a student who is available three days per week but be open to someone who needs a week off in the middle of their contract to attend a conference. It’s worthwhile to make these things explicit!

Your best applicant might not be the one that asks the most questions–or may not even be attending live. Your Arts Amplifier hosts will know some of your potential applicants quite well, and may be working behind the scenes to make sure they get the information they need to feel confident in applying for your role.