Bring some of Dua Lipa’s attitude to the recruitment of your ambassadors and watch how training, motivation and performance all fall into place.
Do you despair at the applications you get for your ambassador scheme? Wish that you had a better spread of students across subject areas? Just wish that you got more applications full stop?
At Unibuddy, we’re all about human connections between future students and current students, and we do this by taking ambassadors online, available to message directly and securely. As Student Engagement Manager here, I’m often quizzed by our partners about the best way to get engaged, motivated students onto their scheme.
Drawing on my experience in HE and managing an ambassador scheme, best practice taking place amongst our partners, and of course inspiration from La Lipa herself, here are your new rules to getting the best ambassadors on board.
1. DO pick up the phone (to academic colleagues)
Call on your departmental colleagues and ask if you can have 5–10 minutes of their lectures for freshers. This is where you (or even better, a current ambassador) will promote the scheme and also the information sessions (see #2).
Think strategically to ensure that you recruit a diverse selection of students (course, nationality and year) and prioritise promo talks in shortage subject areas.
These promo talks work best when complemented by general on-campus and online promotion too.
- Spread the word in the right places — student app, students’ union, jobs boards
- Showcase the social and personal development opportunities, not just the professional
- Promote it with the exclusivity of a club like the SAS adverts. ‘Do you have what it takes?’
- Utilise existing ambassadors — spread word through campus leafletting, testimonials etc. Let them tell the ambassador story. Use video clips — “I became an ambassador because….. (fill in the blank)” or “My favourite thing about being a student ambassador is….. (fill in the blank)”.
2. Don’t let them in (unless they’ve booked an information session)
These sessions are where you explain the scheme in more detail and crucially, what you’re expecting from the application form. Attendance at these sessions is also the only way to get an application form.
Why all this effort before they’ve even applied?
- Well, it ensures that firstly, the applicants you do get are motivated and engaged — it’s almost an initial screening stage.
- Secondly, advising them on completing the application form ensures that you don’t end up losing the will to live by wading through poor applications.
- Thirdly, you also teach students how to articulate their employability and reflect on their transferable skills. University isn’t just about academic learning, and any opportunity to develop students benefits not only them, but the institution in the long term, too.
- Finally, you create a sense of prestige around the scheme. You’re looking for the brightest lights — those students who are truly passionate and committed. Don’t make it easy to join. When they do make the cut, an immediate sense of belonging is fostered, which in turn makes it easier to keep them motivated (see my other blog on incentivising).
3. Don’t be their friend (be their employer)
Make sure you factor enough time in for applications to come in and for you to shortlist them. If you’ve planned and promoted hard, it’s quite likely that you will have a high number of applications coming in, making it impossible to interview everyone (and you really DO want to interview).
- Streamline your application form. Cut the fluff and only capture the important stuff:
- Why do they want to be an ambassador?
What relevant skills do they have?
- Do they have evidence / examples for those skills?
- Always prioritise quality over quantity
- This is an opportunity for you to prepare them for graduate life. Provide a job and person specification and advise them (in your sold out info sessions — see above) to address each of the points WITH EVIDENCE in their application.
- Score their applications — it’s fair, less time consuming and makes shortlisting much easier. For example, 0 = has not addressed a requirement, 1 = mentioned the requirement, 2 = mentioned and provided evidence / an example for the requirement.
- Then, if you can — interview/meet in person
- If you can’t — utilise video. Get applicants to send a 2 minute intro video.
- If you can, use structured group role plays — watch how students respond to challenging behaviour/more outgoing characters
If it looks like a lot of steps and work, then you’re right — certainly for the first cycle anyway. After that, like any process, it becomes embedded pretty quickly. And of course, it’s absolutely worth it — a university is only considered as good as its students and staff when it comes to the crunch. After all, it’s why UK HE invests so much in open days. Take your ambassadors online, and it’s even more important that you’ve got the best and most honest representatives of what it feels like to belong.
Now you’ve got your rules for recruitment, keep your eyes peeled for my next blog where I’ll talk about training.
Unibuddy is working with over 70 institutions around the world with some impressive results — but don’t just take our word for it. Have a look at www.unibuddy.com and find out what some of our partners say.
About the author
Amy Downes, Student Engagement Manager
Amy has worked in education for over 6 years, most recently as a Student Recruitment Officer at Queen Mary, University of London. There, she managed a team of 75 ambassadors for the institution. She joined Unibuddy as Student Engagement Officer in 2018, bringing her expertise to optimising student engagement on the platform.
Amy has a passion for women’s history and is a big fan of NYC — visiting the Big Apple whenever she can.