Tackling the hiring challenge

JHU's Talent Acquisition team aims to meet today's increased hiring needs with new tools, people, platforms, and partnerships

Jonathan Thompson

Image caption: “I don’t think people realize just how much volume we do,” says Jonathan Thompson, director of JHU Talent Acquisition. “Between April 1, 2021, and April 1, 2022, for example, we hired 4,674 people. That’s a big number.”


If you've been in the position of having to hire someone in recent years, you know that the process can be challenging. Between a pandemic that upended how and where many people work, and the changing needs of a workforce that seems to be in ever-shorter supply, finding and bringing on board the perfect candidate are hardly easy. For Johns Hopkins University's Talent Acquisition team—charged with meeting the university's staff hiring needs—that challenge has meant adapting with new technologies, new partnerships, and new hires of its own.

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Even in pre-pandemic times, JHU—which employs more than 17,000 full- and part-time faculty and staff—had considerable sourcing and recruitment needs. "I don't think people realize just how much volume we do," says Jonathan Thompson, director of JHU Talent Acquisition. "Between April 1, 2021, and April 1, 2022, for example, we hired 4,674 people. That's a big number."

That number represents an increase in job openings in recent years. Just prior to the pandemic, Talent Acquisition handled about 1,100 requisitions (with 2,246 job openings); by April 2022, it was managing 1,839 requisitions (with 3,266 open positions).

The larger current number is in part due to a backlog from a soft hiring freeze put in place in the early days of the pandemic and in part due to changes in the labor market that have made hiring harder. As Thompson puts it, "JHU is not immune from the unprecedented challenges of the volatile labor market."

To keep pace, Talent Acquisition has taken a host of steps aimed at hiring more efficiently and expanding its reach in the job market. One effort that's nearing fruition is the Requisition Creation Enhancement Project, a collaboration between the university's Talent Acquisition and Information Technology teams aimed at streamlining the requisition process and enhancing transparency in the process.

RCEP includes a user-friendly portal that will allow hiring managers to create and manage job postings more easily. The project leverages an organizational management tool called Mana that connects information in SAP and SuccessFactors and is an improvement over the current system, which requires multiple steps using more than one program. Good news for anyone needing to fill an open position: "This will not only make the requisition process less cumbersome but in many cases will also shorten the time it takes to hire," Thompson says.

After successful testing this spring, RCEP will be rolled out to some divisions in early summer and enterprisewide in early August, with training for hiring managers to take place in advance of rollout.

In addition to RCEP, Talent Acquisition has worked to bolster its own team to better handle the increase in requisitions and the challenges associated with hiring.

"Recruiters [now] have the capacity to engage more and use proactive recruiting techniques, resulting in a faster, more pleasant hiring experience for the manager and the candidate."
Kim Myers
Talent Acquisition manager

As Kim Myers, Talent Acquisition manager, points out, "We're not the only ones looking to hire recruiters, so we face the same challenges as anyone else." Still, since March 2021, Talent Acquisition has brought on 30 new contract recruiters, including some who focus on specific fields such as information technology, grants and contracts, finance, and health care. "We've also hired sourcing recruiters to help pipeline and find talent for our hard-to-fill and revenue-producing positions," Myers says. Additionally, a dedicated recruiter is now on board to focus on executive-level searches. And, to ensure new recruiters have a smooth transition, Talent Acquisition has created a training consultant role to help with training and standardization of practices.

With the team now closer to its goal of having each recruiter handle 40 to 45 requisitions at any given time, "recruiters have the capacity to engage more and use proactive recruiting techniques, resulting in a faster, more pleasant hiring experience for the manager and the candidate," Myers says.

Talent Acquisition has also invested in new recruitment advertising tools, adding Diversity Jobs and Inside Higher Education to the five platforms it uses to post jobs and has invested in tools such as Indeed, LinkedIn Recruiter, and Censia to find both active and passive candidates.

Efforts that promote community-based hiring are also a priority for Talent Acquisition, which partners with JHU's Office of Economic Development to support the HopkinsLocal initiative. HopkinsLocal Hire works to enlist Baltimore City residents from areas of high unemployment or high poverty into a group of targeted positions to provide economic opportunities. With today's market conditions in mind, the team also has put more emphasis on partnerships with local job training programs such as Fortis, Humanim, CollegeBound, Integrated Health, Montgomery College, and community- and faith-based organizations. In addition, Talent Acquisition has focused on strengthening relationships with local HBCU career centers and last year partnered with Community College of Baltimore County's medical assistant apprenticeship program, which allows students to "earn while they learn," working part time at Johns Hopkins while they continue their medical assistant studies at CCBC.

Whether it's streamlining the recruitment process, hiring recruiters, adding recruitment tools, or enhancing partnerships, Myers notes that "all of these steps are aimed at harnessing the resources we need to find and attract top-notch talent and to continue to position the university as an employer of choice."