How Collegewise trains new employees

We’ve got five new faces joining our Irvine, CA office next week—one counselor, two assistant counselors and two essay specialists.  And just as we do whenever anyone starts at Collegewise, we’ve just finished revamping and preparing all three training programs for them to complete.  We’ve spent a lot of time interviewing and selecting these people, and we want to give them every chance to be successful here.  For us, that starts with great trainings.

We don’t do everything perfectly at Collegewise, but training has always been a strength of ours.  We spend a lot of time on it and we’ve always enjoyed good results in the form of smart, eager employees who jump right in and do a good job for us.  Here are a few training principles we follow and some advice about how you might use them in your school or business.  

1. Make training a priority.

It takes a lot of time to create, update and deliver training programs like we do (our new counselors go through 40 hours of training and then complete a two-day final exam).  But we think training is too important not to make it a priority.  You’re not just training an employee.  You’re demonstrating to this new person how you do things.  You’re showing a member of your team that she’s important and that you expect a lot from her.  And you’re investing time and energy that will pay off over and over again the longer an employee stays.  Don’t say, “We don’t have time for training like that.”  We’re busy, too.  Making it a priority helps you get it done.

2. Tout your training.

We’re proud of our trainings. So we talk about them during our hiring process.  We want people to know that we’re going to give them every chance of succeeding here, and that we’ll start by putting them through a comprehensive training.   The people we hire seem to be attracted to that professional commitment.  So when you’re looking for your next employee,  don’t hide the fact that you have a plan for them.  Be proud of it.  Tout your training.  And pay attention to who seems intrigued by the idea.

3.  Let new employees learn from the best.

We don’t hire outside trainers at Collegewise and we don’t have an HR department.  Instead, the best, most successful employees are invited to train new hires.  For example, every new counselor here is trained by a Master Counselor (an award we give to Collegewise counselors who’ve been here at least three years and have personally helped at least 100 seniors apply to college).  That way, new employees always learn from people who’ve actually done the job and done it exceptionally well.  So don’t leave your training up to an HR rep or outsource it to somebody who’s never actually done the job.  Make the role of trainer one that’s well-respected and recognized so that the best people will want to do it. 

4. Train from a common starting-point.

Every new employee goes through training at Collegewise.  I don’t care if the Dean of Admission at Harvard quit his job and joined us—he’d still go through our counselor training.  Training is the best way to make sure that everyone in your organization knows how you do things, what’s expected of them, and what doing a great job looks like.  And new hires will appreciate that everyone here—from the company leadership to the trainer to the counselor that’s only been here six months—went through the same training when they started.  So don't skip steps.  Have everyone train from a common starting point.

5. Keep training.

Trainings at Collegewise are ongoing.  Experienced counselors go through special “Application Trainings” each fall to review the latest changes.  Essay specialists later go through “Advanced training” to learn how to best help kids with more challenging essay questions.  We’re in a profession where things change all the time.  We can’t control what’s going to happen in the world of college admissions, so the only way we can be consistent and keep doing a great job is to keep updating and delivering great training.