Recruiting vs. hiring at Collegewise

When I ask my colleagues what they like most about working at Collegewise, most of us agree that it’s the people.  We love looking around the room at our annual retreat and being reminded once again just how many amazing folks are here that we’re proud to call coworkers. Why do so many great people, most of whom likely had plenty of other employment options, end up here? The truth is that while there is no substitute for creating a great place to work that’s worthy of great people joining it, the way we treat the process of finding and securing an employee sets a tone that draws in the kind of people who thrive here and repels those who just won’t. The best way to describe our secret is that we don’t actually hire people. We recruit people.

Hiring vs. recruiting
Hiring is a means to an end. Hiring says, “We have an open position, we need to fill it quickly, so let’s find someone who needs a job and seems like they can do this one.” Hiring is faster and easier than recruiting. You can run a help wanted ad that reads like all the others. You can post it in as many places as possible. You can make it easy to apply—just send us your existing resume and cover letter; no need to do any extra work to be considered. You can churn all those people through a formulaic process that treats applicants like numbers.

If your goal is to fill open spots quickly with people who need a job and have the skills to do this one, hiring works! But you don’t build the kind of remarkable team we’ve assembled here by hiring. To do that, you have to recruit.

Recruiting is a thoughtful, slow, and deliberate effort to find the very best person for each role.

Recruiting doesn’t just look for someone who can do the job—it also looks for the right attitude and fit. Recruiting requires that someone invest their own time, thought, and energy to apply. It weeds out people who are interested in a job more than they are in this job. Recruiting can get the right person to stop what they’re doing today and come join us.

Recruiting also recognizes that a candidate isn’t just evaluating the potential job that waits on the other side; they’re also evaluating the company they’d potentially be working for. So recruiting demands that we treat every interaction as if we’re on stage.

How do our employment ads read? How do we communicate with people once they’ve applied? How do we interact with them during the interview process? How do we treat them when we make a decision? Do we leave those that we offer a job feeling like they’ve found a home? Do we leave those that we didn’t offer a job feeling like we’re a good company who treated them with respect? Hiring doesn’t care about any of those things. But recruiting does.

The price of recruiting is that it takes more effort, more energy, and more time. It also means that we’ll pass on good but not great people, and positions can go unfilled longer than we’d like them to. But the patience almost always pays off with hires who thrive at Collegewise.

Is it worth it?
The stakes are very high when you offer someone a job. When you make a bad hire, it doesn’t just affect you. It affects your team, it affects the trainers, it affects the managers, it affects the customers, it affects the coworkers, it affects the company, and it affects the person you hired. That’s a hefty long-term price that a lot of people have to pay.

But if we take the time to find, attract, and invest in the very best people, then we’ll end up with a larger version of the team we have now—a group of a passionate, talented, remarkable folks who are enrolled in the journey we’re on together. It’s a lot harder to recruit, but a lot more likely we’ll build something even more extraordinary if we do.

If you’re in a hurry to assemble a group of people who can do the work, then you should hire. But you won’t attract remarkable people with an unremarkable process. Hiring gets faster short-term results, but recruiting gets more remarkable long-term results.

Care to join us?
This January, we’ll be in recruiting mode again and looking to add great new additions to our work family in a variety of roles. If you’d like us to reach out and tell you when those positions are officially posted, first, take a look at what life at Collegewise looks like. And if that piques your interest, just fill out this short form. We’ll send you an email in early January with a link where you can view our open positions and apply if you choose. I hope we’ll hear from you.

Unplug, relax, recharge

The research just keeps showing that working longer and harder produces inferior results not just in terms of quality, but also quantity. In fact, active rest—intentionally carving out downtime to relax and recharge—is a secret weapon of some of the most prolific producers.

As quoted in the BBC’s “The compelling case for working a lot less,” author Josh Davis points out:

“Even US founding father, Benjamin Franklin, a model of industriousness, devoted large swathes of his time to being idle. Every day he had a two-hour lunch break, free evenings and a full night’s sleep. Instead of working non-stop at his career as a printer, which paid the bills, he spent ‘huge amounts of time’ on hobbies and socializing. ‘In fact, the very interests that took him away from his primary profession led to so many of the wonderful things he’s known for, like inventing the Franklin stove and the lightning rod,’ writes Davis.”

You can’t be on all the time. Unplug. Relax. Recharge.

Paying for college: what advice can you trust?

If you search the internet for advice about how to get into college, some of it will be great and some will be flat-out wrong, but most sites don’t exist with the sole intent to scam you. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for advice that purports to help you pay for college. Many of those sites appear to be offering free, helpful advice, but actually have an unstated financial interest in whether or not you follow it. They push lenders that they have arrangements with, or require a fee for something that’s widely available free of charge, or arouse fear with the promise to cure it for a fee.

Thankfully, the National Association of College Admission Counseling has created a list of trusted, current sources counselors can recommend to families. You can find that list here.

Attitude changes everything

Our attitude is one of our most potent tools. It’s difficult to imagine one thing you have more control over that can also create as much positive impact for you and for the people around you. And best of all, it’s a tool that everyone has equal access to. Attitude doesn’t care what your GPA or test scores are, whether you’re rich or poor, where you went to college, or whether you can run fast, speak to large audiences, solve differential equations, or write publishable work. It’s there, just waiting to be unleashed.

What if you made the choice today, tomorrow, and every day after that to:

Be kind

Assume good intentions

Engage more meaningfully

Be hopeful

Recognize what’s good about other people

Be curious

Keep an open mind

Choose optimism


Withhold judgement

Be grateful

Notice what’s gone right

Be patient

Every one of them is a choice. Maybe not an easy one, but none of us are hardwired to do or not do these things.

If you really did them, imagine how much improvement you’d see in your happiness, relationships, job, schooling, and yes, even your chances of admission to college.

The tool is right there, just waiting to be used. And the choice you make to use it could change everything.

“Honey, stop talking”

A Collegewise family I worked with years ago had an endearing dynamic. During our meetings together, the mother would routinely say to the father, “Honey, stop talking.”

It would be hard to find a couples counselor who would endorse a relationship where one partner routinely shut down the other like this. But here was the difference. Mom would only say that when Dad was talking for their daughter.

“She’s interested in. . .”

“She needs an environment where. . .”

“She’s very strong in math. . .”

“We need to highlight her strengths in. . .”

“Why is this school on the list? She doesn’t want. . .”

Every time, gently but directly, Mom would interject, “Honey, stop talking.”

And every time he stopped, it gave their daughter space to start.

Things worked out pretty well. Today, their daughter is a Stanford graduate, a successful talent agent in Hollywood, recently married and raising a (very cute) dog.

The more engaged kids are with their own college process, the more favorable the outcomes will be. And one of the best ways for parents to help is to occasionally remind themselves to stop—and allow their kids to start—talking.

What colleges say, and what students hear

Students often hear something very different than the intended message when a college says,

“You are invited to apply with our special application…”

“Colleges want students who have demonstrated leadership…”

“Our college has a 10 percent admit rate…”

“The most competitive applicants will have challenged themselves in a rigorous course program…”

“Our college reviews applications holistically. Test scores are only one small part of the equation…”

Sometimes the fault is squarely on the college. Other times, it’s the student who is refusing to hear what they don’t want to hear. And occasionally it’s a little of both. Whatever the particular cause, The Washington Post’s recent piece, “The disconnect between what colleges say and what students hear,” clears up the confusion between these and other misheard messages from colleges to students.

How will you know if you don’t ask?

My three-year-old has officially hit the “Why?” phase. Any declarative statement we make, whether answering one of his questions, making an observation, or explaining why he should or can’t do something, is almost always met with the same reply.


Every parent has not only been through this phase, but also experienced the end of the “Why?” line, that point where you run out of logical responses and realize that you just don’t have a good answer. From deconstructing the various parts of fire trucks to staying at the table until he finishes his dinner, my three-year-old must really be starting to get the impression that I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about.

As frustrating as it might be, kids don’t ask that question just to needle their parents (though as they get older it can certainly happen). At the onset, “Why?” is how they learn. They’re uncovering how things work, how decisions are made, and how actions link together. They ask “Why?” to make sense of a world that doesn’t yet make sense to them.

Maybe young kids are onto something here.

Maybe we should all spend a little more time asking “Why?” and a little less time making assumptions about what we think is true.

For example, what would happen if students, parents, counselors, and schools traded assumptions for genuine curiosity and began not just asking, but also trying to answer “Why?” around statements like:

  • “Yale is a great school.”
  • “I need a leadership position for my resume.”
  • “Our department will continue to measure class ranking.”
  • “This club meets at lunch once a week.”
  • “Our son needs a college with a lot of personal attention.”
  • “I need to expand my counseling practice.”
  • “The teacher doesn’t like me.”
  • “We don’t send counselors to conferences.”
  • “I’m interested in studying business.”
  • “He should quit the tuba.”
  • “Kids can’t do their own fundraising—parents need to take it on.”
  • “UCLA is good for premeds.”
  • “The counselors at our school can’t help us.”
  • “Kids who major in liberal arts can’t get good jobs.”
  • “My history teacher will write a better letter of rec than my physics teacher.”
  • “I have to stay up past midnight to get my homework done.”
  • “This student should attend a community college rather than a four-year school.”
  • “This student should attend a four-year school rather than a community college.”
  • “I’ll get better internships if I go to NYU.”
  • “You can’t get a good job if you go to a college people haven’t heard of.”
  • “I want to go to law school when I graduate.”

I’m not necessarily suggesting that any of those statements are flawed when specifically applied to you. But how will you know if you don’t ask?

Four weeks from now

When The Beatles released Rubber Soul in 1965, it ushered in a new sound to Beatlemania. They traded their cheerful pop songs that made people clap and dance for more experimental, emotional songs that made people listen and think. No band had ever produced music like Rubber Soul’s before, and the album marked the beginning of a new era of modern music.

It was also written, recorded, and produced in just four weeks.

As related in Rolling Stone’s50 Years of ‘Rubber Soul’: How the Beatles Invented the Future of Pop”:

“The Beatles didn’t go into the studio with a mystic crystal vision to express — they went in with a deadline. They had to supply product for the 1965 Christmas season, which meant crunching it out in four frenzied weeks, from October 12th to November 12th. So they holed up in Abbey Road around the clock, pouring out music as fast as they could, holding nothing back. They were willing to try any idea, whether it turned out brilliantly (the sitar, the harmonium) or not (the six-minute R&B instrumental jam, which they wisely axed). They wrote seven of the songs in one week.”

For students staring down impending college application deadlines, it’s easy to feel demoralized and overwhelmed by the volume, stakes, and timeline of your remaining work. But as nice as it would have been to work at a leisurely pace months ago, the ever-shortening window means that it’s now time to use those deadlines as fuel.

Can’t get motivated? Writer’s block preventing you from penning a particular short-answer essay question? The enormity or pressure of the task actually making you hesitant to forge ahead? If you want to successfully apply to college, you’ll need to overcome those excuses and get to work. And deadlines can be like fuel to ignite that progress.

The Beatles went into the studio with nothing and came out four weeks later with Rubber Soul. It’s time to show what you can emerge with four weeks from now.

Whether or not you’re in charge

You certainly don’t have to be a CEO to benefit from Claire Lew’s advice in her new post, “How to influence culture when you’re not the CEO.”

And here are two past posts of mine about how to make a difference even when you’re not in charge, one on how to be a leader without a leadership position, the other on creating a pocket of greatness.

To be successful in college admissions, at work, in your club or PTA or counseling office, look for ways to make an impact, whether or not you’re in charge.