Communicating to Recruit the Best New Biologists: A Survey for SEAFWA

Wildlife Outstanding Technical Paper

Graduates from fisheries and wildlife programs in the Southeast need to know what qualifications are necessary to successfully attain entrylevel biologist positions with state agencies, and state agencies and university programs share a responsibility for preparing students for these positions. Despite much literature devoted to the discussion of what should be included in academic curricula, little work has been done to identify how agencies are communicating with students and what types of experiences will best prepare potential applicants for employment with these agencies. We used Internet survey responses from professionals in 15 member agencies of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) to determine their recruiting and hiring processes. In general our survey results indicated that professionals from SEAFWA agencies are communicating with universities by offering students seasonal employment, encouraging student volunteers, and facilitating low cost workshops for students. However, efforts by agency biologists to participate in student recruitment and education were often not included in their annual performance reviews. Hiring processes varied among these agencies, but often included an online component. We surveyed both human resources (HR) professionals and biologists within agencies and found that they did not differ in their assessment of the qualifications necessary for position vacancies, nor did they differ in their ratings of importance/satisfaction of 11 different areas of coursework for recent graduates from university fish and wildlife programs. All respondents rated communication skills of recent graduates as most important, yet they were least satisfied in this area. A Master of Science degree and effective communication skills were considered to be essential for entry-level biologist positions. Based on our results, it is important for faculty and students to place more emphasis on developing effective communication skills. Furthermore, agencies will likely recruit and retain the best new employees if they strive to improve intra-agency communication and consistency in the hiring process, as well as help facilitate continuing education opportunities.

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