Helping people find jobs is all in a day’s work for Tori Exum, a human resource officer in Staff Human Resources. Exum began her career at the UI as an Extra Help office assistant almost seven years ago, then was hired as the Staff HR department’s receptionist and quickly moved up to the position of personnel assistant before landing her current job one year ago. A busy mother of three children, Exum recently completed her bachelor’s degree in general studies with a minor in psychology from Eastern Illinois University, and plans to enter the UI’s master’s degree program in human resources in the spring.
How did you wind up at the UI?
Before I came here, I studied criminal justice at Parkland College with the intent of becoming a juvenile probation officer, but then decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I worked as an investigator for a local attorney and as a front desk manager at the Radisson Hotel.
I came here really for the benefits and pay, but I loved the work. I love dealing with people. It’s very rewarding helping people find jobs and discover what their interests are. It really changes people’s lives, especially if they haven’t had good jobs or benefits in the past.
What does your job entail?
I do master referrals, send applicants job vacancy notifications, talk to applicants and current employees about their skills and interests and make recommendations for which exams they should take and schedule exams. I work with departments on getting referral lists for vacant positions, consult with hiring units about employment needs and develop strategies to meet those goals, do recruiting, attend job fairs and much more.
I’m responsible for the service jobs (janitors, kitchen workers, grounds and maintenance workers) and the crafts and trades (carpenters, electricians, painters, etc.). I deal with hiring for the Cooperative Extension offices outside of Champaign-Urbana and handle the learner-trainee program, which is our on-the-job training program. It used to be that one person could handle all four areas, but now all the areas are busy and in order to keep up, we just hired a person to take over the crafts/trades and the Extension.
How many applicants are you typically meeting with in a week’s time?
I probably meet with 10-15 people a week, take 50-100 phone calls, and handle lots of exam requests on our busier weeks. For example, we’ll post a notice for a building service worker on our Web site for three days. In that time, we might get 250 applications/exam requests that my assistant and I have to look at and approve or deny. For every one we approve, we have to schedule them for the next available exam date.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Dealing with people who don’t understand how the civil service system works and think that I can just give them a job. There are a lot of people who don’t understand that there are rules and a process we have to follow. We don’t do the hiring; we help applicants get tested and get on the registers and the departments do the actual hiring.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I’m really family-oriented. I have three kids: a 15-year-old daughter, a 5-year-old son, a daughter who’s 2, and I often help care for other children. I’ve had 17 foster children since I began doing foster care in 2000. I stopped taking foster children a few years ago, but plan to get more children in the future. I love kids and providing them with a good home.
I volunteer a lot at my kids’ schools. My son attends Canaan Academy and I volunteer there a lot and help with their hot lunch every other Friday. We try to take family trips on weekends when I’m not in school. I just saw the play “The Color Purple” in Chicago. It was wonderful.
I’m also a photographer and shoot senior pictures, weddings, babies, kids and families. I converted my two-car garage into a photo studio and have props, backdrops and strobe lights. I shot Canaan Academy’s yearbook last year and a poster that promoted reading for the Urbana Free Library. My son was in one of the posters and others featured former Illini basketball players Dee Brown and James Augustine reading books to my son. This summer, I shot an elegant wedding that was held at a historic mansion in Atlanta.
My husband and I are very active in our church, Central Point Church of Christ in Bloomington, where my father-in-law is the pastor. Church pretty much takes up our whole Sunday, between morning and afternoon services and lunch with my husband’s family.