Education recruitment and teacher recruitment have never been more challenging (or more important) than they are today. From classroom educators to paraprofessionals, instructional assistants, bus drivers, and other classified professionals, almost all agree that their presence —or lack of— can have a big impact on student learning. Nonetheless, nationwide staff shortages have been a big hurdle that all school districts and higher ed institutions have had to face, particularly in the wake of the pandemic and the great resignation.
Two of the ways in which organizations have addressed the problem is by streamlining their hiring processes (such as via virtual hiring events) and improving their candidate experience, both of which are fundamental in keeping their candidate pipelines full and healthy.
But don’t just take our word for it: Brian White, Executive Director of Human Resources and Operations at Auburn-Washburn Unified School District 437 and multiple-time CandE Award winner for a world-class candidate experience has the inside scoop on what really matters when it comes to delivering a great hiring experience, both in person and virtually.
Here are some key insights he has shared with us about their own journey with virtual recruiting events, as well as how other organizations and school districts can implement them to keep candidates engaged and connected throughout the hiring process.
Candidate Experience Has Become More Important
Creating a great candidate experience starts with the candidate, but you don’t need to be a mind reader to learn what they’re thinking. “We are at the point where we survey our candidates regardless of which stage they’re in on the process, because all this feedback is incredibly valuable,” White said. “Based on those surveys and answers, we would get really good data and specific feedback about what we were doing well and what we needed to improve. It also helps you see things from the candidates’ perspective, giving them a voice and letting you walk in their shoes.”
This is a critical step in creating an incredible educator recruitment experience.
Personalize the Experience
Keep your entire hiring process personal for the candidate. “Some of the things we did included changing some of the communication templates that we were using within our ATS. Prior to the pandemic, they were a bit more generic,” White said.
But clear and direct communications with candidates has become even more fundamental than ever in a world where educator hiring is so challenging. “We added more communication templates that corresponded to more phases of the candidate journey so we could customize it all the more, and make candidates feel that the experience had been personalized to them, rather than in a generic format.”
This helps educator recruitment teams stand out and build better relationships with candidates.
Flexibility & Agility are Key
“The workforce is now more nimble, agile, flexible, and dynamic than ever before,” White said. “Talent acquisition teams need to understand and incorporate this into their employment branding, recruitment processes, and strategy to positively impact the hiring success and retention for their organizations,” White said.
Keep Communication Channels Open
Leveraging virtual hiring technologies and tools is an excellent way to keep candidates engaged and in the loop. “One of the things we implemented was a Brazen chatbot [on our careers site], which became even more important during the pandemic. It allowed candidates to communicate with a person throughout the application process, particularly at a time when people felt isolated and disconnected,” White said. Not only did this small but important step help build trust in his team, but it also promoted a positive candidate experience all the way from the introductory first steps to a hiring decision.
His organization has also made ready use of virtual hiring events for many years to better reach, communicate, and convert potential educators and staff in tandem with in-person events, well-positioning AWUSD 437 to react more quickly and effectively to emerging changes in the global climate and hiring market that may cause shifts towards all-virtual or hybrid events.
Find Creative Ways to Connect with Universities
In the past, school districts have been able to rely heavily on recruitment from university career fairs and face-to-face interactions with students to build relationships with prospective candidates. But from one day to the next, that disappeared. The pandemic not only fundamentally changed the way employers had to engage with universities and their students, but it also changed the way students expect (and prefer) to engage with employers too. As White explains, “we hired a campus ambassador to create engagement and build that talent pipeline with universities through virtual career fairs. It’s a great way to embrace what’s happening within those universities by having someone whose feet are on the ground (both virtually or in-person) since the needs of the role have changed so much throughout the years.”
This has revolutionized their approach to educator recruitment. What was once a critical tool adopted to address the needs of the pandemic hiring reality is now a critical piece of how this award-winning school district continues to connect with top talent, add to their talent pipeline, and scale the hiring of teachers across the district.
In sum, maintaining and fostering good relationships is extremely vital in the recruitment process, and finding the right recruitment tech that facilitates this bond is equally important. Just as the AWUSD 437 recruitment team found great success through virtual recruiting events combined with a candidate-focused, multi-touch communication approach, so too can you implement any (or several) of these strategies to help ease the burden on your hiring teams and dramatically improve your educator recruiting experiences and outcomes.
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