The New NCLB: How to Fare Better at a Teacher Job Fair

 In Blog, Education, HR General, Interviewing

Every spring thousands of novice and experienced teachers take time away from their student teaching or professional duties to travel to an education job fair sponsored by a local university or large school district. In attendance are recruiters from schools all across the nation, both public and private. These recruiters spend big bucks purchasing fancy presentation booth displays, banners, table skirts, glossy brochures and tons of swag. For some districts, the goal is simply to find trained teachers to fill the many vacancies they expect for the upcoming school year. School districts like DeKalb County (GA) Schools, Indianapolis Public Schools, El Paso Independent School District, and Detroit Public Schools advertised the need to hire over 300 teachers for the 2017-2018 school year!  Yet, the bulk of the recruiters who attend teacher job fairs are from in-state school districts and are looking to fill a handful of positions or they’re searching to find candidates for hard-to-fill positions. At the end of the day, some districts are more successful than others, if you judge success based on the long lines of candidates waiting for their three minute “meet and greet” interview at the recruiter’s table.

The Ultimate Swag

Very few teaching candidates attend a job fair expecting to be offered a contract without ever visiting a school or meeting the building principal; however, the goal of all teaching candidates is to land an interview with one or more school districts. In order to achieve that goal, job fair candidates must often stand in long lines waiting to speak with recruiters for a brief time before moving on to another school district’s table. As they proceed through the day, candidates grow their collection of promotional swag eagerly being distributed by recruiters.  Imprinted with the district’s logo and website address, swag items such as pens, buttons, magnets, calculators, mints, lip balm and hand sanitizer start to fill the job seekers’ backpacks. The purpose of such items is to remind the teachers to complete a job application and to help create a favorable candidate experience. Unfortunately, that swag can also serve as a reminder of a poor candidate experience and prompt that candidate to communicate negative things about that district to their friends or on social media. For example, a candidate who did not get contacted for an interview after spending time completing an application in response to the positive and encouraging comments he/she received from a recruiter is more likely to be reminded of that negative experience when coming across those swag items in his/her backpack.  A 2016 study conducted by CareerArc showed that nearly 60% of all job seekers have encountered a poor candidate experience with a prospective employer and 72% of those job seekers said they have posted comments about that negative experience on social media and shared those negative feelings with others. Those “other” people could very well have been the standout teaching candidates you were looking for, but never got to meet because they chose not to apply to your school district based on their friend’s experience.

Imagine if your school district had the capability to grant an authentic and comprehensive teaching interview to all job fair attendees. Imagine further the positive impressions those teaching candidates would have about your district if they knew their interview question responses would be shared with every building principal and/or subject matter department chair in your district. Better yet, imagine the magnitude of positive candidate experiences you would create if you informed the candidates that their interview responses would remain accessible to district hiring officials for the next twelve months and that you would share those interviews with other school districts who expressed a need to fill a position that your district did not have open.  Now that’s the ultimate swag a candidate could receive from a school district when attending a job fair!

The New NCLB

One might question how a school district could follow through with their promise to conduct a comprehensive interview with every candidate who stops by their table at a job fair. The answer is that this can be accomplished fairly easily using the power of video interviewing technology.

Greg Dietz, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources in Maine Township High School District 207, has reinvented the job fair experience for teaching candidates.  The “swag” he promises, in exchange for a candidate’s name, email address, and subject area, is a guaranteed interview consisting of several comprehensive questions that candidates can answer at any point over a 7-day period and from the comfort of their own homes using their smartphone or webcam-equipped device.  Dietz harnesses the power of the RIVS Digital Interviews software to invite job fair candidates to participate in a pre-recorded, asynchronous video interview.  “I like to think of RIVS as an acronym for Record, Invite, View and Share because that’s essentially how easy it is to use. It’s kind of like the old Ronco infomercial tagline….just ‘set it and forget it’, until the completed interviews start rolling in,” he noted. “I need for our building principals and department chairs to hear the responses that candidates give to scripted interview questions. I also need them to get a sense of each candidate’s persona, level of enthusiasm and whether or not they have an engaging personality,” Dietz stated.  “We recruit teachers who not only have a strong command of their subject area, but also who can connect with kids and are engaging enough to encourage students to reach the high expectations that we set for them,” he added. 

Instead of bringing a cavalry of administrators to a job fair, the recruiting table for Maine D207 consists of just Dietz and a few laptop computers. He is often seen speaking to a chorus of teaching candidates as he explains the district’s unique process, while other candidates are seated at his table entering their information into spreadsheets on his laptops. “We invite them all to interview for a job because we can,” said Dietz, noting that video interviewing technology has allowed him to dramatically increase the number of candidates who apply for open positions in his school district. In fact, last spring D207 received no less than 86 completed interviews from candidates seeking an assistant principal position. Dietz refers to this recruiting strategy as “The New NCLB: No Candidates Left Behind,” he jokes. “Wouldn’t you be more likely to apply for a job knowing you would be granted an interview?” Dietz quipped. This strategy helps D207 administrators select the best educators from a deeper pool of applicants.

To follow through on his promise, during the lunch break and again immediately following the job fair, Dietz uploads the file of candidate information into the RIVS Digital Interviews software and within seconds several dozen job fair attendees receive an email inviting them to complete a teacher job interview for Maine Township High School District 207. “I’ve had candidates stop by my table for a second time to let me know they received the interview invitation on their phone and that they planned to record their responses over the weekend,” said Dietz. That’s just one way D207 attempts to create a positive candidate experience for those who attend a job fair. 

Since he works for a high school district in Illinois, Dietz does not recruit elementary teachers, but will invite them to interview if they inquire. “I once had an elementary teacher ask me if she could be emailed a video interview invitation just so she could practice her interviewing skills, and of course I agreed,” said Dietz. “It does not cost me anything extra, except a few seconds to email her the completed interview, but just maybe she knows a rockstar physics teacher or speech therapist out there that I desperately need and they will now apply to my district because of the goodwill I generated,” he added. Whether a candidate ends up getting a job in his district or not, Dietz wants them to be sharing positive comments about D207 regarding their experience during the selection process. Providing every job fair candidate with an opportunity to interview for a teaching position is just part of the brand the Maine D207 wants to promote.

More Bang for Your Buck

Instead of paying for the travel, lodging, meal, and registration costs associated with sending multiple recruiters to a job fair, using the approach Maine D207 implements, school districts can get a bigger bang for their recruiting budget buck. Plus, Dietz gets to keep his principals and other administrators in their schools working with students and staff. “It’s a win-win-win in reality,” said Dietz.

In addition to the obvious advantages of time and cost efficiencies, Dietz uses the video interviewing software to promote his district’s brand and to provide candidates with a visual glimpse into the district’s climate and culture.  Before candidates begin responding to the interview questions, they are shown a promotional video that is embedded within the video interview.  Called a “welcome message” the promotional video allows candidates the opportunity to learn more about the district’s three campuses, the mentoring and professional development programs, and most importantly, the students and staff.  As Greg mentioned, “You just cannot replicate that with a telephone screening interview or through a brief chat at a job fair.”

Using the Flipped HR Office Approach at Job Fairs

Traditionally, school districts send recruiters to job fairs, both locally and out-of-state, in hopes of persuading teaching candidates to apply for one or more of their openings. At that point, district administrators spend time reviewing the information contained in the online application and the supporting documents that candidates upload to their profiles like resumes, letters of recommendation, transcripts, etc. Unfortunately, the research published by CareerArc shows that 72% of employers spend less than 15 minutes reviewing a candidate’s application information.  As a result, many school districts end up bringing in candidates to interview in person only to quickly realize the candidates do not have the “it” factor necessary to consistently engage a classroom of students in the learning process. They may know their content area really well, but their ability to convey that knowledge to a diverse classroom of students is suspect, at best. Unfortunately, that district must carry on with the interview and wait for the next scheduled candidate to arrive. 

If a picture is said to be worth a thousand words, it stands to reason that a video is worth a thousand pictures. The “flipped HR office” approach relies on providing authentic and comprehensive screening interviews to all job fair candidates and spending administrative time reviewing candidates’ responses. Only after being intrigued by a candidate’s interview responses is any administrative time spent reviewing the credentials contained within the online application. Using traditional methods, even with several administrators working the job fair, it is impossible to thoroughly interview every candidate who expresses interest in a school district.  Combining video interviewing software and D207’s approach, not only can every candidate be provided the opportunity to interview for a position, but every building principal and hiring official  in your school district will then have access to a library of candidate interviews for them to review after the job fair. It’s essentially the interview that keeps on giving and job fair candidates love that benefit of video interviewing technology.

By implementing video interviewing technology, employers like Maine D207 spend more time ensuring candidates have the required persona and student engagement skills first, then they do a deeper dive into the credentials contained within their online applications.  Unlike what often happens during an in-person or telephone screening interview, D207 administrators can quickly move on to the next candidate’s video responses without appearing rude or disinterested to the candidate. Simply put, video interviewing allows school districts to increase the depth of their talent pool by encouraging and attracting more candidates to apply for their open positions.

Critic’s Choice

Critics of video interviewing say candidates prefer face-to-face interviews. Greg does not disagree with that position.  “I wish I had the time, money and human power to provide a face-to-face interview for everyone who applies for a job in my district, but that’s not a reality,” Dietz retorted. “The most frustrating part of the job search process is spending several hours completing applications and never getting called in for an interview,” explained Dietz. He added, “My experience with video interviewing tells me that people would rather be invited to participate in a video interview versus not getting a chance to interview at all.”

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