You are dedicated to the mission of your organization. You know that having the right people in the right roles is essential to delivering on this mission. While COVID-19 has forced some education organizations to reluctantly slash budgets and reduce staff, for other organizations you still have hiring you must do, such as due to prior turnover (perhaps your finance director quit in February) or preparing for the fall (schools need principals, whether they’re virtual or not). If you find yourself in the latter situation where hiring during COVID-19 is a must or the wise course of action, the big question you likely have is how do you continue hiring during the crisis. While the “new normal” is still being molded, it is important to adjust your hiring approach to thrive with the new digital environment.
There is more availability for remote screening and interviews now, as most people are working from home. Remote hiring can be completed faster and in a format that works for everyone. This maintains some state of normalcy during COVID-19, yet prepares for the return to offices, schools, and other activities. It is so important to be flexible in how technology can influence the job search for candidates and the staff conducting these conversations. Job seekers will value your agility as an organization for taking the necessary steps to keep your hiring process moving. A simple adjustment from in-person to remote hiring methods is the best approach to moving forward. Recommendations and best practices can vary but there are several to create the best interaction and yield the best results!
Conducting Remote Interviews
Ever thought about conducting interviews remotely? Either way now’s your chance to give it a shot and see how it goes. You might just realize that remote interviews are here to stay! Interviewing remotely is certainly not uncommon to many industries because it creates an opportunity to access more candidates and from anywhere. No interview is perfect, even in person. As the candidate prepares to impress, it is important to be an employer who is aware of the benefits and difficulties with online interviewing. There are a few tips that can get you pretty close to perfection as the host for the opportunity.
Ensuring high call quality is just as important as the “bigger things” like choosing the best digital interview platform. For good call quality, you have to pay attention to your surroundings. Like the candidate, you should pay attention to the video, sound, background image, background noise, etc. Have a clean camera lens, check what viewers see behind you in advance, and opt for smaller rooms to contain the sound. Avoiding background noise can be hard because it’s out of your control, but tweaks such as choosing quiet mornings overactive evenings can make a difference. Perhaps you can reduce the devices on your WiFi during interviews so that the strength is directed at your conversation. Though these seem like small considerations, collectively they play a huge role.
Be sure to test the lighting in your home before conducting a video remote interview. Similar to a professional headshot, the lighting, angles, and the location are all very important. Avoiding natural light is a big mistake because it is the clearest and flattering. Lighting can be tricky, but choosing natural light and avoiding direct overhead lighting are great ways to help candidates see your expressions and excitement. Even looking into the camera when you are speaking and at the screen when the candidate makes eye contact seem real. Seeing facial expressions, body movements, and other physical gestures are paramount in the virtual setting. Body language is huge in our person-to-person interactions and following these tips ensures that you won’t miss the opportunity to connect, no matter the format of the interview.
Real-time, virtual, and one-way, automated interview formats have benefits to the search process. A one-way interview is a video recording, simply put. Here you would give a candidate their prompt or questions, they record their response(s), and deliver the video link to you. One-way automated formats allow you to get all your questions answered with the opportunity to observe the candidate. Real-time virtual interviews make it easy to have a dialogue. With this format, you and the candidate get a glimpse into what work interactions might be like in addition to learning mannerisms and other quirks or qualities. Using a combination of the two at different stages is also worth the time to consider. You could record an introductory video sent a few days before explaining the steps. Follow that with a one-way automated interview and finish with one or two rounds of real-time interviews. No single method is better than the other because they both yield results. A well thought out combination gets you through the process with the information you need to make a decision.
Though we have framed virtual interviewing as a necessary tool for hiring during the pandemic, they can also enhance the process. These types of interviews allow for face-to-face, screen sharing, and offer presentation options within the same session. This is a great way to have candidates do presentations or discuss a performance task testing their knowledge, skills, and abilities. If you want to screen share a document or web pages and toggle through together, you have that option in the virtual world of interviewing. Various platforms allow many of the features named and some have features to tailor your video call to an interview as compared to a standard virtual meeting.
WorkMonger is making its RemoteIQ Virtual Interviewing Service available to any education organization that needs to interview candidates remotely at no charge. Our base RemoteIQ service is excellent for screening candidates as well as first-round interviews. RemoteIQ is a tailor-made candidate experience, designed to put your applicants at ease, and allow you to learn more about your candidates remotely. The video technology is mobile responsive, allowing interviews to be completed anytime, anywhere, on any device. Request more information online to have your FREE custom remote interview set-up and ensure continuity in your hiring plan.
Deciding How to Proceed with a Role
A key question facing many organizations right now is whether to continue with hiring.
Our advice – if the pandemic has not changed a) your organization’s need for the hire or b) your organization’s ability to pay for the hire, then don’t allow the challenges of hiring during a pandemic to keep you from moving forward with the process.
If you reflect on our advice above and settle on a decision that the hire should still be made, then hard pausing on hiring now during the pandemic could have negative follow-on effects for this fall. For example, another school might hire that ideal Director of Special Education you’ve had your eye on. Or, you might cause your current team additional stress or anxiety due to asking them to shoulder the work in the interim that your new hire(s) would have otherwise performed. Having staff that can be hired and trained now allows for clean execution and activation of duties and processes later. If this is your hiring situation, then taking a pause only to prioritize the order of the necessary hires before resuming your originally-planned hiring schedule is key.
One possible path forward: focus on hiring for roles that can support your organization in the current online environment. Even if you choose to make a few positions temporary, temporary to permanent, or contract this can be great for the organization. There are some roles in education that are great for remote work simply based on their function. Consider hiring remote IT support to help with technical issues or even to set up laptops for onboarding. Targeting teaching assistants who have remote experience is great because they can troubleshoot as the primary teacher delivers instruction. An accounting staff person or consultant might help with arranging funding delegation. Many more roles can adjust to the online format if you hire the right people who can work independently towards certain priorities.
Many roles have a busy season or work in cycles of some sort and this can help you determine roles based on a timeline. For example, it is better to have school staff in place by summer as usual so we do not recommend hard-pausing those searches. If you do not operate on an academic calendar, think of roles that are imperative to the cycles of success and hire for those to keep your pace. Allow the push towards online to push forward the planning and preparation for the rest of the year. Consider how much farther ahead you can get with the productivity that comes without having office distractions. Summer is a crucial time in the education sector because of the planning and preparations. This includes everything from lessons to the school buildings themselves, to cafeterias and even bus schedules. Well drawn-up plans and consistent meetings now may help you catch issues or errors early having your new hires in place.
Should you hold off on making offers? Our answer is no. To break this down, if you decided that you should still hire, we suggest that you make offers. This is an interesting thing to consider if you are certain you have the best candidate in mind. It is difficult to expect great candidates to wait or that they aren’t being sought after by competitors. You could lose your top candidate to another employer if you take your time with offers. Indeed this is always the case, but in this time of uncertainty, people are looking to secure their future and their family’s needs. Schools and organizations that move the work forward utilizing technology during the hiring season are going to win the best candidates.
Make an offer to the candidate if you are certain about them, even in this uncertain time. Candidates may have hesitations as well so consider giving them a longer amount of time to accept the offer than you normally do. There is also the option of offering a later start date. Exercise your opportunity to be creative with your offering but do this with urgency. The goal is to have the best person move the work forward right away, and holding off on making the offer only increases the likelihood that someone else hires them and leaves your organization with empty talent pipelines.
Be flexible and understanding with candidate timelines. They may ask for a delay or extension after receiving your offer. There is unpredictability in the midst that requires more empathy from us all. It is difficult for candidates and employers to keep moving forward in the face of uncertainty and everyone wants the best results possible. Provide a bit of grace space in their decision making or even their start date. Ultimately avoid pausing the entire offer process if possible. Continue to make progress with spring hiring. Though you may have to sacrifice the on-site or in-person interview, you will be able to still attract the candidate due to your sensitivity towards the situation. You might need to prepare for hiring a candidate that you only meet via a live video call instead of in-person.
So many tools lend a hand in creating success with online communication, scheduling, and learning. In response to COVID19’s social distancing plea, many companies are offering free or discounted premium subscriptions for educators. These tools can also be useful in the digital hiring process in every step. Calendly, Doodle, Loom, and Zoom are popular tools used in the education sector. This curated list of remote tools can help you effectively interview, hire, and onboard.
Calendly is free and allows people to add meetings directly to your calendar for one-on-one meetings. This website even connects to Zoom if you want to send a video or phone link as the method of communication. Doodle is a simple way to have multiple people share their availability for group meetings. Loom allows for screen recording to share things like feedback, test corrections, tutorials, and much more. Zoom and WebEx are similar platforms. They help you host meetings, lessons, or other web-based communication of ideas or information. The best part is that even if your candidate does not have an account they can still use the platform to interview.
WorkMonger is ready to assist if you need to outsource these types of services as well. We understand how overwhelming it can be to think of everything and especially during a public health pandemic. Using a hiring process checklist can help you organize around this but could leave you dependent on steps that may not be tailored to your needs. WorkMonger can take parts or all of the interview insecurities away from schools and education organizations. Our kids deserve the best candidates and we can help you find the best candidate for your needs and goals. It is easy within the fog to miss the mark on infusing diversity, equity, and inclusion into the process, along with recruiting in the right places or choosing candidates who can meet the current need but not those of the future. Reach out to WorkMonger consultants when you are ready for relief in the hiring process.
When hiring, it’s important to have a plan to make a plan. Building out your strategic priorities for spring hiring is an essential first step before launching searches, designing selection processes, and reaching out to candidates. Given the change to distance learning for many of our school partners or the rapid reallocation of resources for other education entities, we recommend revisiting your plan or partnering with us to develop your spring hiring plan. Spring is often filled with projects so if this planning is something that will need to get paused or pushed to take on more urgent work, consider outsourcing some of the strategy work.
With a strong spring hiring plan, that’s been adjusted to COVID-19, think about which projects and materials can be outsourced. With so many resources online, it can be overwhelming to design and implement any process. Sure organizations have posted their plans, projects, and ideas, but too many options can stump your choice from what’s out there. Consider how you can make adjustments to materials that already exist from the internet to fit your needs in the job search. You could also enhance the current materials using borrowed ideas online. Though you may have the job descriptions ready from previous years, you will need to get the word out.
Realize that there are opportunities out there for contract or temporary work that can result in your needs being met as well. No matter the role, we recommend all searches include a resume review, phone screen, and some skill assessment- which could be a submission of previous work, a performance task, or an online skill assessment. These role-specific elements of the process are necessary and we encourage you to consider capacity, consistency, and fairness as you design in-house or make the choice to outsource to experts.
- Sourcing Activities – You should pull from past or adjacent job descriptions to help you create a listing that gets the best results and candidates. Job boards, professional organizations, and LinkedIn groups are great ways to get the word out once the job description is finalized. – There are still networking and recruiting events happening virtually. To find them all and delegate staff to attend is an added task with major pluses. However, there are educational agencies that can do all the work for you and bring you a top two or three candidates based on their evaluation of your needs.
- Role-Specific Interview Materials – Though you may have questions already written, it may be time to add or edit that list. Even adding questions about a candidate’s remote work experience is a great addition to questions you ask certain roles. We find scenario-based questions particularly illuminating to help learn how a candidate treats situations in their specific role. Spend time looking for job-specific interview questions to help you find the best candidates and separate those who have the most valuable knowledge, skills, and abilities. Break down your role-specific processes and use questions related to your true needs.
- Resume Review – It is no secret that resumes are subject documents from the writer and the reader’s perspectives. To choose the best candidate out of the bunch before the interview requires clarity on your part. Highlighting the most important aspects of your job description and pairing that with the unique competencies of a role helps you know what to look for in the resume. Use the job description to create a list of “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves”. Must-haves are experiences, skills, and competencies that candidates must have to be successful in the role on day one. Only resumes meeting the “must-haves” pass the resume screen. “Nice-to-haves” are differentiators as you consider different potential candidates. These could be extra skills, higher education degrees, or even skills needed beyond the first day of work and across the team.
- Executing Interviews – Balance is important for you to have the right number of people who can be objective as an interviewer. Even the role and organizational level of the people conducting interviews matter to make the right candidate decision. Another aspect of interviews that brings success is the interview questions themselves. Determining which questions should be required by screeners could make a difference in the interview.
- Scoring Rubric – One key element of the candidate selection process that can be daunting is the scoring rubric. WorkMonger has material to create an interview scorecard for the education sector here and we can help with personalization for scoring rubrics at each start of the selection process. Our scorecard helps remove bias, boosts accuracy, focuses on strengths, and keeps screeners on track.
- Task Design and Evaluation – If a performance task is a good way to further investigate the candidate, think of what you need them to be able to do immediately and then teach on other things at a later time. Determine the key elements of the job where they can demonstrate their experience and capabilities then center the task around that. A best practice is for the performance task to take no longer than 90 minutes to two hours to complete and to provide several days in which to do so. Adding this extra step can help you more successfully evaluate your candidates’ skills and expertise.
WorkMonger can assist with your candidate search process. We know taking the hiring process seriously is important at this time. We want to create space for schools and organizations in transition as we know the steps can be overwhelming. WorkMonger can lean in and out of selection design. If you need support with a design but not execution or if you want us to audit and adjust your current materials for a remote environment, just reach out here.
Bringing on a new hire during a remote situation need not worry you because onboarding can happen remotely. There are modules, videos, and e-learning tools to utilize to teach people about the school, organization, or district upfront. Websites like Notion will even allow you to upload onboarding documents for review and show progress towards completion. If your organization does not already have video training, build quick training that is relevant and can reach staff widely. Our recommendation is to use these remote tools to establish best practices with services and software. Large parts of onboarding are often done solo and can be also done in the home of your new hire. Setting up a check-in via phone or video is a great idea to allow space for questions and to check progress.
Consider the technical equipment needed to provide a seamless onboarding process. Your new employee may not already have a reliable computer, tablet, or other devices. Make sure they have a device that is suitable for remote work, even if you have to provide it temporarily. It is very important to make sure that they have the software capabilities and are set up for success. Should they need to download anything on their own, be available to assist even though you probably won’t be needed. It is also a good idea to have someone who can troubleshoot and even walk them through technical issues. This is where you activate IT staff and human resources for best practices and assistance.
Employers tend to use a checklist with deadlines to help the new staff get acclimated. Many timelines include a 30-60-90 day plan with milestones to meet. Revising the checklists and deadlines in light of the remote setting is important to account for the shift from in-person to remote. You may need to insert weekly or biweekly checkpoints to provide support as they onboard themselves. Deciding what they should focus on in the first 2 weeks, 4 weeks, and 6 weeks rather than 30, 60, or 90 days may make a huge impact.
One of the first steps in the onboarding process is delivering the employee handbook. Sending a digital copy of this is good reading for the new hire. To support their adjustment, supervisors or administrators can host a digital Q&A or ‘Ask Me Anything’ type of session to check for understanding and answer questions. Even if they don’t have questions you can highlight norms to help them get acclimated.
The Bottom Line
You will feel better and more in control if you have a plan, your materials are in place, and you are prepared to move forward with hiring and onboarding an employee during COVID-19. Postponing hiring or the candidate search process can cause issues later in the year. Thus, our recommendation is to continue to move forward in hiring roles for which a) the need and b) the budget are not in doubt. You can prioritize these positions according to which have the greatest impact so that remote planning and execution can begin as staff capacity allows.