The labor market is tight across all sectors, making it especially challenging to find people to fill open positions in your education organization. In 2021, during the height of the global pandemic, employees between ages 30 and 45 resigned at the highest rates. Unfortunately, these high levels of turnover have continued in the education sector, creating added stress for teams as they work to accomplish their mission-critical work with fewer staff and on HR teams they struggle to fill roles in a challenging talent landscape.
Various companies and research institutions have dedicated time and resources to understanding the impact of COVID-19 on the job market. Many who found themselves unemployed in 2020 continue to look for new jobs, often considering positions outside their industry. Additionally, the pandemic forced businesses and organizations in all sectors to increase or transition to remote work. Many of today’s job seekers want a role that allows them to work from home for one or two days per week, at the very minimum.
This new remote-forward landscape continues to change all aspects of leadership in the education sector and beyond. When millions of people want to find a job or switch positions, interviewing potential new hires comes with various challenges. However, you can be sure job applicants who wish to be a part of your organization’s mission and work will heavily prepare for an interview. You should do the same. Below we offer comprehensive information about preparing for and conducting interviews for your education organization, ensuring the process goes smoothly and you are able to find the best talent for the role.
Tips for Interview Preparation
Many recruiters assume they know how to conduct a job interview, so they fail to prepare adequately. However, taking the time to prepare for interviews ensures you are hiring the right talent for open positions in your education organization, ultimately benefiting the students and parents you serve. The following tips will help you get on the right track before interviewing new team members to join your organization:
Review the Job Description
The job description for the role you are hiring contains the criteria you are looking for in potential job candidates. Take the time to ensure the job descriptions that interviewees see accurately reflect the needs of your organization. Does the description include the right qualifications, skills, and other job requirements? A thorough and accurate description helps you make the best decisions for your educational organization during the selection and hiring process. You can assess an applicant more easily when you have a specific list or outline of your must-have and nice-to-have skills and job qualifications. A strong job description also discourages unqualified candidates from applying, saving you time.
Create an Interview Checklist
One of the biggest secrets to successfully interviewing job candidates is to create an interview checklist. No matter how often you have conducted interviews for open non-teaching positions at your education organization, you can still forget crucial things that leave you without the information you need to make the best hiring decisions. Additionally, an interview provides the chance for candidates to evaluate you and your organization. Attracting the top talent to accept a position means providing a coherent, concise, and attractive description of your organization and the role. Examples of items to include in your organization and role description during the interview include:
- Discuss your organization’s goals and achievements.
- Share what success looks like, especially if it involves more than student outcomes.
- Discuss the ways your organization motivates employees and supports their continued growth.
- Discuss challenges the new hire might face when they join your organization.
- Share details about the onboarding process, including training and mentoring.
Prepare Relevant, Open-Ended Questions
It’s challenging to learn about a potential new hire if you ask yes/no questions or wing-it by referring to a candidate’s résumé. Instead, prepare open-ended questions that allow your interviewee to provide a comprehensive answer demonstrating their communication skills. The most relevant questions will tie into the skills you’ve listed in the job description. Additionally, open-ended questions offer an opportunity for job candidates to provide examples to support their answers.
Although you need to prepare some general questions, you also need to include timely questions. For example, ask how the pandemic has impacted the candidate. You should also find out how working from home has affected their productivity due to the recent trend towards remote work. Examples of relevant questions you can ask an applicant include:
- What attracted you to this role? The answer to this question should give you insight into whether a candidate is enthusiastic about your education organization, the role, and the work you do, or whether they applied blindly to the position.
- What steps do you take in your decision-making process? This question reveals an applicant’s critical thinking skills and the extent to which they make decisions by following their own process.
- Where did you fit in previous teams? Making the right choice for your organization means you need to understand how an applicant might fit in with your team. Are you looking for a leader or more of a collaborative team member?
- How would your peers describe you? Asking this question provides insight into how a candidate views themselves through others’ eyes and their capacity to work successfully in a team environment.
- What motivates you to work in the education sector? Although someone is applying for a non-teaching role, their work still directly or indirectly impacts students and parents. You want to ensure new hires have the passion, goals, and values that align with your organizational missions and culture.
- Why are you a good fit for this role? This question is crucial for candidates coming from outside the education sector. The answer lets you know how much research the applicant has done on your organization.
- What strengths can you bring to our organization? Interviewers across sectors and industries often ask about a job candidate’s strengths. Not only does this question allow the candidate to highlight their strengths in light of the job description, but it can reveal an applicant’s personality. Those who remain humble often have a winning personality that aligns with the service-oriented missions of most education organizations.
In addition, while general, open-ended questions are a critical part of the interview process, be sure to balance them out with very concrete, specific questions. Break down the specific elements of the role and ask them detailed questions where they share a past example of how they have illustrated that skillset. For example, “Tell me about a specific time when you had to invest others in an idea you proposed, a project you led, a goal you set, a decision you made, etc. How did you approach the situation? What was the outcome?” Likewise, scenario-based questions where you create a hypothetical situation that is illustrative of what they might face if hired and ask them how they would handle it also serve well to highlight how they might approach the work.
Create the Proper Physical and Technical Space
You are likely conducting interviews via video this year. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the technology you plan to use, whether Zoom, Google Meets, or another software program. It’s as vital for you to have a clean and professional background as it is for your job candidate to dress professionally during the interview.
Make sure to test all of your equipment ahead of time and provide information to your job candidate so that they can also technically prepare for your meeting. Ultimately, you want to create an environment that allows for focused conversation. Any physical or technical distractions make it difficult to ask questions and receive comprehensive answers to help you rank candidates and make decisions about whom to hire.
Tips for Conducting Successful & Engaging Interviews
Once you have prepared for your interview, you need to put your preparation to work by conducting a successful and engaging interview. A successful interview engages the job candidate, so both parties get the information to decide whether to move forward in the hiring process. These tips will help you conduct compelling interviews that will help you identify and engage top talent for your education organization.
Establish Rapport with the Job Candidate
Engaging interviews happen when your applicant relaxes and speaks freely. It’s common for applicants to feel nervous and anxious before and during an interview. Simple actions can help you establish rapport with an applicant. First, put the applicant at ease by connecting with them on a personal level. Sincere small talk for a couple of minutes often relaxes people, showing you value them as a person. Depending on the applicant’s situation, you might choose to bring up a hobby, an event, kids, or a light-hearted news story. Once you transition into beginning the interview, make sure to listen carefully and take notes. This transition shows the applicant you are engaging with their answers and care about what they say.
Order Your Interview Questions Thoughtfully
Highly structured interviews can feel like an interrogation and can stunt both engagement and open communication between you and an applicant. Many hiring managers and recruiters find that a mixture of structured and unstructured formats helps the interview flow better and allows job candidates to speak openly. Create a narrative style that begins with more general questions. Increase your focus to different areas when appropriate, allowing you to keep the applicant on track. We strongly recommend using an Interview Scorecard to ensure consistency between interviews and to remove bias.
Set Expectations for Next Steps
The global pandemic has created uncertainty for many job seekers. Additionally, you are not the only education organization looking for top talent. The best way to ensure the candidates you want to hire accept a position is by sharing information about what will happen after the interview and providing a timeline that lets them know when they can expect to hear from you. If you know a candidate isn’t going to be a good fit for your organization, it’s best to tell them as soon as possible (i.e. within a couple days of the interview) or let them know when they can expect a hiring decision. You can provide a more comprehensive timeline that includes some initial onboarding activities for those who are among your top choices.
This year has brought various challenges for recruiters and hiring managers at education organizations. One key to attracting and hiring the best talent for non-teaching roles is preparing for and conducting successful interviews. Interview preparation includes reviewing the job description, working from a checklist, and creating thoughtful questions for applicants. Running a successful interview includes putting your applicants at ease by establishing rapport, controlling the interview flow by ordering questions carefully, and setting expectations for what’s to come after the interview.
WorkMonger provides a wide range of employer services to help education organizations hire qualified non-teaching talent. We know top professionals, what they earn, where to find them, and their availability. Our experience also helps us understand their priorities, so we know how to recruit them and help your organization retain them. Our full-cycle recruitment and selection services help education organizations screen candidates through our proven qualification process. In addition, we match resumes, conduct interviews, and perform reference checks, background checks, and certification verifications. Whether you need help with a small slice of the hiring process or start-to-finish support, we would be delighted to connect and see how we can best help.
If your education organization is struggling to fill non-teaching roles and needs support in light of the new hiring landscape in 2021, we are here to help. Contact WorkMonger today to learn how our customized services can help you attract top job candidates for available positions in your organization.