The face-to-face job interview process that once seemed immune to change has been thrust into the 21st century amidst the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As teachers and other school personnel continue to retire or move on, HR departments are faced with the dilemma of filling vacancies while working remotely. Virtual job fairs are fast becoming the solution to finding new talent for the classrooms. Several Texas school districts have already had successful results recruiting online by hosting their own virtual job fairs.
Virtual recruiting allows districts to continue hiring on schedule while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Using an online forum eliminates the need for a physical location, which can be costly and is subject to scheduling conflicts. Additionally, a virtual job fair allows for additional opportunities a face-to-face event can’t offer.
In-person job fair attendees are generally local residents. However, districts deepen their job pool by hosting an online event in which interested parties can attend from anywhere. Dr. Mya Mercer, Round Rock ISD’s Director of Staffing and Talent Acquisition, noted the registration for their recent virtual job fair nearly doubled that of the face-to-face event they had originally planned.
The online format also allows districts to pre-screen attendees and place them into virtual job fair rooms matching their interests and certification. Districts may consider requiring candidates to first submit an online application before an RSVP to a job fair is sent to expedite the hiring process.
San Angelo ISD recently hosted a virtual job fair, as well. Pattie Griffin, San Angelo’s Director of Human Resources, noted that in-person job fairs can sometimes feel like a job interview setting when it is supposed to be more of an information-gathering opportunity. San Angelo found applicants were much more at ease and willing to ask questions in an online setting. This informal vibe can allow principals and applicants to get a better feel for a good fit.
Virtual recruiting events can expand beyond that of a job fair. Hosting informational online events for teacher assistants who wish to become teachers, for those needing help with Texas teacher certification, or for those who wish to become substitutes can contribute to successful recruiting seasons, now and in the future.
Recently, Austin ISD hosted virtual information sessions regarding best practices for resumes and effective virtual interviews. Similarly, Round Rock ISD sent a video tutorial to all registered attendees ahead of their virtual job fair so the participants knew what to expect and how to navigate the process.
Its important to remember job fairs provide an opportunity not only for districts to meet prospective candidates but also for candidates to form an opinion of districts. Making the event as personal and welcoming as possible can help to recruit top talent.
Marketing the event via the district website as well as district and professional social media channels is a good way to spread the word. Human resources departments may consider using their applicant tracking system to reach out to candidates not yet hired. Other options include notifying the Texas Workforce Commission of the event and sending flyers to local colleges and universities.
Keep in mind the candidate experience from beginning to end and ensure there is a strategy for next steps after the event. Sending a follow-up email to candidates is a good way to solicit feedback. Use the feedback to improve the future events.
Districts not yet comfortable hosting a virtual job fair may want to try hosting a virtual booth at a larger event. This can help districts get a feel for how the process works and offers exposure to platforms others are using.
For some districts, virtual job fairs may become the new norm. For others, a combination of face-to-face and virtual events may be work better. Regardless, it’s important for districts to work through any feelings of apprehension or fears about technology or changing the way things have always been done. It’s helpful do the research before choosing a virtual platform to ensure adequate customer support and the ability to accommodate the district’s needs.
Reaching out to other districts can be another way to ease anxiety. San Angelo’s Pattie Griffin offers this advice, "Learn from each other. Think outside of what we normally do. We are not experiencing normalcy; we have to be thinkers and innovators."
Sarah James is a communications specialist at TASB HR Services. Send Sarah an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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