A couple of years ago, we commissioned an external review of our human resources functions in the Syracuse City School District. I noticed that our district needed to take a more proactive approach in seeking out the highest quality teacher candidates.
Our superintendent and the board of education based one of the primary goals of our 5-year strategic plan, Great Expectations, on the results of that review. This plan continues to serve as a road map for us, defining the reform-based goals that will guide education transformation in our city.
Great Expectations specifically called for us to develop and implement teacher recruitment and selection processes that would make it possible for Syracuse to compete for the most talented educators around. We realized that we needed to implement new, forward-thinking processes and technology to attract, identify and hire the highest quality candidates.
Here’s how our district strategically used data-driven technology like predictive analytics, a new microsite with Google Analytics and social media to improve our hiring processes and achieve meaningful results.
We faced the exact same challenges that other districts across the nation face every day: How do we ensure we are hiring the right candidates for the right positions? How can we accomplish that in less time, so we can provide better customer service and get the strongest candidates hired earlier? To eliminate much of the guessing and subjectivity in the hiring process, we chose to implement a predictive analytics solution, which has allowed us to make stronger hiring decisions, faster. However, we asked ourselves, can technology effectively automate parts of this process and can we be confident in the decisions that technology helps us make?
The answer was overwhelmingly, yes. We use a research-based hiring tool that’s designed to predict the impact a teacher will have on student growth. The data that a predictive analytics tool collects allows us to seamlessly determine and prioritize the list of candidates that should advance to the first stage of the interviewing process. This has made the hiring process much more objective, in reality and perception, and that has been extremely valuable to us.
Predictive analytics has also made our hiring process much more time-efficient which, in turn, has increased the quality of the candidate pool forwarded to our school leaders for consideration. In years past, it could take three months or more to advance a single candidate to the next stage in the hiring process; now we are much closer to reaching our goal of two weeks.
More than a decade ago, TNTP called our attention nationally to the negative implications of late teacher hiring. In the study Missed Opportunities, they found that when staffing hurdles push districts’ hiring timelines back, between 31% to almost 60% of applicants withdraw from the hiring process, often to accept jobs with districts that made offers earlier. “Of those who withdrew,” the TNTP report stated, “the majority cited the late hiring timeline as a major reason they took other jobs.”
Historically in Syracuse, we were hiring almost all of our teachers in the summer. This was a problem because we were missing out on proactive, qualified candidates who were searching for jobs earlier in the year. Last year, in stark contrast, we were able to hire for the majority of our known teacher vacancies by the first week in May. Most importantly, two-thirds of our new teachers came from the top tier of applicants based on our screening tool. Now, for the 2015-2016 school year, we made our first hire in December 2014. Looking back, we can be confident in saying there was a dramatic increase in the quality of candidates we engaged with and have never felt better about the quality of new teachers in our classrooms.
To complement this analytics platform, Syracuse City School District launched its own recruitment-specific microsite, which links off of our main district website and links to postings for all open positions in our district. This one-stop-shop for job-seekers has drastically improved our ability to attract high quality candidates. The site clearly explains what Syracuse has to offer, sharing the district’s vision, describing life in the district and profiling a diverse selection of Syracuse staff. It also outlines clear steps on how to apply, with an overview of the application process and featured jobs. Candidates can easily contact the recruitment team or subscribe for updates, which allows us to follow up with potential applicants as new opportunities arise.
The data we collect from our microsite makes it all the more powerful. We use Google analytics to track visits to the microsite which offers key insight into the behavior of our potential and actual applicants in the aggregate. For example, we can see how many unique visitors are coming to the site (over 50,000 in the first year), where they’re accessing the site from, and how they found us. We can also see which job postings are getting the most views versus applications. This information is important as it has enabled us to make decisions about where we place job ads and where we recruit in person. We can see which websites are sending the most candidates to our microsite. For example, we can tell if our tweets are performing better than our postings on other websites. This gives us a much clearer picture of where we should or shouldn’t be spending time and resources.
Social media platforms represent another vehicle that has allowed us to attract more applicants and showcase the positive things going on in our district. We use social media to create broader awareness of and promote the positions that we are looking to fill. Because more and more recent graduates are using social media to find job opportunities, sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook have become invaluable tools in reaching not just millennials, but all kinds of future SCSD teachers and other team members.
A recent study completed by Jobvite found that 44% of employers who used social media to hire indicated that both the quality and quantity of candidates improved since implementing social recruiting. According to Education Dive, schools are even hiring in-house web content specialists to manage social media pages and promote district job postings.
Not only has social media increased the number of applicants to our harder-to-fill openings, it has helped shape the local perception of our district. In the past, there was a common perception that our district did not have many education job opportunities. This perception hurt us in two ways: It jeopardized our support from the community and people thought we weren’t hiring so we received fewer applications for our open positions. With social media, we have been able to supplement other, traditional advertising to change that perception by publicizing that we are hiring and there are plenty of open opportunities.
Technology has played a major role in making our hiring more strategic and efficient and increasing the quality of our teacher candidates and hires. Change isn’t always easy; nevertheless, I strongly urge other school and district administrators to take advantage of the data and technology solutions available today. Not only will they improve processes, enhance customer service and save time, they will empower leadership to hire more effective teachers who will have the greatest impact on student growth.
Jeremy Grant-Skinner, executive director of Talent Management, leads the Syracuse City School District’s work to recruit, develop, support and retain the best and brightest diverse talent. He is responsible for implementing Syracuse’s districtwide strategy to support teacher effectiveness, beginning with hiring the most talented people around.
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