The Golden Rule of Recruiting: A Small School District With Big Recruiting Goals

Posted by The ConveyIQ Team

Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is a top educational district in the Bay Area, CA. The district is focused on high academic achievement while serving the whole child, eliminating inequity, and providing each child with excellent teachers, every day. The talent acquisition team currently leverages Convey for Interviewing to effectively and efficiently interview candidates.
Mary Claire Delgado is the Manager of Recruitment at OUSD, and she has been with the organization for more than ten years. Starting as a Special Education Teacher, Delgado moved into various promotional roles within the district highlighting one of the many reasons why candidates are drawn to OUSD, for its numerous growth opportunities. The talent recruitment team previously consisted of twelve team members (recruiters, substitute clerks, and volunteers), is now down to four full-time staff, in partnership with other departments. The team handles thousands of open positions every year at this mid-sized district in the Bay Area.

Oakland Unified School District on Candidate Experience


How does the team at Oakland Unified School District define candidate experience?

I would say it’s important to examine all the different ways candidates experience us and ask “are these ways reflective of our mission and vision?” From their first touch point - do they see us on a billboard, on TV, in the news, on social media, or are they hearing about us through family and friends? I think about all of those things, all the ways until they’re in their classrooms or other District jobs. After they’ve seen our job posts, gone through the application process, they’ve engaged with one of us, they’ve gone through interviews, they are going through the onboarding process and then finally landing in their jobs, do they feel welcomed and set up for success? Are we able to retain them and support them so they move into promotional opportunities and feel like they are growing personally and professionally?
As a recruiter, it’s not just, “fill the vacancies and then I’m done with my work.” The candidate experience is connected to retention and having an enjoyable and fulfilling work environment with meaningful relationships. So hopefully candidates see us as a great place to work until retirement. It helps having good word of mouth to spread the news of the greatness of OUSD.  We feel that recruitment is a community-wide effort wherein everybody in our organization can be a recruiter.
We try to think about all of those steps and we try to just make sure everything we have in place is in alignment with our brand and what we believe in.
People come to us from all over the world because of our social justice and equity focus and our history of being resilient and producing great talent. Notable talent who came from OUSD include activist and educator Angela Davis, actor Tom Hanks, author Jack London, Baseball Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, singer and musician MC Hammer, former NBA star Gary Payton, musician Sheila E., co-founder of the Black Panther Party Huey P. Newton, rapper Too $hort, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and many others. For much of the 20th century, OUSD was regarded as one of the best districts in the nation. With that history, we now have a great superintendent who has been here eighteen years. So, we think about her as a candidate. What was it like for her as a candidate? What was her initial contact with OUSD? What have we done right for her so that she has stayed here for so long? And how do we continue to duplicate that on a grander scale?
For all candidates, we want to make sure their experience is of the highest quality, that we are as responsive as possible and that everything is in line with our values.

Where do you think candidate experience stands today at most organizations? Why?

If we’re just limiting it to other districts, one of the things that sets us apart is this partnership with ConveyIQ because it is so forward-thinking. People flock to us because they think, “Wow, that’s already how I’m experiencing the district. It’s so modern... I want to be a part of that.”
I think some districts are challenged in understanding who the candidate is. The candidate is coming from a very diverse pool when it comes to age, background, tech savviness, etc. So we think about what messaging will reach them and move them to action. We try to really message to all audiences, and we’ve learned that the way you send any message determines who will receive it. That’s important for planning who to target, how you are reaching them, and the nature of the message that you want them to hear.  
This partnership with ConveyIQ means we are able to reach a sector that we may not have been able to reach otherwise, whether it’s because they prefer this mode of communication, or they are far away, or they have limited time. It just allows us more flexibility and more options in terms of our talent solutions and strategies.

How do you really avoid the candidate black hole?

We don’t use ConveyIQ as a stand-alone tool. We have multiple tools and we try to make sure they complement each other.
Our applicant tracking system (ATS) is used in tandem with ConveyIQ. For example, we do the application screening and once candidates pass that, they are sent an invitation for a digital interview. Once they finish that, we drop a link to the interview into our ATS so hiring managers can view the digital interviews.
Recruiters meet weekly and comb through candidates to make sure they’re moving along, and if we find any issues, we resolve them immediately.
You have to build in systems. I compare it to cooking and having the front burner and the back burner going at the same time - you have to make sure you don’t leave anything on the back burner too long that it goes bad. In OUSD, our front burner systems help ensure that doesn’t happen.
With a lean organization like ours, it’s important that we approach it as a team. We constantly review to see where there are gaps or what things we may have forgotten. Once we build time into the calendar to review all the candidates, we’re able to avoid the candidate black hole.
Of course, you have to train staff at all schools - in Oakland, that’s 86 schools - so they, too know how to avoid leaving anyone in this black hole. With the ATS, we can see whether people are getting left behind whereas previously, we couldn’t track candidates as closely.

It’s great that you all are dedicating time weekly to moving candidates along! Aside from that, what steps does the OUSD recruiting team take that are unique and that really enhance the candidate experience?

We have set up a scheduling tool for anyone who wants to talk to a recruiter giving us another way to engage with candidates. That’s on our website, it’s in our signatures, so if candidates want to speak with a recruiter we make ourselves as available as possible. We’ve also held drop-in events when people can come in without an appointment. You have to use a multi-pronged approach. Some people just want to text, some people just want to send messages on social media and others want to meet in person. Still others are far away and want to do a video, so we’ve utilized the On Demand capabilities of ConveyIQ.
The diversity of the audience requires diversity of strategies and methods for connecting with candidates, and having a wide variety of communication tools is paramount. That’s what makes us unique. We offer different ways to connect with the District and with us. We have numerous recruiting events throughout the year, so there’s a call-to-action in all of our advertisements. Even if we have an article on social media, it’s always coupled with an upcoming call-to-action. There are always ways to engage with us. We build community and momentum that way. It took us time to get to that point. ConveyIQ is part of our overall strategy that allows us to build momentum and get people engaged, invested and feeling like they are already part of our community.

What are the biggest challenges or obstacles in the way of focusing time and attention on the candidate experience?

In our situation, we have a lean staff and limited resources. We all have to wear many hats, so we must be disciplined in prioritizing what we’re trying to accomplish each day. We can’t afford to burn ourselves out; we also need good work-life balance. So then, what if a candidate wants to get in touch with us at 8:00 p.m.? How do we create systems so we are being responsive, but without taking away from our work-life balance?
Again, it requires a multi-pronged approach, with diverse communication methods, but also mindfulness of the feedback loop. If something isn’t working, we course correct. We’re constantly in that cycle throughout the year.

Do you currently survey your candidates for interview feedback?

We have a retention survey, and we’ve had exit surveys, so there have been opportunities for current employees to share their feedback. As for candidates who have yet to be hired, if they withdraw their applications we ask for reasons why.
When they come to recruitment events, we have surveys on-site. We ask how candidates felt about their recruitment experience. That’s easier for gaining feedback because if you’re at our events, you’re already showing pronounced interest, which means there’s a greater likelihood that you’ll complete a survey.

Do you think recruiters have an obligation to explain specifically why a candidate was not hired?

I think it’s good to be prepared. Whenever we call candidates to let them know that they have not advanced, we’re always prepared to give them two or three positives and two or three growth areas, just in case they ask.

If money, time and any other resources were not roadblocks, what would be your dream hiring process for your candidates?

I would love it if Facebook, LinkedIn, ConveyIQ, every single hiring agency in our nation were all integrated. It’s an added challenge for applicants to create a LinkedIn profile, and then fill out an application with us. It would be great if the process was streamlined so that those graduating from college and/or looking for work had to complete just one application and one video interview, and everybody had access to it.
Kaiser Permanente is another major employer in Oakland, so if you want to apply to that organization, then you have to go through a whole different process. If you want to apply to UC Berkeley, if you want to apply to the City of Oakland, they are all different processes. But if it were streamlined we would be able to fill our jobs faster, our candidates wouldn’t have to sit days on end filling out so many different applications and our nation would be streamlined in terms of college to career. ConveyIQ has the power to accomplish some of that: everybody comes to just one hub. Get your application and video in and there are all the different types of jobs available.

That’s very true! I know a lot of candidates get frustrated by that when they have to upload their resume then type the same information on their resume into the application and do that over and over again.

It seems unnecessary.

Any parting words?

ConveyIQ has elevated our district in terms of recruitment. Numerous leaders within our organization say they are impressed with this innovative tool. Candidates have flocked to us partly because of its uniqueness, which they hadn’t experienced in other districts. We appreciate how it makes it seem like we’re a much bigger team, and that we’re still working when we’re not because ConveyIQ is doing the work for us.

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