10 critical features of your next recruitment & hiring tool

Written by 
Lauren Dachille

10 critical features of your next recruitment & hiring tool

As a former member of the Human Capital Team at D.C. Public Schools, and now Founder of Nimble, I’ve seen the procurement process in action across dozens of districts and charter school networks. I know from experience that finding new recruitment and hiring tools can feel like a chore that isn’t worth the time. However, a stronger applicant tracking system can result in increased staff retention and significant — as in 40-50% — time savings for your team. Unfortunately, most districts are missing out on this value because of mistakes made in the procurement process. In this piece, I share the most common mistake districts make in their procurement processes and 10 essential features of any K-12 applicant tracking system.

The typical district process for vetting hiring software often looks something like this: 

  1. work internally to update requirements list;
  2. solicit vendor proposals;
  3. measure vendor capabilities against requirements;
  4. make a selection.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this process, but its effectiveness rests heavily on the quality and rigor of the requirements established in step one. Unfortunately, most districts sink much more time into steps 2 through 4. They may even use an old requirements list as the basis of their process. This is a huge mistake.

In order to create a requirements list that truly represents the features that would be game changers for your organization, you must do 3 things:

  1. Solicit vendor capabilities first: Before creating your requirements list (yes, before!) request information from a variety of vendors about the features and capabilities they offer. Maybe even ask for demos or conduct a formal RFI (request for information) process. This ensures that your requirements list captures the full range of what the market has to offer. If you first learn of an excellent feature in step 2, it’s already too late to fully incorporate it into your evaluation process.
  1. Consider existing workarounds: Examine the areas where your team is working or communicating outside of your current system. Are you using Google Docs to track data? Do hiring managers use paper (post-its, printed resumes, etc.) to track interview feedback and decisions? When you formulate your requirements list, ask vendors whether and how their tool helps address these challenges. You might find solutions you didn’t know existed.
  1. Re-evaluate baseline requirements: If you are working from a pre-existing list of requirements be sure to re-evaluate each individual requirement. Requirements should all be tied to your topline goals around efficient and effective hiring and they shouldn’t be unnecessarily specific, as each vendor may have a different way of achieving the same outcome.

Earlier this year, Nimble conducted a hiring study with four large districts across the country. We found in each district that the hiring teams had little time to spend on strategic recruitment and cultivation of candidates. Instead they spent an average of 53% of their time on manual data entry, tracking reports in google sheets, and facilitating communication with principals. These are areas of substantial time loss that can and should be reduced with improved hiring software.

A strong requirements list for applicant tracking software should be sure to capture the following critical time-saving features:

Pooled Postings: Historically, districts have had to choose between two imperfect job posting realities: post pooled jobs, but track vacancies and coordinate principal hiring decisions outside the system OR post individual jobs on the job board, causing candidates to have to filter through dozens or hundreds of jobs to find those that are the right fit. Key system requirements in this area should include: 

  • Post pooled positions, with multiple vacancies associated to a single posting
  • Vacancy request process, with ability to merge new vacancies into existing pools
  • Candidate preference collection; automated routing to appropriate principals in a pool 
  • Asynchronous school-level statuses within a pool, for improved tracking and visibility
  • Automatic pool clean up, removing new hires from consideration at other schools

Data Dashboards: Most K-12 hiring systems don’t have any reporting capabilities or data dashboards to speak of, or their dashboards aren’t centered around the cyclical K-12 hiring process and therefore go unused. Districts are left exporting data and spending hours each week building their own reports in Excel (or worse, entering data into google docs throughout the hiring process to help them crunch the numbers later). Key in-system data dashboards should show you:

  • Real time vacancy fill rate and vacancies over time, across hiring seasons
  • Conversion rates and processing time at each stage of the hiring pipeline
  • Recruitment sources for your applicants and hires, with the ability to filter on diversity

Principal Engagement: In most districts, principals act as hiring managers, and even when they don’t, they’re pivotal to the screening and hiring process. However, most school leaders aren’t sitting at a desk all day, so logging into and navigating an applicant tracking system doesn’t come easily. However, when principals are disengaged with hiring tools, they often work around the system, missing out on top talent coming through the centralized recruitment pipeline. Key features to improve school leader engagement include:

  • Mobile-friendly principal portal that allows admins to log in easily from their smartphone and receive push notifications when action is needed or when top candidates apply
  • Candidate status parsing within pooled postings, so that school leaders can update candidate status (and curate their candidate list) for their school only

Regardless of which applicant tracking system you choose, ensuring it has these 10 vital features will reduce manual work, increase your team’s strategic capacity, and ultimately ensure you can attract and hire the very strongest talent for your classrooms!

Lauren Dachille
Founder & CEO @ Nimble