By Jonathan Abrams
The education technology, or EdTech, space was already expanding before the pandemic as people took advantage of the flexibility of online learning, and more technology was added to classrooms at every level. Now, it’s in hyperdrive. The market for EdTech in the US grew to $39.5 billion in 2021 and all signs are pointing to continued growth for the foreseeable future. It’s no surprise then, that EdTech startups are popping up everywhere, fuelled by $2.2 billion in VC capital raised in 2020 alone. All of this activity is translating to more available EdTech jobs than ever before. But the number of EdTech candidates isn’t keeping pace.
With so many companies vying for top talent in the EdTech space, how can you ensure that you attract and retain the best people? Sure, flexible work options, competitive compensation, benefits, and perks are important. But what happens if you never get the chance to make your offer? It’s a candidates’ market right now, and the competition for talent among EdTech companies is fierce.
Candidates Don’t Need to Wait
According to a LinkedIn study, the average time to hire – from resume submission to first day on the job – ranges from 33 to 49 days, depending on the job function. From experience, I can say that for open positions in EdTech, that average can be much lower.
Now think about your last hire. How long did it take to get through the rounds of interviews, presentations and meet-and-greets with everyone in your organization? How long did it take to get the offer out to your first pick? You were being thorough – as you should – because hiring the wrong person is a risk. However, you may have unintentionally lost good candidates simply because you weren’t fast enough.
My Advice to Clients — Think About Hiring Velocity
The message here is that if your talent acquisition process takes too long, you may lose good candidates to companies that are willing and able to move more quickly. That’s not to say that you need to sacrifice quality for speed – finding people with the right skills and fit for your business is paramount. However, there are ways to avoid getting bogged down in the details and to increase your hiring velocity. Because while you are busy trying to schedule everyone into that 10-person panel Zoom interview, your best candidate is being handed an offer somewhere else.
Here are some ways you can help stack the deck in your favor without sacrificing the quality of your search.
Define Your Hiring Window in Advance
Most people, it seems, work best on a deadline. You’re more likely to stick to a timeline for making a hiring decision if you have a target start date in mind. Be realistic about it, but try to keep it under 30 days. In fact, as we are seeing the EdTech right now, two to three weeks is ideal. These two things can help keep you on track:
- Communication: Be upfront and clear with your candidates about your timeline, right from the first meeting. They need to know what to expect so they can make their own evaluation of prospective employers. Being kept in the dark could be a strike against your company if they are considering other offers.
- Schedule: Once you have your timeline set, do your level best to stick to it. There are many reasons why you may need to change your timeline. If so, communicating with your candidates about it is the best way to deal with it.
Be Clear on the Role and the Job Description
Before you launch your search, get some clarity around what the role truly entails. It can be difficult to make these decisions in advance. I’ve seen it happen frequently. Clients that do not have a strong sense of what capabilities they are looking for at the beginning of their search often change course during the search. Not only does this slow you down, but it is a red flag for candidates when the role they applied for is either altered or taken off the table.
Avoid Over-Engineering the Evaluation
Established companies often have a preferred method or well-developed procedures for hiring. They may also have the support of recruiting teams or agencies to guide hiring managers. Smaller companies or startups don’t typically have hiring expertise in-house. They may be hiring for specialties they know nothing about or looking for unique skill sets to cover multiple roles. In both cases, the tendency to over-engineer the evaluation by building in levels of interviews, presentations, personality tests, and coffee chats with your team makes the process bloated and unmanageable.
Think critically about how many people actually need to participate in your hiring decision. Consider these factors when outlining your interview process:
- Decision Makers Only: Do you need the head of sales to meet with an editorial manager candidate because they are part of the decision-making? Or are you simply covering bases?
- Tight Focus: Make sure you can define an objective for each meeting and weigh it against the necessary investment in everyone’s time. Keep in mind that each meeting also has a cost for candidates, especially those currently in another role.
- Make Some Team Members Optional: Include only the relevant people from your organization who will prioritize meeting with your candidate. That way, you simplify scheduling and minimize the number of meetings. Candidates will appreciate you for respecting their time and keeping interviews on point.
Stick to the Plan
As much as possible, maintain your schedule to keep things moving. You had a business need to hire, so make it a priority. Of course, unexpected things will happen. If you can’t adapt, be sure to let candidates know as soon as possible about a change in your timeline. It shows that you appreciate their time and recognize that they have other responsibilities in their lives beyond being worthy of your offer. Your hiring process reflects your organization as a whole, so continuously put your best foot forward. Even if you need to pause, and it doesn’t work out with a good candidate, don’t burn that bridge by leaving them hanging.
The way you conduct your hiring process can make a big difference in your success at attracting the best candidates in the ultra-competitive EdTech hiring market. Spend too much time spinning your wheels, and you may miss out as good people are snapped up by other companies. Instead, get the spinning out of the way before you begin to search. Then when you’re ready, you’ll have a firm understanding of the role, the most critical capabilities, and the time it will take to get it done.
You don’t need to do it alone. Get help with how to build a high-performance team. Leverage the advice of a recruiting firm with EdTech experience to help with everything from defining roles to developing an efficient – yet thorough – evaluation process and sourcing great talent.
About the Author
Jonathan Abrams is the Vice President of Business Development and Senior Search Partner at Partner in Publishing (PIP). He leads the EdTech Search practice within PIP. With more than 20 years of experience in educational publishing and EdTech, Jonathan has helped some of the most recognizable companies in the business source and secure top talent – even through the extremes of remote work and a competitive market.