In today’s rapidly changing work environment, the competition for recruiting qualified employees has never been tougher. According to the Virginia Employment Commission, unemployment in Virginia is 3 percent, below the national rate of 3.6 percent. The time to fill positions at Virginia Tech has increased in the past 12 months across all employee types.

Virginia Tech’s Talent Acquisition team has expanded and embraced new methods to meet the challenge.

“The current labor market gives those of us in recruiting a fantastic chance to refresh our message and highlight the reasons Virginia Tech is a great place to work," said Sandee Cheynet, assistant vice president of talent for Human Resources.

 “The pool of regionally based talent is at an all-time low,” said Jeff Cumberland, talent acquisition manager.  “We need to do extensive outreach to attract applicants and convey what is exciting about working at Virginia Tech.”

Targeting passive candidates
One technique is to identify “passive candidates,” those who might not be actively looking for new employment but may be open to opportunities.

One example is Mary-Ann Ibeziako, assistant vice president for infrastructure and chief sustainability officer, who was recruited by Virginia Tech in late 2019 from her position at the University of Maryland, College Park.

She had not been looking for a new position when she received an email from a member of Virginia Tech’s Talent Acquisition team. The team offered to connect her with employees at Virginia Tech to hear directly from them about the university’s culture and work environment. Two weeks later, after speaking with employees and learning more about Virginia Tech, she applied for the job.

“It’s rare that you get a glimpse inside an organization as a candidate,” Ibeziako said. “I had a chance to candidly talk to people at Virginia Tech to make sure it was a good match for both sides.”

Since her arrival at Virginia Tech, Ibeziako has continued to work closely with the Talent Acquisition team – this time to hire new employees. “It’s a really great skill they bring to the table,” she said. “They listen to us and what our needs are."

Adding in-house recruiters
The Talent Acquisition team has shifted to leading many recruiting efforts that were previously outsourced to recruiting firms. This change has resulted in positions being filled more quickly, as well as significant cost savings, Cumberland said.

“Having recruiters on staff is a necessity in this job market,” Cumberland said.

Beth Armstrong, associate vice president of enrollment management and director, university scholarships and financial aid, has relied on the Talent Acquisition team for numerous searches. “Jeff’s team has been critical in helping us reach out beyond our networks,” said Armstrong. “They’ve really hit the pavement to help us find candidates.”

Expanding outreach
Inclusive hiring practices help Virginia Tech tap into a wider talent pool.

Talent Acquisition has dedicated resources and outreach efforts to veteran organizations in order to attract, hire, and retain more active and former servicemen and servicewomen. (Virginia Tech has twice been awarded the Virginia Values Veterans (V3) Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Award for promoting veteran employment.)

New outreach efforts include the Tech Tracks program, which brings high school students to campus to learn about career options in higher education and opportunities at Virginia Tech.

Improving the candidate experience
Once candidates are interested in a job at Virginia Tech, it is important to make the application process easy and efficient.

PageUp, the applicant tracking system, allows candidates to apply from any device. After applying, applicants receive communications updates and are able to accept and schedule interviews in the system.

PageUp streamlines the hiring process for managers as well, with all actions, from creating a position through posting the role, recruiting and conducting searches, making an offer, and onboarding, contained within the system.

Onboarding and engagement
Once a new employee is hired, it is important to successfully integrate and engage the new staff member. “Our goal is for the onboarding experience to last the entire first year,” Cumberland said.

One effort, the university’s Dual Career Program, provides personalized assistance to new faculty spouses and partners in their job search. “We want to make the transition as easy as possible,” Cumberland said.

Developing current employees
“Creating a great place to work starts with supporting your existing team,” said Bryan Garey, vice president for human resources.

Tuition benefits and other professional development opportunities provide ways for employees to continue to grow in their careers. The university also offers flexible work options, wellness resources, and is working to address caregiving needs.

One of the university’s four strategic initiatives is to be a destination for talent. Said Garey, “We are committed to building our services and expertise so we can continue to bring the best talent to Virginia Tech.”

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