Recruitment & Retention

Coronavirus Is Pushing Teacher Hiring Online. Here’s What That Means

By Elizabeth Heubeck — March 30, 2020 | Corrected: April 01, 2020 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Corrected: This article has been updated to correct the length of time that interviewstream will offer new users free usage of its product.

John A. Mirra has confronted his share of teacher shortages. Last year, the chief human resources officer of Virginia Beach City Public Schools hired approximately 750 teachers to fill vacancies. This year, he expects that number will be roughly the same.

Despite Virginia closing schools for the remainder of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic, he’s not worried about being able to hire hundreds of qualified teachers in time for next school year. “I believe that, if everything goes as planned, we should be fine for the start of next year,” Mirra said.

The confidence Mirra exudes comes from experience—with technology-based communication platforms. For several years, his district has used them to screen and, in some instances, interview teacher applicants.

Amid the unprecedented and widespread school closures due to the virus pandemic, districts that are accustomed to using technology-driven virtual methods to screen and interview teacher candidates appear to have a distinct advantage during this year’s teacher hiring season, which generally peaks in April and May. For school districts with less experience interfacing with job applicants electronically, teacher hiring appears to be slowed or at a standstill.

Overall Hiring Outlook Uncertain

At the same time, the economic fallout from the virus is complicating fiscal planning and hiring strategies in many places.

See Also: With Schools Shut Down, What Happens to Hiring?

In a March 23 survey of district leaders, the Education Week Research Center found that 48 percent of respondents who are superintendents or other senior-level administrators said they had made “no decisions yet” about hiring for the fall, while 22 percent said that coronavirus has not impacted their plans for hiring at all.

At Vancouver Public Schools, in Washington state, where the coronavirus outbreak has hit hard, only hiring deemed “essential” is happening right now, according to district spokesperson Patricia Nuzzo.

She says that staff members are using phone, video conferencing, and in-person social distancing methods (with fewer than six people in a room) to fill vacant positions for principals, associate principals, and an executive director position. “All other hiring is on hold until more direction is given by the Office of the Superintendent,” Nuzzo said.

But at other school districts, prior experience with virtual communication platforms is enabling hiring to continue as planned. Greg Dietz, who oversees human resources at Illinois’ Maine Township High School District 27, says that hiring in his district has experienced no slowdown—despite the district’s closure since March 20.

“We’ve been using video interviewing technology for about four years,” Dietz said. “It has really come in handy and been key for us during this period.”

It’s even allowed the district to get students involved in the hiring process. Student volunteers, most of whom are involved in the district’s drama department, pose pre-recorded questions to applicants during the asynchronous, virtual-based screening portion of the hiring process. This gives applicants some exposure to the district’s students before they see them on campus.

Applicants also get a glimpse of the district’s facilities during this screening process. Student interviewers pose their questions against the backdrop of various key locations throughout the district’s three high schools: in a computer lab, a fitness center, and an auditorium. Even before applicants access the initial screening portion of the process, they watch a video introducing the school district. “It’s all about branding and promoting our school district through our interviewing process,” Dietz said.

The Illinois school district uses a video interviewing platform from Chicago-based company interviewstream to accomplish this blend of showcasing its brand to job applicants while screening them and, in circumstances such as the current shutdown, interviewing those selected by the district’s hiring committee.

Ron Wilson, CEO of the small, but growing video-interviewing company, says it currently has about 125 education-based customers who choose to pay for its services largely because of the platform’s greater complexity over other, free ones. interviewstream allows users to pre-record virtual interviews asynchronously, to send out branding messages, and customize user options. The company The company is offering new users free usage through April 30. “We’re trying to service industries that are in a bind,” interviewstream’s Wilson said.

Expanding Online Platforms

Other school districts, drawing from past experience with video conferencing, have expanded their use of such platforms to ensure relatively seamless hiring for the upcoming year.

For the past few years, Virginia Beach City Public Schools have been using a virtual platform provided by interviewstream as a means to screen and track candidates. The virtual asynchronous screening interview, in which teaching candidates answer a few questions online, gets about a 50 percent response rate, Mirra estimates.

Now the district is expanding the use of that platform. Normally, the district holds an annual “meet and greet” for its existing teachers seeking transfers. Originally scheduled for March 16, the in-person event was canceled.

Instead, teachers wanting to transfer within the district can respond virtually to a two-question digital interview, powered by the same video conferencing system it uses to screen external candidates. Principals then reach out to candidates they want to interview and schedule digital meetings using whatever video platform they prefer: Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, or another video format.

Mirra says he’s not sure what his district would have done if it hadn’t already put in place the technology infrastructure to digitally screen and track job candidates. He is certain of one thing, however.

“With the teacher shortage,” he said, “we have to hire as soon as possible.”


Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Boosting Student and Staff Mental Health: What Schools Can Do
Join this free virtual event based on recent reporting on student and staff mental health challenges and how schools have responded.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
Practical Methods for Integrating Computer Science into Core Curriculum
Dive into insights on integrating computer science into core curricula with expert tips and practical strategies to empower students at every grade level.
Content provided by

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Recruitment & Retention Athletic Trainers Are Often Missing From the Sidelines in School Sports
Advocates say athletic trainers are in short supply, despite efforts to require schools to keep them on hand.
5 min read
Monterey High's Tyvonte' Cornish (94) tackles Odessa High's Ivan Miranda (13) by a shirt tail in the fourth quarter. Odessa High School played Monterey High at Ratliff Stadium in Odessa, Texas, on Aug. 30, 2019.
Monterey High School student Tyvonte' Cornish, left, tackles Ivan Miranda, of Odessa High School, in Odessa, Texas, on Aug. 30, 2019.
Mark Rogers/Odessa American via AP
Recruitment & Retention This State Is Giving New Teachers Up to $20K to Stay on the Job. But There’s a Catch
Oklahoma's scholarship program is designed to keep fully trained teachers on the job longer.
8 min read
Third grade teacher John Watkins works in his classroom at Grove Elementary School on Aug. 11, 2022 in Tulsa, Okla.
Third grade teacher John Watkins works in his classroom at Grove Elementary School on Aug. 11, 2022 in Tulsa, Okla. Oklahoma is struggling to train enough teachers in its preparation programs—and keep them in classrooms.
Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP
Recruitment & Retention What Slogan Would You Use to Recruit Teachers? Educators Weigh In
The U.S. Department of Education has called its campaign 'Teachers: Leaders Shaping Lives.' How do EdWeek readers' slogans compare?
2 min read
Illustration of a man using a very large megaphone to speak to a diverse group of professionals.
Recruitment & Retention More Districts Are Building Housing for Teachers. Here's What to Know
The recruitment and retention strategy is gaining in popularity, but districts must consider financing, time, and affordability.
6 min read
Jefferson Union High School District's new housing complex for teachers and education staff is shown in Daly City, Calif., on July 8, 2022. The school district in San Mateo County is among just a handful of places in the country with educator housing. But with a national teacher shortage and rapidly rising rents, the working class district could serve as a harbinger as schools across the U.S. seek to attract and retain educators.
Jefferson Union High School District's new housing complex for teachers and education staff is shown in Daly City, Calif., on July 8, 2022. It's among just a handful of places in the country with educator housing, a perk being considered by districts to attract and retain educators.
Godofredo A. Vásquez/AP