When COVID shut down travel, Ninette Enrique, Chief Development Officer at The Hotchkiss School, an independent boarding school in Lakeville, Connecticut, thought about the new hires she needed to make to fill out her development team and wondered how she would be able to entice good candidates without the ability to bring them to campus. She looked at her iPhone and knew what she had to do: make videos.
The long-loved tool of everyone from grandmothers to young teens, the smart phone’s easy video-making capabilities has proved useful for recruitment, especially in this time of near 100 percent virtual working.
“I just started talking to my phone,” says Enrique. “I wanted to talk to the candidate as a person looking for a job and to see something you can’t get from the website–a sense of me because they would be working with me. I wanted them to see what Hotchkiss is like through me.”
Her idea worked! Candidates who saw the video were impressed and wanted to know more about Hotchkiss and about Enrique and her team.
“We had candidates say that they applied for these roles because of Ninette’s video,” says Gretchen Dwyer, the Lindauer search consultant who partnered with Enrique to fill her open positions. “They wanted a chance to meet her because they were so impressed with who they saw on the video.”
That was certainly true for Dustin Bryant, who joined Hotchkiss in August as the new Director of The Hotchkiss Fund. “I wasn’t looking for my next opportunity to be in secondary schools. My whole career had been in higher education,” says Bryant. “But when I saw this video—it was so warm and inviting—I thought, ‘Where is Hotchkiss?’ I wanted to know more.”
“My personal strength is connecting with people,” says Enrique. “I’m using my strength in this video.”
Enrique says she enjoyed making the video so much that she encouraged others on her development team to make their own.
“I encouraged my team to be a window into the unseen,” says Enrique, who told them that prospective candidates should feel they are “coming into our cultural house to feel the experience of working here.”
Several jumped on board and clicked ‘record.’
“I had never done anything like this before. We never had the need before,” says John Reed, Director of Regional Giving, who, despite finding the introvert in himself during quarantine, had no hesitation to participate. “We’re all learning that there are things going forward that we need to do in a different way.”
Reed, a second-generation alumnus of Hotchkiss, has been working at the school for 20 years. He went outside on a beautiful day to record his video and to make a statement about what kind of person will be happiest at the rural campus: “Someone who enjoys the outdoors, who likes to hike and fish. I wanted to convey how much that is a part of being at Hotchkiss.”
Rachel Rodgers, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations, is a Hotchkiss alumna who joined the development team a little less than a year ago. She says she wished that she had been able to watch videos like the kind she and her colleagues have made before she took the job.
“With any new job, the hardest part is getting a sense of the people and the culture,” she says. “You wonder if you are going to fit in. Videos like these give a general sense of what the culture is like.”
Rodgers wanted to share her story about how she found her way back to Hotchkiss after her graduation in 2009 and how the School continues to be special and provide opportunities. “The main takeaway is that we are a family, and Hotchkiss has the resources to get where you want to be.”
Director of Prospect Development and Research Jessica Craig, who has been at Hotchkiss since 1999, took a slightly different direction with her video and created a slideshow to showcase her two decades on staff and use some of the hundreds of photos she has taken over that time to illustrate what the Hotchkiss community is like.
She says the project helped her see her time there from a new perspective. “It helped me reframe why I work here and how fortunate we are to work at this institution and see again all the benefits I’ve enjoyed over the years. This feels like home to me.”
Getting to Know You
Another benefit of making the videos, say the Hotchkiss team, is that when they interviewed candidates, the candidates had a better sense of who they were and that moment of initial anxiety about meeting a group of people for the first time was ebbed somewhat.
“It was a great ice-breaker,” says Bryant, who appreciated having topics that staff had shared in their videos to bring up with them during his interviews.
But Bryant also says that as he watched all the team members’ videos, it was clear over and over how much people cared about Hotchkiss and really enjoyed working there. “I thought, ‘this is a commitment’,” he says as he starts the process of moving from New York City to Connecticut. “But it also provided security because I knew I was going to be joining a great community and that was going to be really helpful.”
“I do believe in this particular type of communication,” says Enrique. “It feels like it’s one of your friends, as if they were doing something they love and they sent you a video. A video shows something that you can’t see any other way except in person. You feel like you are there with them.”