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In a tight labor market, how do you differentiate yourself in the war for talent? At the School Nutrition Association (SNA), we used a few innovative tactics that yielded significant returns over the last few months.

On the heels of a new strategic plan and following an organizational restructure, our association embarked on a hiring spree. Adding eight new positions to our staff of 42 was a tall order, especially when every employer was grappling with similar issues:  a tight labor market and intense competition for creative talent. 

Because of the sheer volume of positions to be filled, our Human Resources department decided to try something different and lean on some of what we had learned during the pandemic: video. 

Honing In On Needs and Existing Talent

To start our search, our Human Resources colleagues guided us through the process of carefully crafting these new positions to ensure they would attract the right candidates. While we thought it would be smooth sailing once the work was done, little did we know, it was only the beginning of a long learning process. 

In the early phase of the process, our intent was to keep the team we had in place and to add new positions that would complement our internal expertise. However, that’s not what happened. As we were about to advertise the newly created positions, two of our staff departed the organization, sending us back to the drawing board to hone in on what we really wanted the department to look like. 

The more we thought about the challenges facing us – the need to successfully integrate our content and the changing landscape in digital content development and advertising – the more we realized that we were looking for a Content Director, someone with a deeper understanding of all our channels and with expertise in school nutrition content. It turns out that the answer was a former staff turned consultant who was leading our new website project. Due to the nature of that assignment, she had been immersed in all things SNA, which made her a great fit for the new position.

An Active Approach to Recruiting

Once that piece of the puzzle was solved, we knew we had to go to market to find our digital content specialist and our senior marketing specialist, the other new positions. Weeks were going by, and we were getting anxious, so we decided to help HR and take matters into our own hands. The newly hired director of content decided to scout LinkedIn to see what she could find.

She came across a unique candidate: someone who was trained as a chef, had worked as a photographer, and had expertise in social media. Should we be so lucky?!  Our Content Director reached out to the person and encouraged her to apply. She did and HR took it from there. A few weeks later, she was off to Orlando to meet her colleagues at our Annual Meeting. Talk about moving fast…

The Flipped Classroom Concept

Another step in our process was applying the "flipped classroom" concept to our recruitment – providing resources, like videos, for candidates ahead of time. These videos featured our hiring managers sharing insights into the association culture, our needs and the dynamics of the specific teams.

Not only did it give potential SNA employees a glimpse of what working at SNA would be like, but we also asked interviewees to come armed with a few questions for us based on what they had gleaned from the videos they watched prior to the interviews.

Looking Beyond Obvious Skillsets

But we still had the senior marketing role to fill. Because of the competitive landscape, we also knew that we had to be open-minded when looking at resumes. We were all in agreement that we had to look beyond the obvious.

We wanted someone who had the expertise and experience needed to succeed on the job, but we also wanted to bring in someone who would see the position as an opportunity for growth. We also wanted someone who would bring excitement and new ideas to a brand-new position and, above all, someone with a can-do attitude.

We landed on a candidate that had worked on startups and large organizations and had a mix of marketing and project management skills, which are incredibly beneficial to our team, now that we have so many projects happening simultaneously. Knowing we had to act swiftly, we scheduled the interviews, hired and onboarded her in a few weeks.

A Bright Future

Now, for the first time in two years, our Marketing and Communications team is complete, and we are excited to be able to take on more projects and see some of our long-awaited plans come to fruition. During the last few months, as we had multiple searches happening, the idea of finding, hiring and onboarding three new staff members almost simultaneously was daunting, but in the end, we got exactly who we wanted and the talent we needed. We also learned that when it comes to building a team, creativity and perseverance can go a long way.

Danielle Duran Baron
Post by Danielle Duran Baron
August 12, 2022
Danielle Duran Baron is on a mission to change organizations through storytelling, open communication, empathy and inclusion. As an association executive, she has helped organizations build solid brands, create inclusive environments, and maximize their impact and revenue. Currently, she is the Vice President of Marketing, Communications & Industry Relations at the School Nutrition Association (SNA), where she oversees the development and implementation of an omnichannel marketing and communication strategy, enhancing the SNA brand and maximizing non-dues revenue. For more than two decades, Danielle has worked in the private, public and nonprofit sectors, helping global organizations find their ideal positioning and authentic voice. Her expertise lies in strategy, multicultural marketing, experience design, storytelling and DEI. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and an MBA in marketing and is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. Danielle is the past chair of ASAE’s Government Relations and Advocacy Professionals Advisory Council, a DELP Scholar and a certified association executive (CAE). She is also president of the board of Luminus, a Maryland-nonprofit helping immigrants thrive in their communities and a commissioner at Alianza Latina, a commission established by the county government to promote diversity and civility and address the concerns and struggles that the Latino and immigrant communities, in Howard County, MD.