Teach For America: Hiring Fair

Teach For America is a national non-profit working to create educational equity for all children. The organization wanted to create an enterprise web application to be used in its regional offices across the country that would manage the Corps Member interview and placement process. Once applicants are accepted into Teach For America, the Corps Members are assigned to a region. The regional staff must set up interviews for these Corps Members with schools in their placement district. The process of matching the most qualified Corps Member to the best fit teaching positions is a delicate and deliberate process that was made easier and more accurate through the development of the new hiring fair web application.

My Role

UX Researcher and Designer -- I organized and implemented a series of over 20 user interview engagements with TFA regional staff across the country and compiled and analyzed the interview findings. I also led the product design through the creation of low to high fidelity wireframes, conducted usability tests, and worked side by side with the development team through the product launch.

Duration: 5 months

Challenges

Teach For America is made up of 50 regions. Corps Members can be placed in any of these areas across the country. Every region has a varying amount of Corps Members and every region goes about their interview and hiring process in extremely different ways. The goal of the Hiring Fair Tool was to design a single solution that would adapt to differing regional use cases and practices yet still feel connected and unique to each end user and her specific needs.

Solution

A highly customizable schedule that can easily be adapted to regional preferences and practices while at the same time, still maintaining application consistency and functionality. My team and I focused strongly on the hiring fair set-up process because that would allow users a unique and customizable experience from the very start. The application provides a consistent experience across regions but through dynamic set-up preferences and a robust feature set, the tool feels extremely customized to individual practices.

Final solution - dynamic scheduling tool
The problem - contextual photo of how users were currently creating interview schedules

Research

The Hiring Fair application would live within another custom built Teach For American application called Placement Tracker. Therefore, the first step in my research was to conduct an extensive and thorough heuristic evaluation of the Placement Tracker application to better understand how my team could utilize both backend data as well as UI elements from the existing platform. From there, it was all about the users. My team focused the vast majority of our research efforts on interviewing and observing our end users.

My Contributions

My team set up interviews with 20 of the 50 Teach For America regions across the country that were representative of major regional demographics. I designed the user interview questions and led the majority of the engagement calls, which were conducted over the phone. I then complied and parsed the engagement findings by cross-referencing the similarities and differences from region to region.

Techniques & Tools

  • Heuristic Evaluation
  • User Interviews
  • WebEx

Key Findings

  • User control was very important
  • Emphasis on the personal with negative reactions to automation
  • Hiring Fairs can last anywhere from 1 day to 2 weeks
  • Fairs across the country can vary widely in length, function, and organization
Heuristic evaluation of existing application platform
Understanding similarities and differences between regional user needs

Sketching and Wireframing

Once my team understood our user's needs, which were quite wide-ranging, we were tasked with designing a solution that would work for the majority of regions. Through sketching and wireframing in a range of fidelities my team was able to brainstorm a variety of features that would solve for a range of use cases.

My Contributions

My team worked together to brainstorm and sketch solutions but it was my job to transfer those design ideas into wireframe concepts. The concepts were then used for rapid prototyping and became the initial mockups presented to the development team.

Techniques & Tools

  • Bohemian Coding - Sketch
  • Omnigraffle
  • Sketching
  • Design Studio

Key Takeaways

  • It was apparent from initial concepting that we needed to involve our front-end developers early in the process because of the intricate and robust nature of the application design
  • The application would rely heavily on data living within the existing Teach For America Placement Tracker platform
Early sketch concepts
Early wireframe concept

Prototyping and Testing

Once my team completed initial design concepts for the application, we sat down with the development to discuss our ideas and make sure we were not asking for a product that could not be delivered within time and budget. We then made slight tweaks to our concepts based on the developer feedback and prepared our wireframes for the first round of usability testing.

My Contributions

I designed the usability test by writing tasks and scenarios, and creating a clickable prototype. I then led usability tests with 9 users over the course of a month and three rounds of testing. The testing was completed remotely using screen sharing-software.

Techniques & Tools

  • Usability Testing
  • Tasks and Scenarios
  • Prototyping
  • Survey
  • WebEx

Key Takeaways

  • UI interactions within the dynamic schedule were too subtle and needed a stronger affordance
  • Copy was unclear in areas and we used a survey to better understand user jargon
Added a "dummy" save button to ease user anxiety about auto save feature
Brainstorming solutions to usability problems uncovered during user testing

Agile Product Development

The User Experience team worked very closely with the development teams throughout product development, in an agile workflow process. The usability testing occurred in conjunction with the first few product sprint cycles. The development team was receptive to feedback and allowed our team to request changes based on user testing feedback. During this constant iterative cycle, communication between UX, Front-End, and the Tech Lead was critical.

My Contributions

I created all UI, visual design, and interaction design components for the Hiring Fair application. I also spearheaded the use of a new collaborative UI tool, Zeplin, to increase productivity between UX and Front-End developers. I worked side by side with the front-end to design the product UI and ensure proper look and feel of application interactions

Techniques & Tools

  • Bohemian Sketch - Coding
  • Zeplin
  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • HTML
  • CSS

Key Takeaways

  • Agile collaboration was key for incorporating usability test feedback
  • UI compromises in the Hiring Fair set-up screen was important to deliver MVP on time
Using collaborative UI tool, Zeplin alongside Front-End development team

Hiring Fair in Action

The Hiring Fair application was launched in time to be used during the spring 2015 hiring season. Immediately users began reporting that the Hiring Fair tool was saving them enormous amounts of time, cutting previous creation times by half. I traveled to our New Jersey region to watch the tool in action. Here I had the opportunity to talk with our first adopting users and get a chance to observe them using the tool during an actual hiring fair event. This allowed me to learn what was working well and what our team can improve on moving forward.

Featured designed to be used on the day of the fair if a school is running late to an interview
Attending a hiring fair to watch the application in action