The Robert W. Woodruff Scholarship at Emory University is one of the school’s most comprehensive — and most competitive — scholar programs.
The scholarship, named for the renowned businessman and philanthropist, awards full tuition, and room and board to select students from the university’s incoming class for all four years of their degree.
Receiving up to 14,000 submissions each year, the Emory College Woodruff Scholars Program needed an efficient, yet holistic, way to refine their candidate list.
“Our applicants represent the top 1% of the university academically,” shared Associate Director, Janet Gonzales.
“In order to select recipients from that group we need holistic review, and we need to be able to conduct that review efficiently.”
“That’s why we use Kira Talent.”
Distinguishing the cream from the crop
A checkbox in the general application to Emory University gives students the option to enter consideration for merit scholarships. Once the student is accepted to the university, their application is sent to the scholarships team.
“We consider all students who opted in,” explained Gonzales. “The first step is then refining the applicant pool based on the candidates’ academic standings. That gives us a group of around 100 applicants, who are then invited to complete a Kira assessment.”
The group of finalists represents the top-ranked applicants from Emory’s incoming class. In order to differentiate between such strong candidates, Gonzales and her team knew that they needed to see more than what was on paper.
“We want to see who they are beyond what is on paper. We needed that human component.”
“We know that they’re good on paper,” shared Gonzales. “Now we want to see that they’re eager to learn and are intellectually curious.”
That’s where Kira comes in. Using Kira to pre-screen applicants after their academic review, Emory is able to efficiently review applicants to qualify the successful ones for an in-person interview.
“Kira helps us see how applicants think on their feet and does so in a way that’s scalable for our small team.”
Streamlining the selection process
“Before Kira, we had two sets of in-person interviews,” Gonzales explained. “The first was an interactive interview. From there we selected a final group of applicants to invite to a second group interview.”
“Coordinating both rounds of interviews, from scheduling the applicants and reviewers to analyzing the scoring and data, was a lot of work,” Gonzales continued. “When we finished our 2021 cycle we realized we needed to make a change. Then at a conference, a peer suggested we look at Kira Talent.”
By replacing the first interview with a Kira assessment and transitioning rubrics and scoring for both interviews onto the Kira platform, Emory College Woodruff Scholars Program has streamlined their entire selection process.
“We dug into every little detail of the Kira platform to ensure that our process could be executed seamlessly. We ended up finding areas we hadn’t even considered where Kira could enhance what we were already doing.”
Custom welcome videos and pre-recorded video questions integrated into the applicant experience help the program with recruitment efforts, by offering a guaranteed channel to communicate the unique culture of the Emory College Woodruff Scholars Program to their candidates without monopolizing any additional resources.
“The customization within the applicant experience makes it feels very personal and engaging,” Gonzales shared. “Candidates see our current students in the welcome video, giving them insight into the program, and then it’s those same students who are asking them the questions during the assessment. These students are representatives of the community that the applicants are going to be a part of, so it’s a great way to introduce them as one of the first touch points they have with us.”
Real-time status updates also help streamline the admissions process by giving Gonzales and her team an overview of their assessment cycle.
“Kira helps us know how we’re doing at certain points in the cycle, without us having to get into Excel and crunch the numbers,” Gonzales added. “There are various reports we can look at which show us everything from how many applicants still need to complete their assessment, to which reviewers are in Kira actively evaluating candidates.”
“It’s just another way that Kira has made it so much easier to manage our selection process.”
Creating a positive reviewer experience
“The reviewer experience was almost as important to us as the applicant experience,” shared Gonzales.
The Emory College Woodruff Scholars Program’s reviewing team is made up of volunteer faculty members, alumni, staff members, and seniors in the college, so it’s critical for Gonzales and her team that the process be intuitive and user-friendly.
“These individuals are consistently reviewing for different programs, so they’re jumping between various rubrics, logins and processes,” she added. “The last thing we wanted was to give them a ten-page user guide on the intricacies of our process.”
“With Kira, we didn’t have to answer a single tech question throughout the entire cycle,” Gonzales continued. “The platform is self-explanatory.”
“This year, we were even able to improve our training process for new reviewers using recordings and scores from the previous cycle,” Gonzales shared. “Our staff could go back and see the students we selected and their responses, so they could feel more confident in identifying what we look for in a successful applicant.”
“Kira makes the experience for our reviewers so straightforward.”
“It’s intuitive from start to finish,” she continued. “Reviewers log in, they have their assignments clearly visible, they score them and then they’re done.”
Accomplishing more with less
“With Kira, we were able to complete a comprehensive selection process even with staffing shortages.”
“Kira was essentially another person on our team,” she added. “Their team is always available and eager to help us, and make it easy for us to use the platform to its full potential.”
With the help of Kira’s hands-on support and guidance, the Emory College Woodruff Scholars Program is continuing to refine and enhance their selection process.
“Our Client Success Manager at Kira had us meet about one month after our first cycle when the experience was still fresh in our minds,” shared Gonzales. “We went through what worked, what could be improved, and what we wanted to change for the following cycle. Based on our feedback, Kira helped us make changes to our timeline and enhancements to our rubric.”
“You can always improve things or make changes to meet new goals you’ve set for the program,” she added. “Kira actively helps us accomplish that.”
Saving time by putting data at your fingertips
“At the end of the day, Kira saves our team a significant amount of time.”
“We’re saving countless hours that we used to spend organizing and conducting the first round of interviews,” shared Gonzales. “And it still gives us better insight into our applicants' skills and motivations than if we just had them writing essays.”
“Once we invite the group of finalists to the Kira assessment, I can focus on other work and loop back once all the assessments are completed,” she continued. “Kira manages the day-to-day work, maintaining deadlines, automatically sending reminders to applicants and reviewers, and assisting them with any technical questions. We laid everything out with Kira at the beginning and then I don’t have to think about that until it’s all done.”
“Within an hour of our last reviewer submitting their scores, our final reports are ready for us,” Gonzales shared. “Because we have weighted scores, calculating the final interview score and creating those reports used to take us a whole morning. Now, we have access to a wealth of analytics, including reviewer scoring averages, all done for us.”
“When it comes to deliberation time, Kira gives us everything we needed to make the final decision.”