We all know that not every teacher suits every school, but when there seems to be a dwindling pool of professionals to choose from, it is easy to think that there is no alternative but to appoint anyone who shows up.
In some parts of the country, for some subjects, you can put out an advert five times and still yield few or no applications. With such a teacher shortage, you can understand headteachers catapulting their only candidate straight into the classroom.
However, choosing the wrong person can be disastrous. Managing a member of staff who is not right for your school can be expensive and time consuming: they can lower morale in a department, cause chaos in classrooms and elicit a ton of complaints to wade through.
That isn’t to say they’re necessarily a bad teacher, but if they’re not in tune with the existing team or contributing to the ethos of the school, they can do a lot more harm than good.
So, how do you ensure you get someone through the door who is the right fit for your school?
Get your advert right
Your school is unique, and when you advertise for a new teacher, you should sell it on what sets it apart. Adverts can often be bland, so word it in a way that stands out and draws attention to your school’s USP. Give candidates a good sense of what you are all about.
This means being honest; if your school is in challenging circumstances or in the unfashionable part of town, make it clear straightaway – you might narrow the number of candidates who apply but you’ll be sure those that do will be a better fit.
Either in the advert itself or in among the supporting literature, have something written by the children themselves. No amount of headteacher vision or nicely formatted person specification can beat a direct plea from a teacher’s potential new class.
Leave your options open
By the time applications have closed, and you’ve shortlisted and invited candidates, some of the potential recruits may have been snapped up already, so consider having a rolling advert, without an official closing date.
We appoint very successfully using rolling adverts, keeping them live until we appoint and asking potential candidates in for interview if we feel their application is good enough.
Let the new recruits loose
When you invite your candidate(s) into school, ensure they spend plenty of time with their potential new students and colleagues. You need to know how your potential new member of staff will interact with those who will be closest to them if they get the job.
Ask the right questions
It sounds simple, but make the interview as much about your values as a school, and the culture of learning and teaching you promote, as the applicant’s CV. Be really sure that this person will fit in and will believe in what you are trying to achieve.
Regardless of how tempting it is to appoint for the sake of appointing, there are other solutions, so be picky and be patient. Picking a teacher who does not match your school is a far worse proposition – and you may soon find that you have to appoint a replacement anyway.
Keziah Featherstone is co-founder and national leader for #WomenEd. She is a member of the Headteachers' Roundtable and head of Q3 Academy Tipton. She tweets at @keziah70
Are you struggling to find the perfect candidate? Speak to our smartMatch team who can help match staff with your requirements.