What teaching can learn from other sectors about recruitment

We asked experts in different fields for tips on how they seek out and appoint the right new staff

Jamie Stinson

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You've attended careers fairs, placed ads in local papers and asked every member of staff to pass the details of each vacancy on to friends and family. So why, as summer approaches, do you still find yourself lacking a head of physics?

This is a problem that will be familiar to many school leaders. In the current climate of falling applications for initial teacher training, appointing the right new staff can be a real challenge. Following the same old formula isn’t always good enough and many headteachers are finding that they need to take a more proactive approach to recruitment.

The question is: where do you turn when your tried and tested methods are not delivering the candidates?

One solution is to look to the world of business, suggests Pia Carnegie, lecturer in human resource management at Bucks New University.

“Business has broken free from the constraints of ‘we’ve always done it this way’ and there are lessons to be learned for the education sector. Schools that want to secure the best teachers of tomorrow should be reviewing their approach to recruitment now to stay ahead of the game. There is an opportunity for schools to seize the initiative and take proactive steps to secure strong candidates who are in the market for a job change,” she says.

So, what do these steps look like?

Building your brand

The term "brand" may seem like a vague marketing buzzword, but your school’s brand is an important concept to consider when trying to attract the right applicants because it determines how the school is presented to the outside world. Potential employees will consider your brand when judging whether or not to apply for your vacancy.

In fact, LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends Report found that more than 80 per cent of leaders feel their business's branding has a significant impact on their ability to hire talent.

“Schools, like all other organisations, must recognise that brand is king and image is everything in the highly competitive world of recruitment,” Carnegie agrees.

“The education sector can learn from the business world that selling their brand and culture is key to attracting the best talent. Those schools which convey the core values of their institution, staff and students stand the best chance of differentiating themselves in an already overcrowded pack.”

Get things trending

Your school’s brand will be inextricably tied to its website and social media account. Social media has now become an essential part of the recruitment strategy for most businesses, and it should be part of your school’s strategy too, suggests Carnegie.

“Current recruitment trends in other sectors and industries show that it’s vital to go beyond the paper CV to identify potential candidates. More and more businesses are using social media outlets such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to target candidates directly,” she explains.

Unsurprisingly, Carnegie adds, the technology industry is particularly creative when it comes to social media recruitment campaigns, because their “discipline lends itself to it”. However, other industries are beginning to catch up.

“MasterCard, through a social media campaign directed at students, and Google, which regularly targets specific job disciplines with its adverts, are examples of companies doing the right things to attract candidates,” she says.

Diversify your staffroom

But the number one trend that will shape recruitment in the next few years, according to LinkedIn, is hiring a greater diversity of candidates.

This idea is supported by research from recruitment specialists Robert Walters, which found that 85 per cent of employers feel that increasing diversity in their workforce is a priority, with 73 per cent also believing that diversity is important to encourage creative and innovative thinking within an organisation.

According to LinkedIn, the ability to attract more diverse talent can be achieved only by fostering a culture where staff are encouraged to be themselves and different opinions are respected.

As well as attracting candidates, creating a diverse and inclusive staffroom will also increase your chances of retaining teachers, according to research by Patrick F. McKay, a professor of human resource management at Rutgers University.

Finding someone who fits

In addition to reaching out to diverse candidates, schools also need to recognise that while qualifications and experience are important, they certainly aren’t everything. Finding someone who fits in with the culture of your organisation is just as important.

A popular technique used by businesses to test cultural compatibility is the group interview, in which several candidates are interviewed at once. John Watkins, director of employability at The University of Law, argues that this exercise “replicates workplace dynamics”.

“Recruiters will look for professional behaviour, influencing skills and a good fit for their own culture in the collaborative style adopted,” he says.

Finding a candidate who will fit well into the culture of the school, as well as into the existing team, should be an integral part of a school’s recruitment policy. Group interviews are one option but Carnegie highlights a number of other methods that businesses are using to measure whether someone is the correct cultural fit.

“Businesses are turning to creative ways to test soft skills and cultural fit, predominantly through the use of things like psychometric tests and assessment centres,” she says.

“One approach is to ask a series of seemingly random questions to get a better understanding of their candidate. Some questions include: ‘what’s the most important book you have read?’, ‘describe your next three years in five sentences’, and ‘choose six dinner party guests and explain your choices’”.

Are you struggling to find the perfect candidate? Speak to our smartMatch team who can help match staff with your requirements.  

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