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Prepare the bait and reel in recruits

We are in the middle of a big recruitment drive. We have a hundred applications to be sifted and sorted. Some are easily discarded, such as the one from an individual who listed three teaching qualifications and four teaching posts and nothing more as evidence of his suitability for headship! Others require detailed scrutiny with their carefully crafted letters of application that use evidence of past experience as indicators of what they could bring to the new post.

My mind drifts back to one of those special moments. It happened during a coffee break at a seminar for headteachers on selection procedures. The usual chatter and banter gave way to a more serious debate as to whether or not interviewing was an art or a science. Bill had been around for a long time and he listened, his eyes half closed. His jacket still held the sweet smell of the pipe he had enjoyed when the session finished. He let the arguments range between the two camps and, just as one young head was about to bang the table to emphasise his point, Bill coughed and sighed: "Nay lad, you're both wrong. Interviews aren't art or science. They're sport."

His analogy was that of a fisherman, baiting the hook and casting on to the waters in the hope of landing a prize specimen. "Your advert's the bait,"

he said. "The wrong type and you catch nothing but a cold. The interview is the battle to land the fish and pop it in your catch net. Finding good teachers is like that, but it is only when you get them in the classroom that you know if you have caught a tiddler or a prize beauty."

The secret of successful recruitment is careful preparation. Make sure that you are clear about what you want for your school. It is not just about the subject or the class. It is about the dynamics of the school, the balance of the team and the demands of the children. The tone of your advertisement and the presentation of the job descriptions and person specifications matter enormously. An adventurous, ambitious applicant will be more attracted to a lively, dynamic advertisement than to one which is formal and traditional. A job description that points to innovation and responsibility is more likely to encourage creative, independent applications than a very prescribed and structured one.

Bill was right. Recruiting is like fishing. It takes skill and patience.

Nicely prepared bait helps enormously. Landing the fish is another matter.

The nature of the background information, the tone of the initial emails, the way in which applicants are welcomed to the interview, the support they receive through the process all makes a difference. It doesn't stop there.

You need to nurture good staff from the moment of appointment to the day another fisherman tempts them off to new waters. Happy fishing!

Philip Schofield is an educational consultant who can be contacted at

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