Twenty-five years ago, I was looking for my second teaching post. It proved to be such a frustrating experience that I felt moved to write about it. My article was published right here in Tes, and I was subsequently appointed to a promoted post. I don’t think the two were connected.
Twenty-five years later, and I am looking once more for another teaching post.
When I trained back in the day, leggings were fashionable workwear and you dared not sit down in the staffroom for fear of stealing someone’s chair. I once spent a whole term of teaching practice standing up during breaktimes, as it was made very clear there was not a chair spare for the likes of me.
Having hopped back on the recruitment bus, I am astounded and dismayed to see that the very things that bemused me then are still very much alive. Systems are ineffective and outdated – and sometimes just plain rude.
How to bring teacher recruitment up to date
Now, I do fully realise that, by writing this, I am running the risk of alienating myself and committing professional suicide. But, in the spirit of progress, I feel it is my duty to offer you – with good intentions and a positive outlook – a swift guide to overhauling the recruitment process for the benefit of the entire teaching profession.
1. Get your advert right
Decide how much you are paying, when the job starts, whether it is part-time, where to find the correct details and forms, who to email.
Once you have decided that, proofread your advert. God knows it costs an arm and a leg to advertise, so why waste time and money by being in a rush to get it out there with a load of mistakes in it?
2. Application forms
This is my biggest bugbear. Format, format, format. A total nightmare of cells, tables, differing fonts, locked sections, not enough room, incompatibility.
The amount of time spent reformatting forms to accommodate more than two educational establishments and more than three jobs is utterly soul destroying. Last time around, I spent three hours making the form look normal, and one hour actually inputting the information.
In an ideal world there would be – dare I say it – one national template, which no school could tweak apart from adding its logo. There you go, Gavin Williamson – you can have that one on me.
3. Response times
In this day and age, it is almost unthinkable that you would not or could not reply to an email. When a candidate has taken four hours or more to wrestle with an application, the least they deserve is acknowledgement of its safe receipt.
Similarly, once shortlisting has taken place, it is a simple process to email the other applicants to let them know they have been unsuccessful.
4. Interview dates
I would like to think that, if I were in the position of recruiting new staff, I would decide in advance when I was going to interview them. I mean, schools are busy – you need to set time aside.
In light of this: set the date, publish the date, stick to the date. Applicants have lives, families and jobs. They need to know when they can expect to be called. I once had an invitation at 4.30pm to interview the following morning. Oh, and could I prepare a presentation and an assembly? Answer: no.
5. The actual interview
I could write an entire book on the subject of teacher job interviews. But, for the sake of brevity, here are the most salient points.
The logistics of the day are key. Does it really have to take an entire day?
Staggering your process and editing out needless tasks will make the whole thing less painful for everyone.
How much hanging around are your candidates going to have to do? Sitting around waiting for ages isn’t the best advert for your school.
Are you feeding your candidates? If so, give them something that will not challenge their smart workwear. An icing-sugar-dusted doughnut, for example, causes anxiety when combined with a dark suit jacket.
What are you asking, and why? Interview questions should cover all the really important stuff.
For goodness' sake, do not throw in any daft curveballs, such as “Describe yourself in six words”. I have had this. My answer was trite – but should have been: “I do not jump through hoops.”
I often wonder if schools review their recruitment policies as much as they review everything else. Perhaps, given the events of the past year and the move to online interviews, this might be a time to give things a spring clean.
Meanwhile, as much as I would like to stay and spew forth relentlessly about job hunting, I do have another application to complete. I have downloaded the form and need to spend three hours untangling it before I can fill it in.
Zoë Crockford is an art teacher at a secondary school in Bournemouth