Ramp Up Your Recruitment

Three recruiting strategies any district can implement

In the midst of teacher shortages, competition from other districts, and changing expectations from new teachers, recruitment can be daunting. But now, you have a leg-up: you know what millennial teachers want and how districts are marketing for recruitment. Of course, no silver bullet strategy will magically end a teacher shortage or guarantee dozens of applicants. But by implementing these three simple tactics, you can take a step toward reeling in more great candidates.

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  1. Build a captivating careers page.
  2. Make the most of your social media.
  3. Turn your hiring process into a hiring experience.

#1: Build a captivating careers page.

Our research revealed that the vast majority of prospective teachers are scoping out district websites before applying, but only 8% of those websites have a dedicated careers page. Before anyone enters the interview room, your website is making a digital first impression, and if candidates can’t find your employment options easily, they may move on.

So, you need a careers page—but more than that, you need a good one. This is the cornerstone of your recruitment strategy. Throughout the recruiting process, you’re leaving enticing breadcrumbs and showing potential recruits how great your district is as a workplace. On your careers page, you’re laying it all out on the line: Here’s why you should choose our district.

Venn diagram intersection of what you uniquely provide and what the community needs is your core message

Start with culture.

In our research, we found that culture is a highly important factor in millennial teachers’ decision-making. To convince your applicants they’d love working for you, your careers page should highlight the most positive aspects of your district’s culture.

In the private sector, recruiters infuse every piece of the recruitment process, website included, with the company’s culture. The careers page for You Need a Budget (YNAB), for example, includes a link to the startup’s “culture
manifesto,” which highlights values like helpfulness, kindness, listening, and determination. “If you’re nodding emphatically while reading it,” they say, “you’ll probably fit right in.” Zapier, another startup, includes a “How We Work” section, hitting the high points of their work culture: “diversity and inclusion focus,” “opportunity to grow,” and the challenge to “solve interesting problems.”

Both companies use more than just words to get their points across: they feature photos and videos of smiling employees in action. Neither focuses on perks or
salary—instead, they emphasize how working for their company feels. If you’re not sure which values to highlight on your own careers page, ask your most enthusiastic employees. If your current teachers appreciate your district’s commitment to inclusiveness or your high expectations for students, odds are your candidates will, too.

But don’t just tell prospective teachers about your great culture—show them. When we asked the teachers we surveyed how they’d like to be recruited, several wanted to see the district, not just read about it. “Pictures of current students and activities caught my attention,” one teacher told us. “Photos and videos from things happening in your district are great!”

You don’t have to go so far as hiring a professional photographer to get great quality photos. A team of students from a photography or journalism class could do the trick. Either way, photos give your prospective teachers a sense of everyday life in your district.

Sell your community.

When they decide to join a school district, teachers are also deciding to join a new community—whether that means relocating or commuting from the next town over. Since location is such an important decision-making factor for your candidates, you need to make sure you’re selling your area and its culture along with your schools.

Issaquah School District, just outside of Seattle, Washington, markets the beauty of the city on their careers page. In a recruitment video of community members hiking, shopping, and paragliding, they say, “From arts and culture to shopping and nightlife, you have it all at your fingertips.” In Texas, San Angelo ISD features a “Discover San Angelo” promotional video on their recruitment page, including shots of the arts and history in the area. They include the “Top Ten Reasons to Choose San Angelo,” citing a low cost of living and a “mild, sunny climate.”

Washington’s Ridgefield School District lets community members speak for themselves. Ridgefield residents Tim and Kathy Roth explain their love for the district from the comfort of their own couch, answering questions like, “How long have you lived in Ridgefield?” and “What was it like to raise a family here?”

Even if your district isn’t in the nation’s most exciting locale, it surely has a few selling points. If you don’t have big city amenities, play up your small-town feel and close-knit community. Mention your short commute to a major city or the beautiful national park just down the road.

If you’re worried your location will really detract from your appeal, you can’t ignore the issue. Instead, you’ll need to work on making your district itself a selling point. For example, adding a new training program to offer young teachers opportunities for advancement could make your district “the best place to launch a career in education.”

No matter where your district is, find something good to say about your location—or create something worth talking about. Then, shout it from the mountaintops (or swamps).

Spotlight your teachers.

Like every employee on the job market, teachers want to be valued. “Make sure that teachers feel like they’re wanted,” said one respondent. “If they feel like they are wanted at the school or district and are going to be taken care of, then they are going to want to come and will do their job well.” Including the voices of enthusiastic educators on your careers page shows prospects, right from the get-go, that your district will value them.

Featuring employee testimonials in your recruiting materials convinces prospective teachers of your supportive leadership. Businesses in the private sector know this; they fill their careers pages with employee referrals. On the front page of YNAB’s website, a current employee explains how working there is so vastly different from his previous jobs. Whole Foods’ corporate careers page features pictures of smiling employees, gushing about their great experiences with the company.

In the education sector, districts like Oregon’s Medford Public Schools are following suit, giving the mic to teachers in one of their recruitment videos. “You get all the support you need from the staff, from the coaches, from the administration,” says one Medford teacher. “But at the same time, it has a sense of ‘family.’” In the first 30 seconds of Higley Unified’s recruitment video, a teacher recommends the district “because their leadership is supportive... they are ready to listen to teachers.”

Recruitment is like any other marketing effort—what you say about yourself matters less than what others say about you. Your prospects won’t necessarily believe what you say about your schools, but they’ll trust the recommendations of their fellow teachers.

#2: Make the most of your social media.

It’s no secret that millennials practically live on social media. Last year, eMarketer found that 58.5 million millennials are on Facebook, and 43.3 million are on Instagram. And they aren’t alone. Pew Research shows that around 57% of Baby Boomers on are social media as well.

So why aren’t more millennial teachers surfing district social media as they research schools? Only 22% of the teachers we surveyed indicated that they’d checked social media when researching jobs, but open responses told a different story. “Social media is key,” one teacher told us. “I love being involved on campus and seeing exciting things happening at the school.” Another said they specifically look for school leaders on social media.

But here’s the kicker: according to our research, 22% of districts aren’t even present on social media. Less than half are on both Facebook and Twitter. Therefore, it seems likely that candidates aren’t checking district social media accounts because there isn’t much to check.

Like your careers page, your social media should be hitting the high points your recruits care about: your culture, your location, and your support for teachers. (This is also a great place to use those awesome photos you got for your careers page.) Your posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram should give your prospective candidates a window into what it’s like to work in your district.

Show your teachers some love.

Your teachers should be a major focal point of your district’s social media presence. Promoting the great work your faculty does every day builds trust with your community, makes your current teachers feel valued, and shows prospective teachers that you’re a supportive school leader.

As you decide what to post on social media, gather stories about your teachers and their classrooms. If the high school AP government teacher is holding a mock election, or first grade students are putting on a play, post about it. When in doubt, follow your social media-savvy teachers and watch what they post from the classroom. Sharing or retweeting current teachers’ content not only boosts your faculty’s credibility, but proves to prospective hires that you value your teachers’ innovative ideas.

Actively engage teachers on social media.

You may already be involved in a few education Twitter chats—public Twitter conversations bound together by a unique hashtag. These chats can also be a great place to find and engage with prospective teachers.

If there are hashtags for teachers in your state or region (#CAedchat in California, for example), jump in on those conversations. If you can tweet, retweet, and like from a personal account, rather than the official district account, even better. “I find that leaders who leverage Twitter (or similar media) to grow their [Personal Learning Networks] or connect with other educators and leaders are most effective,” one survey respondent told us. “I want to work with school leaders who are forward-thinking and part of the conversation.”

Staying active in your region’s Twitter chats gives you the chance to build personal connections with prospects before they even apply—and those relationships will help you stand out in the job search.

#3: Turn your hiring process into a hiring experience.

Believe it or not, even your hiring process itself is a form of marketing. Once you’ve convinced candidates to apply, the pressure’s on to sell your school. Hiring, after all, is a two-way street. You’re not just evaluating your applicants; they’re evaluating you. And, more likely than not, your dream candidate is considering several options.

The good news is that you have an opportunity here to really wow your candidates. Adding a few creative touches at this stage can elevate your hiring process to a hiring experience.

Treat the job posting as your first touchpoint.

Any touchpoint with a potential recruit is an opportunity to share the district’s brand, and in many cases, the job posting itself is the very first touch: your initial chance to impress a potential candidate. It’s not enough to post an opening without including a job description (as many districts we researched did), but even a run-of-the-mill list of roles and responsibilities won’t separate you from the competition.

The best descriptions don’t just explain what teachers will be doing on a day-to-day basis. They describe the district’s unique culture, including the particular traits a recruit should possess in order to thrive in that environment.

Lever, a leading software recruiting company, recommends writing “impact descriptions.” Along with a list of the ins and outs of the position, they detail the impact employees will make on the job. These impact descriptions not only provide a more concrete breakdown of the job, but also set expectations for employees’ success and provide a sense of purpose—which is key for millennial candidates. They’re also a great place to outline support potential teachers will receive in their roles or the professional growth opportunities available to them.

Get creative with the application process

Your prospective teachers are more than likely filling out several applications at a time—most of which look more or less the same. That uniformity gives your district a great chance to stand out from the crowd.

Instead of focusing purely on their resumes, leave space in your application to let candidates show their personalities. In our applications, we ask questions like, “How have you become a better version of yourself in the past year?” or “In 150 words or less, tell us what makes you unique.” You could even include a creative assignment. Ask candidates to submit a mock lesson plan, or record themselves presenting a lecture.

Your application should do more than show you your favorite candidates. It should make your prospects remember you—and want to work for you.

Give interviews a personal touch.

Interviews are an opportunity for applicants to experience your school’s culture. During this process, your candidates should understand, instinctively, that this is a district that will value their contributions.

This realization has changed the way interviews work in Medford Public Schools. “We used to do it in batches, and principals would sit on those committees. Now it’s
personalized interviews,” Medford Superintendent Brian Shumate tells SchoolCEO. “We want them to feel more of a personal touch when they interview with our district.”

Building that personal touch goes beyond one-on-one interviews. Michelle Hart, former VP of People Operations at media company Whisper, recommends giving candidates a short tour as part of a first interview. Walking through the halls of their potential school will help teachers “envision what their day-to-day would look like,” Hart says. It would also give them a chance to interact with other teachers in their potential departments.

Some districts even bring actual students into the hiring process, giving candidates a feel for the real, everyday work. Kelly Middleton, superintendent of Kentucky’s Newport Independent Schools, recommends recruiting students to simulate a class period, or even walk around campus with the prospective teacher. “Generally, when students are excited about the candidate, they end up being a great hire,”
Middleton writes in his book Competing for Kids. After all, your students have a better sense of your district’s culture than just about anyone else.

If a candidate really seems like a winner, set up time for them to meet informally with their potential boss, suggests Melissa Trahan, Head of Talent atThread, a style brand. “This is a great time for them to surface questions and build rapport,”  she adds. “Often, it can be the turning point meeting that drives your candidate to say yes.”

Make the job offer a celebration.

When you find the perfect candidate, the way you offer a position can mean the difference between acceptance or rejection. Remember, it’s likely your dream teacher is getting other offers—so how can you set yours apart?

Little touches here can make a huge difference. Lever suggests mailing your would-be hire branded gear—a T-shirt emblazoned with your mascot or a pennant in your school colors. If you want to add a more personal touch, send a jersey with the teacher’s last name on the back. By doing this, “you’re relaying the message that you really want them to be a team member,” Lever says. “In fact, you clearly already see them as one.”

Hart recommends sending a personalized video to any candidate who receives an offer, featuring their new team excited to welcome them. “First of all, this makes them feel special,” Hart says, “and secondly, you can increase acceptance rates—and promote your brand even if the candidate turns down your offer.” The more personal details you can include, the better. Hiring a new choir teacher?  Have your current employees sing a welcome song!

Ramping up your recruitment strategy doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Like any marketing strategy, it just means prioritizing the needs of your customers—in this case, your prospective teachers. Both through your marketing and the experiences you create, you can send teachers (especially millennials) exactly the message they want to hear— and recruit great talent for your district.


Takeaways

  • Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce. We estimate that there are 1.2 million millennial teachers working today.
  • Most millennials see salary as moderately, but not extremely, important.
  • School culture, location, and leadership also have a significant impact on teachers’ career decisions.
  • While over 80% of millennial teachers are looking for hiring information online, only 8% of the school websites we researched had dedicated careers pages.
  • Knowing what your prospective teachers want and where they’re looking for information lets you tailor your recruitment marketing to the specific needs of millennials.
  • Careers pages, social media, and the recruitment experience can help you draw in better candidates.


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