Planning ahead for recruitment

Written by: Rebecca Oram | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

How can you make your recruitment processes more efficient? Rebecca Oram shares some long-term, low-cost strategies for success

Last year, our State of Education survey found that teacher recruitment and retention was the third biggest challenge for school leaders – so what steps can you take to be proactive, and attract the best candidates, without breaking the bank?

Plan ahead

Many schools only think about recruitment when vacancies occur, but this approach can often cost more money, time and effort. As schools face rising costs and shrinking budgets, planning well into the future may be the solution to managing some of these challenges.
Instigating a system of “planned recruitment”, by forecasting likely staff turnover, along with possible changes to the curriculum, can help schools better understand the likelihood of needing to recruit for certain roles.

Build a brand

If you were to search for your school on the internet right now, what would come up? Potential staff will search online to find out more about your school and how it is different from others. Having a positive image is therefore an important part of a continuous recruitment strategy.

Having active social media channels and publishing regularly on your school’s website to promote the positive activities your school is doing can be an effective way of publicising your school’s culture and attracting candidates. This type of digital marketing is low-cost and while it may be time-consuming at first, it could pay off in the long term.

Similarly, in shaping your digital presence, it can be useful for schools to start to build up a network of contacts within the teaching profession as this can increase the likelihood of finding an outstanding teacher. In doing so, when a vacancy arises there may already be warm interest, and a curated pool of candidates.

Communicate your strengths

Building a strong brand relies on knowing your school’s vision, aims and strengths, and being able to communicate them effectively. To identify these, ask your teachers what they enjoy about working at the school. Some points to consider include:

  • What the school does well.
  • Their reasons for feeling emotionally attached to the school.
  • What might attract other teachers to apply?
  • What has been the school’s most significant improvement in the last 12 to 24 months?

Additionally you could survey the senior leadership team to reach a consensus on the school’s vision and goals. Building a strong sense of purpose, and creating a clear aim, helps a school to build a positive reputation, culture and network. This, in turn, can help you to attract and retain the right staff.

Develop good recruitment habits

Breaking away from unhelpful habits is important for ensuring recruitment is as effective as possible. For example, you may keep using the same advertising methods even if these have proved to be expensive and ineffective in the past.

A Head for Hiring, a report by the CIPD – the professional body for HR – sets out the importance of evaluating what works in recruitment and adapting appropriately, such as experimenting with a job advert. So, for example, you might try three different adverts and measure which attracts the most interest.

Ensure applying is easy

Schools should carefully consider what information they are sending to applicants who have expressed interest. Interested applicants may be deterred by generic information and long application forms.

The CIPD report also considers how the candidate’s experience of the process is their first impression of the organisation. Small changes, that ease the experience, such as making sure the application form is just a few clicks from the website homepage, can make all the difference.

Furthermore, a bad experience can be spread through word of mouth. If a candidate finds applying to your school arduous or stressful, they may tell others about this and dissuade good candidates from applying in the future.

Therefore, ensure that you ask for feedback on the process from both rejected and accepted candidates so that you can pick up on anything that might need changing.

Pick the right person

It sounds simple, but a recruitment process that ends in the hiring of a new teacher who is not a good fit for the school is not financially efficient. Furthermore, such a process could lead to low retention, unsettled pupils and the need to recruit again.

Schools should therefore focus on recruiting candidates who are a good fit. It may be worth asking candidates to fill in a profile questionnaire to quickly assess suitability. The questionnaire will allow you to see if the values and aims of candidates match the values and aims of the school, hopefully giving you someone that will stay for longer and easily fit in with the rest of the team.

  • Rebecca Oram works at The Key, which provides impartial leadership and management support to schools in England. This article has been written with advice from Dean Kelly, a recruitment specialist and advisor. Visit

Further information

A Head for Hiring: The behavioural science of recruitment and selection, CIPD, August 2015:

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