Managing remote recruitment during the coronavirus closures

Written by: Xavier Roeseler | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

The prospect of running a recruitment round during lockdown might feel daunting. Xavier Roeseler outlines how you can adapt your current recruitment process while schools are closed, to ensure you can still find the right candidates for your school

Take extra precautions so the process runs smoothly

You will need to plan for the possibility that staff involved in the recruitment process may be off sick. Use a shared drive for all recruitment documents and make sure everyone who needs to has access.

At the end of each day, note down where you are at in the recruitment process and what the next steps are, so that others can pick it up. As this will likely be the first time many of you carry out remote recruitment, add extra buffer time into your process to account for any delays. Also, have more than one recruitment panel member trained in safer recruitment.

It is important to over-communicate throughout the process. Make sure panel members and candidates are clear on what the entire recruitment process will look like – how many stages there will be, how candidates will be assessed, and a rough timescale. This will help to reassure candidates.

Decide what you need to adapt in your recruitment process and review any relevant policies. Make sure you update your policies to reflect the changes – e.g. your safer recruitment policy.

Have an additional phone interview to screen candidates

This will give you another opportunity to get to know the candidates, assess them and build a relationship with them, making the process more robust. Treat this as a formal stage of the recruitment process – be clear on what you want to learn about candidates. Set five or six questions and ask each candidate the same questions so that you can easily compare. You can also use this extra step as an opportunity to sell your school. Make a note of the three things you want candidates to go away thinking, and be sure to get those across. Wrap this call up in 30 minutes – that should be more than enough time.

Speak with referees before the interview

Once you have shortlisted candidates for the remote interview, follow your usual practice for seeking references, but ask for three referees instead of just two. Also, ask to chat over the phone so you can probe and build up a more accurate picture of candidates.

Set up remote interviewing – and test it

You will need an account with a video-conferencing provider (Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Zoom, etc.) Make sure panel members have a quiet space that is well lit, and that their camera and microphone work well. Test it out with panel members to make sure you are happy with the set-up – you want it to feel just like a real interview.

You should also organise a trial run with candidates. Use this conversation as an opportunity to let them know how the interview will take place and ask them whether they need any reasonable adjustments for the interview itself. You can also use this to continue to build up your relationship with candidates (they will feel more at ease during the interview) and fix any issues with the set-up.

Get your panel members up-to-scratch on etiquette during the interview. The panel should be appropriately dressed and you should give candidates your full attention. Nominate a chair to manage the interview process and invite panel members to speak – agree beforehand who will ask what questions.

Use physical cues – like putting your hand up – during discussions so the candidate knows who is about to speak and keep microphones on mute unless you are talking.

Prepare interview questions as you normally would but give candidates extra time to answer questions. Type each question into the chat function of the software so that you are sure candidates have heard you right. Add more safeguarding questions if needed since you will not be meeting candidates face-to-face.

Plan an alternative to traditional lesson observations

If your school is currently delivering remote lessons, ask candidates to deliver one remotely. Otherwise, review the evidence you are normally looking for when observing a lesson and use this to set specific interview questions. You can also organise for a group of pupils, for example those on the student council, to meet candidates remotely. Have someone from the panel there to observe and make notes so you have something to refer back to when choosing your preferred candidate.

Most other interview tasks will probably be the same. Decide whether you want candidates to complete tasks before, during or after the interview and make sure this is clear to them ahead of time – including how long they will have to complete the task and how to submit it.

For tasks such as presentations, ask candidates to send a video of themselves delivering the task so that you can review them in your own time and not over video-conference.

Get candidates for senior positions to meet staff remotely

If you are recruiting for a senior position, you will likely want candidates to meet staff. Organise a timetable and send it to candidates and your staff. Use a single video-conference link that candidates can stay on and have specific times for members of staff or groups to log in and meet candidates. As you normally would, ask members of staff to feedback on their impression of the candidates.

Check ID documents remotely

For DBS checks during coronavirus, instead of having to see physical ID documents face-to-face, you will be able to see them via scanned images and video link. The applicant will still need to present the original versions of these documents when they first attend in person. All other pre-employment checks continue as normal (Disclosure and Barring Service, 2020).

  • Xavier Roeseler is a lead content producer at The Key, a provider of information and resources for school leaders. This article is an extract from The Key’s resource Recruitment during coronavirus: How to manage it remotely, which was produced with its associate education experts Isabel Jacobs, Munir Mamujee, Andy Puttock and Tony Cook. Visit

Further information

Disclosure and Barring Service: COVID-19: Changes to DBS ID checking guidelines, March 2020:

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