School recruitment during lockdown: when and how to hire a teacher

Recruitment has been challenging for schools

With all schools in the UK closed from 20th March 2020, and only partly reopened from 1st June, many schools faced the challenge of carrying out their recruitment during lockdown. Normally, this process would consist of: 

  • a job being advertised; 
  • candidates submitting an application form and cover letter; 
  • the SLT would create a shortlist;
  • references check;
  • Invite shortlisted candidates to the next stage of the recruitment process. 

The next stage is tricky as this would usually involve inviting the candidates to deliver a lesson to a class and for a face-to-face interview. This simply wasn’t possible during the peak season for teacher recruitment! 

After speaking to 150+ schools in the North West of England (47 in-depth surveys and 100+ poll responses on social media platforms), we noticed a few distinctive trends:

  • For some school leaders, the recruitment of teachers for the new academic year was forced down the pecking order of priorities; they decided to put off their recruitment until autumn. 20% of school leaders that we spoke to said that they were looking to recruit a teacher in September: a figure that is much higher than previous years.
  • ⅓ of the schools decided to proceed with their recruiting. Even the stick-to-what-we-know school leaders were forced into using technology in their recruitment process. Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Zoom were popular go-tos. Aside from the occasional glitchy connection and background distractions, schools have confirmed that it served its purpose in allowing interviews to take place.  
  • A few forward-thinking school leaders decided to take this challenge as an opportunity to enhance their recruitment process. Starting from how many people are involved in the process and how much time is spent on one recruitment round, and finishing with what kind of insight they gained into candidates before hiring. 

How did some schools manage to enhance their recruitment process during lockdown? The advice we got from top-performing schools included the following:

Before recruitment round starts

  • Accept that recruitment is not going to be the same and find what works for your school.
  • Discuss your school values and vision again with your leadership team and staff. This will help you make a list of qualities and characteristics you appreciate in teachers and what is a definite ‘no’, so it is easier to detect these qualities in candidates even if the entire process takes place online.
  • Make sure you over-communicate throughout the process.
    The transition period is going to take some time, but in the end you will be able to hire great candidates even faster and more efficiently than before. Allocate a few hours to write down the new process, how many stages there are, what skills or qualities are being assessed at each of them and how long it takes. Then share this information with the entire leadership team, just in case the panel will be changed in the middle of the process due to quarantine.
  • Keep the safer recruitment policy, the recruitment policy and your calendars with deadlines and call dates updated.

During recruitment round 

  • For phone interviews, agree on 4 to 6 things that your panel would like to learn about candidates. List a few points you’d like candidates to remember about your school after the interview – this prep work makes it easier to sell your school during the call.
  • Prior to video interviews, make sure all your panel members know how to use video-conferencing software (Google Meet, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc.). Let the candidates know that this will be a video call.
  • At a video interview, give the candidates your full attention. Keep your microphones on mute unless you’re speaking as there might be background noises or equipment glitches.
  • For remote lessons or tasks such as presentations, use an appropriate digital portfolio tool. This will prevent your entire team from having to go through tens of emails, links and documents, all in different formats.
  • Let your student council and/or your staff get involved. Share the lesson recordings or digital portfolios with them and ask them to make notes. They might notice things that you did not prioritise at first.

Using digital content for teacher recruitment during the pandemic

Digital content can provide increased insight into a teacher’s personality, experience and teaching style: all vital indicators as to whether a teacher is a good-fit for your school or not.  Being a team of an Assistant Headteacher and a Deputy Headteacher, and based on feedback from school leaders across the UK, we have developed a platform that allows school leaders to request specific digital content from each of their candidates. Either all applicants or shortlisted teachers submit videos, photos and text in a form of a ‘digital portfolio’. SLT then browse and compare portfolios in one simple dashboard. 

We asked the school leaders, who used our digital portfolio tool called Teacherfolio, which piece of digital content they found most useful. 

Two thirds found the ‘15 minute lesson starter’ to be the most insightful. While another popular choice of content was ‘a 1 minute video of the candidate stating why they believe they are a good-fit for your school.’ 

We also asked the school leaders if the Teacherfolios provided more insight into the candidates than the cover letters. 100% of school leaders confirmed that they did.

Finally, we asked the school leaders how Teacherfolio compares to other recruitment services that they have used.

If you are interested in using Teacherfolio to enhance your recruitment, view all features and benefits on www.teacherfolio.com. If you want more advice on online recruitment or to request a demo, email john@teacherfolio.com.