It's impossible to find good teachers!
We're scraping the bottom of the barrel!
There just isn't anyone out there!
School leaders sure like to complain about the teacher shortage.
Certainly, there is a degree of truth to these claims. Few would question we live in a time when demand for highly qualified teachers is high and supply of highly qualified teachers is low.
However, as the saying goes, "where there's a will, there's a way." Rather than pout about their situation, some districts need to reassess their teacher recruitment strategy.
Many schools place teacher recruitment low on their priority list. Instead of strategizing how to attract highly talented employees to their classrooms, leaders prioritize test scores, student discipline, teacher development, district initiatives, and culture-building.
While all are important for school success, this previous statement poses a subtle irony. When schools recruit and hire effective staff, other priorities have a way of taking care of themselves.
Some school districts - especially those in large metropolitan areas - have their pick of the litter when it comes to hiring. As young singles prioritize living in areas where they have endless options for dining, nightlife, and social activities, these school districts have the luxury of turning away droves of outstanding candidates.
If only all school districts had this problem.
Nearly one third of school districts in the United States are located in "rural" areas with less than 2,500 residents. Lacking the built-in amenities of their large-district counterparts, small districts face an uphill battle when it comes to alluring and securing strong applicants.
While rural schools have problems attracting teachers to their district, urban schools - especially those in low-income areas - experience high degrees of teacher turnover. This constant exodus of staff opting to work in more-affluent schools across town results in similar teacher shortages for inner city schools.
Clearly, rural and urban schools have their work cut out for them when it comes to attracting candidates to their districts. So, what steps can leaders take to address these issues? Here are eight steps to consider:
Post Jobs Early: Interviewing early during hiring season is the most important step for recruiting quality candidates to your district. The first step is issuing contracts to current employees the first day possible (in Iowa this is March 15th). Sending contracts early not only allows leaders to gauge who is planning to return, but also forces administrators to make decisions on low-performing staff.
Market Job Openings: Many school districts use outdated approaches to promote teacher openings. Rather than utilize social media and digital communication to proactively market open positions, school leaders passively post openings on job search websites and in local newspapers. In a time when teachers are in high demand, districts must ensure vacancies are seen by large audiences.
Employee Referral Bonus: Do not underestimate word of mouth marketing when it comes to teacher recruitment. According to a Nielsen study, 92% of individuals trust recommendations from friends and family more than they do advertising. By offering a $250 referral bonus to current staff who recruit new teachers to our district, employees are motivated to contact friends when jobs become available.
Actively Recruit Alumni: When looking for potential teaching candidates, consider aspiring teachers who graduated from your school district. While some may have no interest in returning, the truth is many students will display interest if properly courted. Districts should create lists of alumni entering the teaching profession, reaching out periodically to gauge interest in returning.
Utilize Transparency: For some strange reason, school districts enjoy withholding useful information from job candidates. One prime example is when leaders keep compensation information “top secret” until the hire is made. School leaders – please stop playing games with candidates! Candidates should know the “total package” (salary + benefits + pension) range from the start of the hiring process.
Provide Updates: No longer can employers sit back and refrain from reaching out to candidates for weeks at a time during the selection process. During hiring season, every day matters. Not only is poor communication rude to the applicant, there is a good chance another district will swoop in and secure the candidate when contact is not sustained.
Text Message: Whether you agree or not, text messaging is how the younger generation communicates. From initial recruitment through the induction process, employers must embrace texting when communicating with candidates. Worried text messaging could result in legal trouble? Lawyers agree texting provides greater legal protection as compared to unmonitored phone calls.
Create a Pitch: So maybe your district can't compete with the large city 60 miles away, but what can your district offer? Leaders must be prepared to deliver a convincing 30-second "elevator speech" to prospective employees on demand. Why should a candidate consider your district? What advantages does your school offer that other schools don't? Use your best sales pitch to make a great first impression.
In a world where highly-qualified teachers are difficult to find, there are two options: Either you can complain about the teacher shortage, or you can take matters into your own hands.
Districts can no longer sit back and wait for candidates to find their schools. Instead, districts must take steps to actively recruit teaching candidates.