There I stood at the Top Research University recruitment fair, hoping to attract teacher candidates while positioned next to Big Oil Company and Big Tech Corporation, both of which paid salaries at least double of what my small school could afford for a new teacher. They had huge booths and cool swag, and most college seniors passed me by without a second glance. But not all. Two of my students had accompanied me that day and they told our story better than any glossy foam board or brochure. With the 2-minute marketing video on loop on my laptop and our “product” by my side, we found a number of solid applicants at that fair, two of whom I hired. They were not certified teachers, but that was easy enough to fix. They didn’t know that they were going to enter teaching when they showed up at the fair that day but were drawn in by a novel, relationship-centered approach.
Last week in this space we discussed energizing your marketing strategy. And I know many of you probably think “Sure, but we don’t have a corporate budget for wining and dining. Our swag consists of cheap ballpoint pens and stress balls.” The disparity in marketing funds does put education at a disadvantage in the recruitment game, but it is a relatively minor one. No one expects a school to fly them out to corporate to schmooze with a vice president over sushi. The real issue is that we recruit only the people who know they want to be teachers and have already initiated the teacher certification process. And there are fewer of them every year.
There are also missteps and missed opportunities. We attend college job fairs in the spring instead of the fall when the best and brightest college seniors are still available and undecided. We fail to hold meet and greet sessions in the evenings for potential candidates to allow for face time with school leaders and learn more about the schools at a time that works for them. We don’t take our recruitment to where people are – online.
From your website’s “Careers” page to your social media accounts, to your face-to-face marketing (think billboards, signs on school buses, etc.), you need to tell your story. What makes your school great? Why would someone want to work there? Education as a whole doesn’t do a good job with this. According to Glassdoor, 79% of job applicants use social media in their job search. What’s more, social media serves as a window into your school culture, as potential recruits browse pictures and content to get an idea of what you value. A quick scroll through some Large ISD Instagram accounts does not reveal any marketing targeted at teacher recruitment. Visits to a selection of district websites rarely turn up a marketing video or highly visible link for open positions, despite some of these districts having 5 plus pages of positions needing to be filled. It is, frankly, uninspiring.
No budget for a social media specialist or professionally produced video? Convene a focus group of your younger teachers or even your high school upperclassmen. See what attracts them. Chances are they have a keen eye for inventive and effective social media marketing. Partner with a local college’s business department to hold a contest for creating social media posts or a marketing video specifically aimed at recruiting teachers. A small cash prize and the opportunity to list this on a resume are great incentives. Never underestimate the value of social media marketing. In one year as a school director, I found a business manager through a Facebook post, a STEM elective teacher through Instagram, and a music teacher through an online news article. We got our story out there, we piqued interest, and we found great people. In-post links to job descriptions and online applications streamline the process for your potential applicants and serve to spur them to action.
If you are looking for inspiring examples of recruitment marketing, check out this SodaStream Recruitment video or Social Talent’s “Why do you hate your job?” video. Both take a quirky, heart-warming, and appealing spin on a traditional recruitment video. After watching them you know what these companies value and why people like to work there. They are from the corporate world, but they do away with the stuffy corporate image. Schools can’t offer Big Company money but can offer community, fulfillment, and a chance to work in a creative and exciting environment. Teachers – good teachers – want that. You have to find your own engaging way to show them how a job in your school or district can provide these less tangible benefits.
Salary is important, but job satisfaction doesn’t end there. We all know people who turn down larger salaries for more support or better working conditions. In my prior position, I didn’t share salary with a recruit until I knew I had his or her interest until I had seen them fall in love with our school and our mission. I still lost a few to more lucrative job offers at other schools, but I kept the ones with the passion and heart that I needed in a teacher. Teaching, unlike heart and passion, is a set of skills; it can be taught. Alternative certification programs like Teachers of Tomorrow have the curriculum and resources to impart these skills and set newly minted teachers up for classroom success.
There are potential teachers of the year working in all sorts of other industries, just waiting to be inspired to teach. Will you be the one to find them?
Skaggs, C. (2018, April 2). Going Inbound for Talent Acquisition. Glassdoor for Employers. https://www.glassdoor.com/employers/blog/going-inbound-talent-acquisition/
About Laura Henry
The former Executive Director of Chinquapin Preparatory School – a college prep boarding school for low-income students who are able and motivated – Dr. Laura Henry has worked in both public and private education for 30 years as a school leader, college professor, and alternative certification coach and trainer. Laura also serves as the Chair of the North American Boarding Forum for the Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA), and mentors underserved youth. Laura’s doctoral and master’s degrees are both from the University of Houston’s education department and her B.A. in History was earned at Rice University.
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