March 2015

Hiring best practices

Principals can be key to recruiting and attracting effective teachers

Human resource professionals across the state are at their busiest this time of year because of the need to recruit and hire employees. Many districts rely on traditional recruiting activities, such as participating in university and local job fairs, to find the best talent. However, these efforts sometimes don’t meet the need for teachers in shortage areas and hard-to-fill positions. In today’s competitive market, it’s important to look at alternative ways to identify and attract the right people to your district.
 
Most HR leaders recognize the value of principals in the recruiting process and ensure that they are involved in job fairs as much as possible. That way, top candidates can be quickly referred to principals for interviews and early selection. Once the best candidates are identified, principals can develop an ongoing relationship with them to keep them engaged and enthusiastic about joining the campus team.
 
There are other steps that principals can take to become the key recruiter for their campus and help identify candidates that haven’t even applied to the district.
 
Zachary Hobbs, HR Services consultant and former principal, identifies several strategies that he used to find and attract talented staff to his campus. Hobbs recommends that principals begin to think of themselves as headhunters and look for the “hot shot” candidates so they can actively recruit them. “Take advantage of every networking opportunity. You never know who might be a great candidate for your next job opening,” Hobbs said.
 
A couple of characteristics distinguish headhunters from recruiters. First, they locate suitable candidates with a certain skill set, which is often harder to find or requires a certain background. Second, headhunters typically take a proactive and aggressive approach to finding suitable candidates by reaching out to individuals they feel are specifically qualified. This may include approaching suitable candidates who are employed elsewhere.
 
Hobbs suggests maintaining relationships with former students who become educators and enticing them with opportunities to move back home. “Building a positive relationship with students who are interested in the education field and maintaining contact with them after graduation is a good strategy,” Hobbs said. “The students currently walking your halls may be the next generation of great teachers.”
 
Current teachers are also a great resource to identify and connect with high-quality candidates. Principals can encourage their staff to help recruit friends and relatives from other districts and their alma mater.
 
Referral incentive programs may help, but the personal connections between a principal and their staff may be even more effective. New hires want to connect with their coworkers and know more about their supervisor. Knowing someone on staff who understands the campus culture and can help the candidate assimilate can provide the key to successful onboarding. “Look for and create opportunities for new staff to interact socially with their colleagues,” Hobbs said. “Bowling with frozen turkeys in the hall after school prior to Thanksgiving break is just one of the ways we helped staff connect.”
 
Networking is also a powerful tool, says Hobbs. In small districts where there isn’t a dedicated HR professional, the principals should get to know their neighbors. He recommends developing a two-way relationship with principals and staff so you can give and receive top talent referrals. “If I found a good candidate that I was unable to hire, I tried to connect him or her with a colleague who had an opening,” says Hobbs. “Next time, you may be on the receiving end of the deal.”
 
In large districts, HR recruiters work to establish relationships with university staff. It is a good idea for principals to do the same, especially in small districts. Building networks with local universities, especially with career placement staff and professors, can help you to identify top talent and encourage the referral of graduates to your district.