The COVID pandemic may have increased the number of people looking to train as teachers, but it’s always important for your school to recruit the best from those available – and there are many schools that always find it hard to recruit new staff.
However, if you look at the websites that host primary school jobs, you’d be hard-pressed to realise this – they all seem to start the same way! ‘School X is looking for a creative, highly skilled, passionate, outstanding, hard-working teacher’.
Why should a teacher then apply for your school rather than the one down the road - or increasingly one in an attractive overseas location? Or what if you set the bar so high that they don’t feel they tick all the boxes and apply elsewhere?
The problem is that many primary schools start writing their job adverts from a job description, rather than seeing it as an opportunity to showcase the school and its culture and help people decide if it is right for them. And many also have missed the change that has happened in recent years from long printed adverts to online ‘job boards’ that provide much less information to casual browsers.
So, how do you change how you recruit? The first step is to get rid of the templates you’ve been using for years. Here’s how to start again…
1. Make a list of reasons why someone would choose your school over other ones. These are the most important messages and the ones that people have to see first. If you’re not sure what these reasons are, do some research with your current teachers and perhaps especially with any trainee teachers you are hosting.
2. Look at where your job advert will appear and work out how many words a jobseeker will actually see before they have to click on a job. Some of them let you share job title, location, contract type and salary and then give you as few as 20 words to persuade someone to choose you!
3. Be ruthless with these words. Don’t repeat anything that is already in the rest of the advert (such as the school name or key stage that you are looking for). Focus on something that you do different – whether that be your location, the development opportunities you offer or how you support new staff.
4. Don’t write in the third person. Apart from wasting words explaining who you are, you want applicants to warm to you. Use ‘we’ and ‘you’ – and don’t mention that it’s the Governors who are looking to recruit!
5. Don’t focus on your ‘ideal’ candidate and exclude other options. For example, if you would really like a full-time experienced teacher but would be fine with a flexible job share, don’t restrict your options (especially if you’ve had problems recruiting in the past).
6. Think about finishing with a question. Would you like to find out more?
Here are two examples of these ‘short-form’ adverts – which would you click on (assuming the salaries and locations were equally appealing!)?
ABC School, Manchester
The Governors of ABC School require a highly qualified, enthusiastic, and outstanding Teacher to teach in Year 5 in a ….
ABC School, Manchester
Want to move your career forward in a friendly school with curious students and support from an experienced team?
Once you’ve written your persuasive introduction, you need to repeat the process for your main advert. There’s usually a lot of space here – but that doesn’t mean you can just copy and paste the job description and leave it. Again, you need to engage people to act further – for example to click and download an application form.
To do this, make sure that you pick up and amplify the ideas you mentioned in your short advert first – explain how you develop people (perhaps adding quotes from teachers you’ve hired recently to prove the impact) or have a positive working culture (perhaps by talking about the impact of your workload reduction campaign!).
And don’t just think about words – you can often use design, photography and even video to make the advert more attractive. Large MATs are commissioning ‘employer branding’ videos, while as a smaller school you could share some of the work your children have produced!
A final point – unless you’re experienced in this area, think about asking for help within your school – you could avoid wasting hundreds or even thousands of pounds if you have to re-run adverts or hire the wrong person! Think about who could help – many of your teachers will be great at writing snappy copy, while others can contribute their own stories and help you become known as an ‘employer of choice’!
Simon Hepburn is the founder of Marketing Advice for Schools and recently wrote the book ‘Recruiting Teachers’.