How to Develop Your District’s Brand to Attract Top Candidates
You want to hire and retain the best teachers for your students. The problem is, so does everyone else. So how do you stay competitive and attract the best candidates?
You want to create a compelling brand that makes great teachers want to work for you and help achieve your district’s goals. This isn’t something that can be done in a day: it requires buy-in throughout your district and sustained effort, but the payoff is worth it. To develop your brand as an employer, you’ll need to tackle three questions:
1. Is your district visible?
2. How do job seekers perceive your district?
3. How can you use this information to improve your district brand?
1. Be visible
Developing your brand first requires that you look at your district’s visibility: if no one knows about you, it doesn’t matter how great your image is. Traditionally, visibility meant getting press releases out and being on the news. That’s not to say that media coverage is no longer important, just that most people now get their information from social media first and CNN second, including prospective employees. Setting up social media accounts with Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for your school is the most important way that to enhance your visibility—if you update them regularly.
Speaking of updating, make sure that your school and teachers’ websites are kept up-to-date with pictures and video as well. One tip regarding the use of video: upload any videos to Vimeo, instead of YouTube. YouTube is popular, but has a very unfortunate “Related Videos” feature that will put recommendations for clips with titles like “Fight at (School Name)” next to your promotional materials. Even if it’s a similarly-named school that isn’t in your district, you don’t want your district to have this kind of negative association. You want your schools to be associated with friendly people, great kids, and a welcoming environment.
2. Improve candidates’ perceptions of your district
For job seekers, perception is reality. What they experience when interacting with your district in person or online has a huge impact on how they view your district, and what they will share with others. And they will share their experiences with others, so it’s important to ensure that everyone has a positive experience with your district. If a candidate comes to one of your schools and the building is dirty, or the employees are unfriendly, they won’t want to work there and may tell other teachers not to apply.
You want to always put your best foot forwards and make sure that potential applicants see your district in the best light possible. Of course, you might think that your district is a great place to work, but how do you know if job seekers see it the same way? One method is to check Glassdoor.com, a site that allows job seekers to post reviews of employers. District administrators may not be aware of this site, but applicants certainly are. Districts are advised not to respond to negative reviews, in case their response comes off as offensive to the poster or other job seekers.
Once you have an idea of how your district is perceived, you can begin to improve your district’s brand and position your district as a great place to work. You want candidates to see your district as a friendly, welcoming environment, so make sure that your staff members and administrators are always polite and helpful when candidates call or visit. It also helps to always follow up on unscheduled in-person visits. You don’t need to respond with a phone call, a generic email will do.
“Thank you for stopping by. Unfortunately, we do not have any open positions at this time. However, we will keep your information on file. In the meantime, please visit our website.”
An email like this may not be personalized, but goes a long way in improving candidates’ perceptions of your district. And even if that candidate wasn’t right for your district, they will talk about their experience with others who may be the perfect fit.
It also pays to be mindful of student teachers and substitutes, who may consider returning to your district as applicants for full-time positions. Many substitutes report that they come to schools with no preparation or lesson plans from the absent teacher, or that they were never welcomed to the building by the principal. Having principals take the time to speak with each new teacher, substitute, and student teacher helps make them feel valued and want to return.
3. Market your district as a great employer
You will need a plan to rebrand your district as a great employer. A SWOT UP (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats, Understand, Plan) analysis is commonly used in business ventures and planning, but can be invaluable for districts as well. It is comprised of six steps:
1. Focus on your strengths. What are the great things about your schools? Share your strengths, don’t keep them a secret!
2. Review your weaknesses. How is your district struggling? You have to acknowledge where your district falls short in order to make improvements.
3. Look at opportunities. What opportunities or partnerships are available to you? What resources can you use, and what partnerships could you form to improve on your weaknesses?
4. Recognize threats. What conditions or activities negatively impact your school? If you are located in an urban area, new teachers with a lot of potential could be afraid of the location based on preconceived notions. Or, you might have competitors who grab a lot of great candidates.
5. Take the time to understand how these factors impact your recruitment and retention statistics. Do you have high teacher turnover, or low application rates for vacancies? Once you know which area is being impacted the most, you can direct your efforts to alleviating the problem.
6. Develop a plan and determine what steps you can take to effect change, such as creating newsletters, updating your website, or participating in job fairs.
Whatever plan you come up with, you will need to make sure that every employee in your district is on board. Your district will need to be a team and everyone will need to work together. One person cannot rebrand a district on their own, and will need to share responsibilities with others. When it comes to your district, everyone is a brand ambassador. It’s critical that everyone understands their role in positioning your organization as a great place to work.
Great teachers want to work for districts that have invested time and effort into their brand. Developing a great brand for your district boils down to three key messages: be visible, improve candidates’ perceptions of your district, and market your district as a great employer. Remember, great branding isn’t only for businesses: it can help you recruit and retain the best teachers for your students, as well.
Daphne Donaldson currently serves as Recruitment Manager for the East Baton Rouge Parish School System in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She is a native of Louisiana and has been in education for 15 years. She started her career as a middle school Social Studies teacher, and for the past 10 years has worked in her current position in the Office of Human Resources. She is married with two sons, a dog, and recently two guinea pigs. She is an active community volunteer. Daphne founded the What’s Next? Program and College Tour, an educational enrichment program for high school students. She is also an Ultimate James Bond Fan.