How School Districts Can Provide A Great Applicant Experience
Would you want to go through your school district’s hiring process?
A poor applicant experience is a problem even in the best of times. But with the teacher shortage set to worsen as fewer new educators enter the profession, it’s more important than ever that candidates have a delightful experience from the moment they apply to your district.
After all, an exceptional applicant experience means three things for your district:
Fewer barriers to application means a larger applicant pool
Candidates with a good experience are more likely to encourage other educators to apply
New hires are more engaged and prepared to succeed from day one
So, what can you do to ensure that your hiring process is a positive experience?
1. Walk a mile in the job-seeker’s shoes
Look at your hiring process from the perspective of the job-seeker at every stage. Try to find where applicants might hit snags, or what steps might be unnecessarily time-consuming. Remember that great teachers may already be working full-time in another district and may not have hours to spend on your application process.
Are open positions easy to find online, or are they hidden away on your district website? Is it clear to applicants which materials they need to submit, and how to submit them? Do they have to send printed materials through the mail, or can everything required be uploaded electronically? Make sure to look beyond the application itself. Does it take several rounds of phone tag to schedule interviews? Will references be contacted several times by different people from the same district? An applicant tracking system can help streamline the hiring process for both you and applicants, making it a more pleasant experience all around.
According to Forbes, over 70 percent of online applicants never receive even a generic reply from would-be employers. Look for ways that you can be more communicative with applicants from the beginning, even if you don’t have time to write to each applicant individually. If you’re one of the few school districts that makes a point to acknowledge each and every teacher application — even if it’s an automated form response that isn’t personalized in any way — you’re already ahead of the game. It’s okay to have a template response, especially if you can make it both informative and interesting. It’ll set your school district apart and put the “Human” back in “Human Resources.” Plus, it’s just good etiquette.
Beyond the initial application, the more transparent you can be with job-seekers, the better. You may have a qualified, talented teacher candidate who is a great cultural fit, who never knows they’re one of your top picks. If they don’t hear anything from you for weeks while you work through bureaucratic internal processes, they may assume they won’t be hired and accept another district’s offer — even if working for your school district was their dream job.
3. Set reasonable timeframes
Similarly, keep in mind that teachers need to have a plan. If a great teacher applies for a position in early May, but you aren’t able to make an offer until the end of August, that’s too late! It’s not fair to expect an exceptional candidate to wait months to receive an offer from your district, especially if other, faster districts have already made their hiring decisions. Like anyone else, teachers need to know where they will be working and what they will be doing ahead of time. This is especially true if they would need to relocate from another area in order to work in your school.
Be upfront about how long applicants can expect to wait to hear back. Hiring teachers will always have a degree of uncertainty — current teachers may decide not to return for the next year, or funding may not come through — try to stick to the promised timeline as much as possible. If something does come up, make sure to communicate with candidates so they know where they stand.
4. Seek feedback
You don’t need a “secret shopper” to get the inside scoop on your applicants’ experience with your hiring process. Gather feedback from both new employees and candidates who were not hired on an ongoing basis, so you can continually improve your hiring process. Remember: this isn’t a “once and done” thing: regularly implementing changes based on honest feedback will help your hiring process evolve.
When Cabot Public Schools decided to move to a new applicant tracking system, providing a great applicant experience was one of their top priorities. That’s why they chose Frontline Recruiting & Hiring.
Annie is a writer and part of the award-winning content team at Frontline Education. She's passionate about learning, exploring data and sharing knowledge. Her specialties include substitute management, the K-12 staffing shortage, and best practices in human capital management.