Explain It Like I'm Nine: Low Substitute Fill Rates
Can’t find enough substitute teachers to cover teacher absences? Seems...
In many school districts, teacher recruitment efforts tend to be localized and rarely focused out-of-state — unless, of course, your district is near a border. And while localized recruitment strategies can be very effective, if you’re struggling with teacher shortages, it’s time to branch out. After all, you never know where your next best teacher will come from.
There’s a whole world of job-seekers out there, so why limit yourself to the borders of your own state? Most likely, you and your team are too hobbled by finite resources to go full Road Warrior and attend all the out-of-state job fairs you can find. You only have so much time and funding, but you know that there are plenty of qualified educators in the country who might be willing to relocate to your area.
You have to woo job-seekers, but you don’t have time to personally pitch your schools to every prospective applicant out there. So, put some time into perfecting recruitment materials that will do the work for you. Your district website is a great place to start — and if you have a dedicated site aimed at recruiting new teachers, even better.
Your recruitment materials should be aimed at telling your district’s story. This is your chance to sell prospective candidates on why your district is the right place for them. Show off what makes your district different — like the support and resources provided to your educators, the fantastic benefits you offer and the school culture they can expect to be part of. But that’s just the beginning.
Out-of-state applicants probably need a little more motivation to seriously consider your district, especially since they would have to relocate to work for you. So, talk up your location and community too. Is it a gorgeous rural setting, ideal for nature lovers or people with an outdoorsy side? Or is it bustling with activity and culture, with something new happening every weekend? There’s something great about where your district is, but out-of-state candidates won’t know about it until you tell them.
Tip: Your job posting may be an applicant’s first exposure for your district, so make sure it makes a great first impression. Check out our blog post 3 Characteristics (and Examples) of Great Teacher Job Postings.
So, you’ve put together eye-catching recruitment materials and put the finishing touches on your district website’s employment pages. You’re confident that any job-seeker who comes across your job posting will fall in love and eagerly apply.
But for that to happen, job-seekers need to be able to find your job postings. It’s time to put yourself out there! Make sure that applicants hear about you and can easily find open jobs in your district — don’t let open positions languish in a corner of your website, hidden behind multiple layers of navigation. Local candidates who already know about your district and are interested in applying might be willing to do a digital scavenger hunt to try and find a job application, but others will give up and look for districts with a more streamlined site. So, first and foremost, have a clearly-labeled link to your job postings in the main navigation of your district’s website.
Beyond that, it’s time to advertise. The most important part of this is getting the word out that you’re hiring. If your district has someone dedicated to public relations or communications, work closely with them to ensure that your district’s story is told.
Posting vacancies on online job boards and social media pages helps you reach a wider range of job-seekers than local classified ads or billboards. Plus, it helps your district build an online presence, which will help attract even more applicants down the road. Another option you can take to supercharge your recruiting efforts is to reach out to local publishers and the media. See if they’ll run a story about working in your district, and make sure to have them include a link to your district’s employment page. Even if it’s a local news source, the articles they publish online can still help you recruit applicants from far and wide.
Tip: Journalists are more likely to pick up the story if you can give them more to go on than the fact that you have open positions. So, make sure to tell them what you’re doing differently, like offering a signing bonus for certain shortage-prone districts or setting up a new mentoring program for new hires. Shine a light on the wonderful work happening in your districts, and have the media do the work of spreading the word.
Let’s go a step further and reach out to prospective job-seekers, instead of waiting for them to find you. This is a good time to use your freshly-revamped recruitment messaging. If you find an educator who you think would be the perfect fit for a vacancy in your district, share your district’s story with them and invite them to apply! You can do this on certain online job boards and career sites — for example, Frontline’s proactive recruiting tools integrate with our applicant tracking system to automate your outreach strategy, so you don’t have to sink hours of your time into messaging applicants individually.
Another idea for proactive outreach is networking with teacher preparation programs. You probably already have partnerships in place with local colleges of education, but why not try reaching out to out-of-state universities as well? It might not lead to an official partnership, but it can only help if professors mention your district in class, or if your vacancies are announced in their newsletter. Even if they aren’t within driving distance, they may have many students looking to move somewhere new after graduation.
If you’re not sure where to look, check out the map below, showing the number of bachelor’s and post-baccalaureate education degrees awarded by accredited institutions from 2012 to 2015.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics. IPEDS: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds
Effectively recruiting from further afield means you have to be willing to put yourself in a qualified candidates’ shoes and adjust your hiring process accordingly. It’s all about providing a great applicant experience. To put it simply, the easier your processes are, the more candidates you’ll have.
Look at your hiring process from their perspective: is it time- and cost-effective for them, or not realistic for them to even try to apply? For example, asking educators to drop off resumes and other application materials in person is guaranteed to limit your applicant pool to those who already live within driving distance. Similarly, consider allowing video interviews for out-of-state candidates with the most potential. Many teachers — especially those who have recently graduated — may not be in a position where they can afford to travel for an interview, especially if it’s relatively early in the hiring process.
Finally, let’s talk about how to seal the deal when it comes to filling your applicant pool with candidates from a more diverse geographic background. Taking a new job can be exhilarating and nerve-wracking to begin with, and adding relocation to the “to-do list” can make it even more stressful. Look for ways to make the transition easier for candidates who need to move closer to your district. For example, can you offer a list of affordable housing or moving resources? This doesn’t mean you have to spend your own valuable time compiling a list of nearby apartments or moving companies — see if a local realtor already has something similar and is willing to share, perhaps in return for being recommended to employees new to the area.
In addition, digital onboarding tools make the process easier for all new hires, but especially those who aren’t able to pop into your office for an hour or two to fill out forms in person. It’s all about making a great first impression and showing that your district is a fantastic, supportive, modern place to work!