Speed as a Competitive Advantage in Hiring Teachers
The best recruitment teams hire new teachers using speed, defining goals, and aligning on hiring criteria. This article will cover how you can make speed a key differentiator to hire the best teachers.
Selected works with over 1,200 public and private K-12 schools — we see that the best recruitment teams hire new teachers by using speed, defining goals and their ideal candidate, and aligning on hiring criteria. This article will cover how you can make speed a key differentiator to hire the best teachers. Define in advance exactly who you want to hire, streamline your interview process, and learn when to shortcut the process to close a hire.
Who is this article for?
The below insights apply to most recruitment teams — those hiring for large districts and charter networks, as well as, individual schools. People involved (titles may vary depending on school):
- Hiring managers (e.g., principal, assistant principal, head of school): You will need to lead any process change, get buy-in from key stakeholders, and enforce practice. Depending on your school’s structure, this may involve the challenging, but critical, process of getting true commitment from executives and other senior leaders.
- Recruiters: You must advocate and actually execute the new process. Your great plan is meaningless without disciplined practice and continued improvements.
- Executives: If you head a district or network, you must truly commit to a real process change that empowers your team to make a hiring decision without you acting as a bottleneck. To quickly hire the best teachers, you will need to clear the path in advance for your team to offer and close a great candidate on-the-spot.
If you work at a school where senior leaders will not truly commit to a process change, address that first. You will need top-down support to be successful.
Define your goals: They will shape your process
Speed is only helpful if your team is heading in the right direction. So, the first and most important step is to sharpen:
- School goals: Deeply understand your school’s priorities. Speak to key leaders to learn what the organization needs to achieve.
- Recruitment team goals: Translate organizational goals into your team’s goals. Consider key inputs (e.g., personnel, availability) and constraints (e.g., deadlines, budget, anticipated and unanticipated personnel changes, curriculum and policy changes). Make sure to get buy-in on your priorities and plan with key stakeholders.
Define what matters: Create an Ideal Candidate Profile
Next, define exactly who you need to hire by creating an Ideal Candidate Profile. This may seem like a job description, but it is not. Its purpose is to identify leading indicators of on-the-job success. We know that interview performance and on-the-job performance don’t always overlap, so we want a way to cut through the noise and figure out what to really look for.
While compiling ideal qualities, there will be criteria where you have:
- Higher confidence: These are qualities that you know are necessary to be successful at your school (e.g., pedagogy fit, mission alignment, expectations for classroom environment, and certifications).
- Lower confidence: These are qualities that you believe are indicators of on-the-job success, but are not sure. Try testing candidates for these qualities and observe over time how well they lead to on-the-job success. If you discover that a quality is not indicative, you should eliminate it from your profile and replace it with something new to test. Be cautious with superficial “personality traits” — unchecked biases can lead to lower diversity and inclusion.
Elements to consider in your Ideal Candidate Profile:
- Mission: What is the purpose of the role beyond the day-to-day responsibility of teaching? Is it to shepherd students into college? Develop students into leaders, critical thinkers, or gritty, problem solvers? Help students realize their range of life choices and improve judgment? How does this role contribute to the school’s greater mission? It is the guiding principle that will empower the teacher to make hundreds of small, “right” decisions each day.
- Responsibilities: What are the expected day-to-day responsibilities? Acknowledge that responsibilities can and will change.
- Qualities: What personal characteristics most accurately predict if a person will be successful in the role?
Below are personal qualities that we often hear from schools as important (we use many of these for Selected’s hiring process):
1) Character: What are the indispensable characteristics for a teacher to be successful at your school? Examples:
- Coachable: Is the person self-reflective and consistently receptive to feedback? Does the person get defensive or deflect responsibility?
- Growth mindset: Does the candidate show a history of initiative and continuous self-improvement? Do they learn from mistakes?
- Flexible, adaptable
- Gritty, resourceful, and problem-solving
- High-integrity, honest, dependable
- Patient, positive
- Collaborative: Proactively builds relationships, shares insights and best practices
2) Culture: Is the candidate a great (not just good) fit with your school’s:
- Mission and values: What is the proof they believe in your mission? How does their past experiences demonstrate commitment to your values? What are you willing to compromise on, if anything?
- Interpersonal dynamics
3) Competencies: Skills (soft and hard) and experiences:
- Experiences: Has a track record of success and growth. Minimum years of experience? District vs. charter experience? New vs. pre-service?
- Certifications: Do they need to be certified? Reciprocity? Alternative route certification programs?
- Education: Did the candidate attend a graduate school of education that your top-performing teachers came from? Best urban teacher programs?
- Classroom management skills
- Content expertise
- Data-driven: Collects data to influence instructional practices
- Good judgment and prioritization
- Effective communicator
- Effective time manager
- Organized, well prepared
Measure what matters: Align everyone with a Hiring Scorecard
To ensure recruiters are looking for the right candidates and interviewers are assessing the right qualities, create a Hiring Scorecard that lists and weighs hiring criteria.
Key components of a Teacher Hiring Scorecard:
- Categories of criteria: Groups of qualities that you are interviewing for, such as Character, Culture, and Competencies.
- List of assessment criteria: Within each category, rank and list clearly defined and testable qualities that are leading indicator of on-the-job success. For example, if your criteria is, “Uses data to improve instructional practices,” your interview test may be to ask, “In your last role, how did you get feedback to improve your instructional practices?” You should ask probing questions to dig deep.
- Rating Scale: Choose a scale (e.g., 1 to 4), so an interviewer can quantifiably rate a candidate on a criterion. Clearly describe what each rating means, then normalize between team members before and after an interview (e.g., what’s the difference between a 2 and 3?). A good practice is to have everyone explain why they rated a candidate as they did, particularly focusing on interviewers whose scores vary the most.
- Ratings: Provide space per criterion for an interviewer to rate and write notes.
- Weightings: Not all criteria are of equal importance — add percentages to each criterion (and sections) to prioritize (e.g., 50% cultural alignment, 25% character, 25% competencies). Non-negotiable criteria should be graded as pass/fail, and do not need to be weighted. Failing a criteria should lead to immediate disqualification of a candidate (e.g., if certification is necessary).
Benefits of using a Hiring Scorecard:
- Forces clarity and alignment: By taking an articulated, written position, a team can quickly discover ambiguity and discuss who exactly it is trying to hire and how to assess. Helps prevent subjective, biased, opaque, or arbitrary decision making. It streamlines the process so that each interviewer knows what to cover and does not overlap (unless intended).
- Standardizes: Creates a more objective, quantifiable measure for comparing how team members rated a candidate, and how candidates compare to other candidates.
- Tests for on-the-job performance: Focuses your inquiry on what matters, not the inconsequential.
- Prioritizes: Helps a team focus on the important and quickly recognize a valuable candidate.
- Systematizes: Using a Scorecard helps build diligence and discipline in your hiring process. It offers a tangible way to build practice.
Mature teams view it just as that — practice. The key seems to be continuously iterating to improve how your school finds, interviews, and hires the best teachers. If a criteria proves to be irrelevant, replace it with something more meaningful. Gradually, you should find that other schools cannot hire best fit candidates quicker than your team.
A note on competitive advantages: Only a small group of schools currently hiring through Selected can rely on a universally recognized, prestigious brand or offer candidates market-leading compensation. The rest of our partners have to rely on what makes them unique. This includes their mission, values, and pedagogical approach, demonstrating quality leadership and culture, and excellent hiring execution.
Streamlining the process and closing on-the-spot
Below are some notable practices that we see the quickest schools on Selected using (some of these schools are consistently closing candidates within a week, sometimes days, of first sourcing):
- Remember the point: The best teams fully recognize the goal — hire the best teachers as quickly as possible. This means they don’t go through the motions just to do them, or have the mindset of, “This is how we’ve always done it.” The point of the interview process is to rapidly learn if a candidate is the right fit. If they are — close immediately — don’t waste time with ceremonies.
- Have different processes for different goals: Your school’s needs change depending on who and when you are hiring. We talk to teams that have separate or modified processes defined for different goals: such as, teacher vs. school leader, or last-minute hire vs. next school year hires. Tailor process steps to the goal and context (e.g., have one in-person round for speed vs. two in-person rounds for certainty).
- Simplify your process as much as possible: Try to make each candidate interaction more insight-rich with less friction. Cut out requests that do not get you data necessary to drive a decision. Once you do that, iterate again to eliminate as much as possible. For example, if you’re not doing this already — condense multiple interactions into a single on-site interview day to include a school tour, classroom observation, sample lesson, and in-person interview. If the day goes well (per Scorecard), the hiring manager should offer the candidate a job on-the-spot. This basic practice avoids the overhead of scheduling multiple sessions, back-and-forth communication, and loss of momentum. This might not seem like a big deal until you realize another school has hired your teacher during this time.
- Front-load deal breakers: Save all the people on your team (and the candidate) time by screening candidates for deal breakers up-front. Don’t wait until the later steps of the process to ask about non-starters. Take the most important criteria from your Scorecard (i.e., binary pass/fail and highest weighted items) and test for them as soon as possible. For example, if you represent an urban school and expect a candidate to be culturally responsive — you may want to screen for this first (and test in different ways).
- Know when to trade high-touch for high-speed: One practice that we see some top teams doing is emailing (rather than calling) screen questions, such as culture fit. This avoids the overhead of scheduling and interviewing time. Prioritize candidates that answer well and follow up immediately. Acknowledge that there are tradeoffs — it won’t be possible to assess verbal (versus written) communication without a call. However, how often do you see a candidate who is a poor writer but excellent speaker? You will be in the best positions to make these trades depending on the goals discussed earlier.
- Accelerate strong candidates through the process: A surprising phenomenon that we see regularly — a recruitment team that finally finds an incredible candidate who seems like the perfect fit… and then asks them to jump through their interview process hoops. If you identify a potentially great fit, accelerate the candidate as quickly as possible, even if it means “breaking the rules” of your defined process. Do not ask your “unicorn,” say the high school, dual-certified math and special education teacher that you need, to go to your website to fill out your massive application, just to get started. We have seen many great hires lost this way and it gives us the most grief as this mistake is preventable. Get the candidate in front of a decision maker who can assess, sell, and hire immediately.
- Collect references in advance of the in-person interview: Another shortcut that we see, ask candidates for at least three references prior to the interview day. Typically the references are a current supervisor, former supervisor, and colleague. You can email the references (rather than calling) your questions at least one week in advance. Have follow-up phone calls only as needed. All insights should be shared with interviewers at least 48 hours prior so that they can dig deep into potential problem areas. This approach unblocks the hiring manager to hire on-the-spot if the interview day goes well. Our view on references is that it should be the last sanity check that can veto, not make, a decision to offer the candidate. A good practice is to prime the candidate at the beginning of the process that you will verify what they say with past supervisors. This helps check a candidate from misrepresenting themselves. Please note, there are many tradeoffs with this approach, including revealing to the candidate’s current employer that they are interviewing. If this tactic is used, it may make sense to discuss what will happen openly with the candidate, and perhaps save the discussion with the current supervisor until just before the offer.
Remember, as discussed earlier — the key to hiring with urgency is getting approval and consensus in advance so that a hiring manager can offer or hire on-the-spot.
Some of the above practices may not work for your school. The point is to constantly experiment to find what works for you.
A note on selling candidates: The best teams don’t seem to sell just at the end when they want the candidate to join. Rather, selling should happen through the entire process. One effective way to sell is to provide an excellent recruitment experience, which signals the excellent experience the candidate will have once they join. Your brand is not your logo or what is written on your website — it is the emotional experience a candidate has at every touchpoint, from the moment they see your school, to the demeanor of the person who greets them, the respect they are shown during questioning, and the candid moments they see in the classrooms and hallways.
A good place to start is by genuinely and empathetically seeking to understand what the candidate needs and wants. If your school can help them achieve these — focus your messaging there. But be cautious about over-selling, if you misrepresent the opportunity it will waste their time and yours when they leave your school mid-year or after a short stint (and tell all their teacher friends).
Contact us with any questions and how we might be able to help your team. Also, if there are specific topics you’d like to see covered, let us know.
Selected helps schools hire the best teachers. We offer a matching platform that connects 1,200+ public and independent schools with a deep and diverse pool of 25,000+ Pre-K to 12 teachers in urban metro areas in the Northeast and West Coast, including New York City, NJ, CT, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Boston, and Los Angeles. Create a FREE school profile and start speaking with candidates immediately.