How to Attract and Hire the Best Teachers Part 3: The Interview

If you’ve reached Level 3 in the last two parts of this blog series, you should now have a clear list of priorities and your application process should be a pleasure to experience.

But what happens when you have candidates in your school? You need to know which of them is going to be suitable.

As in the last two parts, here are three options for handling the interview process. Which of these best describes yours?

Level 1 – All the Standard Questions

You start by observing the candidate’s teaching and make a judgement by gut feel – you’ve seen enough teachers before to know whether someone can teach or not.

When it comes to the interview, you ask questions like:

  • Tell us what unique qualities you would bring to the school.
  • How do you handle stress?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher?
  • If we visited your classroom in six months time, what would we expect to see?
  • What are your views on discipline?

These all seem like perfectly reasonable questions – but they’re surprisingly ineffective. Why?

They’re all hypothetical, and hypothetical questions give the interviewee the opportunity to tell you what you want to hear.

You might figure out who the best salesperson is, but you’ll learn almost nothing about who they are as a teacher and how they’ll be as a member of staff.

Level 2 – You Use Behavioural Interviewing Techniques

If you’re using a Level 2 process, you might have designed a teaching observation that allows you to assess the specific deliverables and behaviours you are looking for.

You understand that past performance is the best predictor of future performance. As a result, your interview questions take the form of:

  • ‘Tell me about a time when you… …’
  • ‘Give me an example of… …’
  • ‘Describe a time when… …’

Your follow-up questions dig deeper by asking about something the candidate just said (e.g. ‘Tell me more about how your manager handled that.’

In short, your questions are specifically chosen around the deliverables and behaviours you’re looking for.

If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, here’s a list organised by behaviours to get you started.

Finally, you take notes and benchmark the interview and teaching observation against your ideal candidate description.

Level 3 – Minimise Biases

We all have biases which cause mistakes when we make decisions.

We’re especially prone to preferring people who remind us of ourselves or someone we’re close to in some way. We tend to ignore the flaws and exaggerate their strengths.

Whilst this was great for keeping us safe in hunter gatherer days, it’s not necessarily the best strategy for building your team – which requires a certain level of diversity to thrive.

The best way of minimising this risk is to have a trusted colleague on the interview panel – preferably someone who has a slightly different worldview and is comfortable challenging you.

You should both take your own notes and discuss them afterwards, with a focus on remaining objective and choosing candidates based on your prioritised deliverables and behaviours.

It won’t guarantee that your chosen candidate turns out to be the right person, but it will increase your chances significantly. It also means that you can give fair and objective feedback to any candidates that didn’t make it through.

Time to Work on Your Recruitment Process?

We’ve now looked at the three major parts of your recruitment process. The question now is: how does yours stack up?

Perhaps you’re strong in all three areas, or maybe your interview process needs some work.

Whatever your process, it’s always worth putting the effort into improving it. After all this is the only way you can be sure that you are attracting and hiring the very best teachers.

That’s a wrap on this blog series about recruiting the right teachers for your school. Want to comment or start a discussion around any of these points? Tweet @letsfinded #schoolrecruitment

How to Attract & Hire the Best Teachers Part 2: The Process

‘I don’t get high-quality applicants’.

We hear it all the time. I used to have the same issues myself. But here’s the thing: the applicants you get are a direct reflection of the quality of your recruitment process.

The first step, which we covered in Part 1, involves getting crystal clear about exactly who you want to attract to the job. The next step is about designing a process with that person in mind.

Once again, here are three levels of recruitment processes. Which one  best describes your school’s process?

Level 1: School-Focused Process

You put an advert out that reads something along the lines of: ‘We are seeking to appoint a highly motivated KS1/KS2 teacher to join our dynamic staff team.’

To apply, the applicant needs to download a Word document and copy and paste information from previous jobs into it.

Once they’ve dealt with formatting issues, they send it to an email address along with a cover email, and they wait to hear back.

Your HR person is busy, so when they’ll hear back is not communicated and depends on what else might be happening that week.

This is the most basic type of process – unfortunately, it’s also the most common. So how can you improve on it?

Level 2: Applicant-Focused Process

This time, your advert describes the person you’re looking for so that when they read it, they think: ‘That’s me!’

Your advert text has three references to the candidate for every one reference to the school.

You focus more on the benefits they’ll receive from working with you, and the benefits have been specifically tailored around the people you’re trying to attract.

The application process has been deliberately designed to be simple and to manage expectations.

The candidate receives timely responses from your HR team and they know who to contact if they have any questions.

Things are looking much better compared to the Level 1 process, but there’s still work to be done.

Level 3: The Whole Application Process Feels Like a Joy

Your applicants found your job easily. It came up on their Twitter feed, and when they looked you up, they found a school that cares about the same things they do.

They use your simple online application and get an email back the same day thanking them for applying and letting them know when they’ll hear from you next and when interviews will be held.

If they’re successful, each stage feels like a celebration. If they’re not, they’re given useful feedback.

You understand that applying for a job can be a stressful situation, and you’ve built touch points to help manage that stress along the way.

They leave the process thinking: ‘Wow, I’d definitely apply for another job there, and I’ll tell all my friends about it too.’

You understand that the NQT who didn’t quite make the shortlist this time may be your ideal mid-level leader in five years time, so you make sure they leave with a good impression.

What Does Your Recruitment Process Look Like?

These three stages demonstrate the possible approaches you can take to the recruitment process, with Level 3 being the preferred option.

Being honest, where does your own  recruitment process stack up against them? Could it do with an overhaul?

In Part 3 of this blog series, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at the interview process and teaching observation. See you there!

Note: You might complain that you don’t have time to do all of this with the 101 other things on your list. But it’s a question of priorities. Putting a Level 3 process in place will dramatically increase your supply of quality teachers. How much of a priority is that for you?

Want to comment or start a discussion around any of these points? Tweet @letsfinded #schoolrecruitment

How to Attract & Hire the Best Teachers Part 1: Clarify Who You Are Looking For

Does recruitment feel like a lottery in your school?

While there’s always an element of luck involved in recruitment, there’s a lot you can do to improve your chances.

In this three-part blog series, we’ll be looking at:

1. How to think about the position you’re recruiting for
2. How to set up a process that attracts the right people
3. and finally, how to maximise your chances of getting it right at the interview.

The first stage is to get clear in your own thinking. So how do you do this?

Let’s look at three possible ways of clarifying exactly what you are looking for. As you read through these from Level 1 (basic) to Level 3 (advanced), try to decide which one best reflects your process.

Level 1: I Need a Year 2 Teacher

This is the most basic way of thinking about your recruitment process.

You’ve identified a space in your team, and you need someone to do that job.You can list their responsibilities: … safeguarding, behaviour management, knowledge of the curriculum, planning, progress, assessment, preferably outstanding teaching practice, and . Aall the other prerequisites to working as a teacher.

You want them to be able to do these things well, so you describe the sort of person who excels at these things with descriptive words such as engaging, organised, caring and dynamic.

Now you have a job description and a person description – you’re good to go!

But wait a second,  this level of preparation is the bare minimum. And whilst it may attract a Year 2 teacher, unless you’re lucky; it’s unlikely to attract the sort of Year 2 teacher that you have in mind.

And who wants to rely on luck to build their team?

Level 2: I Need a Year 2 Teacher to Deliver X with Y Behaviours

This is better.

You know what you want your teacher to achieve, so you take each of the responsibilities and list out specific deliverables against them.

For example, rather than simply specifying good behaviour management, you state what this means ( not just the ability to get through the day applying the school’s behaviour policy, but more an ability to flex to specific children’s needs)

When you consider the level of progress you want for the classes they are teaching, you are clear about how you measure it (the rate of progress overall compared to how many children in the class are hitting a specific benchmark in the core subjects).

It’s the same with behaviours. You think about the sort of behaviours achieving those deliverables requires, and you make it clear. For example, is it someone who can handle large amounts of stress or someone who can improvise their way through a problem? Is it someone who pays careful attention to detail or someone who is enthusiastic about sharing best practice with the team?

The possibilities are almost infinite, and this stage is all about narrowing them down into a few specifics.

Being forced to choose specifics can seem like hard work. But getting clear on exactly what you want to be done and exactly who you want to do it will pay off handsomely down the line.

Level 3: A Prioritised Person Specification

You have your deliverables and behaviours, but now you need to rank them in order of importance.
I know: they’re all important. But what if you could only choose 3 behaviours and 3 deliverables to focus on? What would they be?

What if you could only pick 1?

To put it another way, what things should they be able to do exceptionally well to avoid being dismissed? If you’re unsure, write down all the behaviours and cross off the least important first. Once you get to three, you know you’re ready to recruit.

What’s the purpose of this exercise? It will help you make decisions when you come to advertising your role and interviewing candidates.

Nobody is going to match your specification perfectly. However, by prioritising your deliverables and behaviours in advance, you’ll have a clear head for making decisions further down the line.

Essentially, by organising your list in this way, you’re making your hiring priorities clear.

This  is a fantastic base for attracting the right person … which is the topic of Part 2 in this series.

Want to comment or start a discussion around any of these points? Tweet @letsfinded #schoolrecruitment

Introducing FindEd


It’s been 7 months since I decided that the teacher shortage problem was the one to tackle next. Since then, a team has been assembled, we’ve taken a view on which aspect of the problem we should work on first and have been busy designing, coding and getting prepared for the journey we’re about to set out on.

Introducing FindEd

The idea for FindEd came about when we spoke to headteachers and asked what the biggest problems facing education were. The answer that came back the loudest was teacher recruitment and retention, so we did our homework and found that it seemed to be a problem everywhere.

  • 56% of schools are paying recruitment agencies between £1000-10,000 per vacancy.
  • The average spend on advertising is £17,000 per year
  • Yet 79% of schools still find recruitment problematic

Anecdotally, schools told us that they were spending a lot on advertising, weren’t getting enough quality applicants through the door and had ever shrinking budgets to contend with.

On the other side of the coin, teachers were telling us that they were frustrated with trawling job boards, copy and pasting word applications and wondering when they might hear back.

It became clear that we weren’t going to help much by offering yet another recruitment service or place to advertise with similar costs. So we decided to rethink job advertising from the ground up, with the goals of increasing applicants and saving a whole lot of time and money in the process.

A New Online Platform Matching Teachers and Schools

Rather than spending thousands on job advertising and recruitment fees, hoping that they work this time, we thought it would be better if schools go to a website, tell it which teachers they were looking for and find them directly. Then they could be sure that your vacancy was reaching the right people and none of the budget was wasted on trying to stand out on an overcrowded page.

We also thought candidates would be more likely to apply for your vacancy if, rather than searching job boards and writing dozens of emails, they received the job straight to their phones and could apply with one click.

So, we built a website that does just that. It’s due to launch in early February.

How Schools And Teachers Can Benefit For Free

As well as being free to teachers, every school can claim a free account too, which allows them to send vacancies to matching teachers. Since candidates only see relevant jobs, there’s a much higher chance of them seeing your role and acting on it.

There will also be a pro account, which allows one click applications, feedback from potential candidates and saves hours on shortlisting.

The website will be launching in February and we’re going to be offering some very special deals on the pro account for the first schools to sign up to help get this process started.

So let’s Get Started…

If stage 1 of this project works, we’ll see the cost of recruitment in education drop by a staggering 96%. For that to happen, we need schools and teachers to hear about it, so if you like what you’ve read, please share the news with like minded schools and teachers. You can also

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A note to new teachers


I’ve been a little quiet with the blog recently because I’m in the midst of starting a new company. Doing that and writing about it at the same time is tricky, because the doing requires so much brain space that there’s not much left for writing. Starting a company occupies a lot of grey matter because it involves making hundreds of new decisions every day. Routine decisions, like what to have for lunch, require a lot less effort because we’ve made them many times before. New decisions are a lot more taxing.

It reminds me of when I first started teaching, another time when everything was new. Unexpected situations seem to come from every angle and you’re constantly deciding what to do with them. It happens so many times in one day that by the time you’ve packed up and gone home, your head can feel a bit like Jonny Brownlee at the end of a triathlon. The good news is that because of all this mental marathoning, your brain hard wires those decisions so that they’re not nearly as taxing next time round. You learn to recognise similar situations and take care of them automatically, which is extremely helpful when it comes to such an all encompassing job.

This September, thousands of new teachers are experiencing this as they step up to lead a class for the first time, including the 17 musicians (pictured above) who have just started with Rocksteady Music School. I wish you every success in getting to grips with your new role and remember, whilst your head might be spinning to start with, hang in there. Your brain will soon catch up and you’ll be handling classes like a pro before you can say Christmas.

Have fun and enjoy the journey. There aren’t many like it.

A Great Teacher For Every Child


The united nations has committed to giving every child a quality education by 2030 as one of 17 global goals. The single most important ingredient in a quality education is a great teacher.

Whether it’s live in person (direct), watching a video (indirect), one to one, or one to many, a great teacher is almost always behind our most important learning experiences. This is especially true in the formative stages, where great teachers change the rest of our lives.

Unfortunately, we’re facing a global shortage of teachers right now and whilst trends are heading in a positive direction, we’re not moving fast enough. 61% of countries will not have enough primary teachers in classrooms by 2020 and at our current rate of progress, we’re still looking at a 34% shortfall by 2030. As a global society, we need to recruit and train 25.8 million teachers over the next 14 years to fill this gap, which means improving on two counts:

  1. Recruiting more of the right teachers into the profession.
  2. Creating the right conditions to keep them there.

Governments have a role to play in this and will be looking to fix the problem through the broad strokes of changing  policy, but there’s no need for us to sit around and wait for things to happen. There’s a big opportunity for the teaching and entrepreneurial community to contribute, starting with some original thinking on the problem and then crucially, doing something about it. Here’s some of my ideas.

How would you make it happen?