Maintaining an effective shared vision for instructional excellence, one of Impact Florida’s Five Conditions that Support Great Teaching, includes attracting and growing amazing talent. While growing and maintaining the talent pool has become more challenging since the pandemic began, it is not impossible. This week we are excited to share the perspective of one of Florida’s Teacher’s of the Year, Jessica Solano, who is sharing how her district has turned the annual task of recruiting —and one more important than ever— on its head, in a good way
6 Tips to Make the Most of Virtual Recruiting
by Jessica Solano, Teacher Engagement Leader, Polk County Public Schools
Our current–largely virtual–circumstances as the nation continues to grapple with COVID, have teacher recruiters everywhere crippled by the fear of losing the human element of face-to-face recruiting. While the pandemic has forced districts to adjust their recruiting strategies to a virtual platform, Polk County Public Schools had explored the world of virtual recruitment before the pandemic and made an exciting discovery: not only does it provide more stability for the recruiter, it also has allowed us to both personalize and expedite the recruitment experience for candidates as well.
Check out these tips that have allowed us to grow our largest applicant pool yet, despite the fact that we have never met most of our applicants in-person:
1. Start recruiting early!
Pandemic aside, finding candidates and securing offers as early as February and March are critical to a solid teacher applicant pipeline. Many districts around the country may hesitate to provide early offers to candidates due to staffing uncertainty, however, we have found that by analyzing historical vacancy data for our district, we can identify which positions are consistently left unfilled beyond the start of the school year. By promising positions to candidates through conditional offers of employment, you are likely to secure an offer with a qualified candidate for an important position before other districts get a chance to snatch the candidate up.
2. Leverage digital signing tools to lock in offers.
There’s nothing worse than making a solid connection with a great candidate and then losing them to another district because they were able to secure an offer first. Although you may not be able to meet these candidates in-person and have them sign an offer on the spot, you can leverage online tools to get digital signatures quickly. Many of these tools allow you to send automated reminders so these documents don’t get lost in their inbox. The candidate gets both time to review your document and also immediately confirm their agreement to your offer as soon as they sign. What’s even better is that they will forever have a digital copy of the document, eliminating the need for you to spend time emailing it back to them once it’s completed.
3. Use video conferencing platforms for more than just the interview.
Yes, the interview is important but what about after that initial contact? You can use the same video conferencing to have informal conversations about onboarding, certification questions, or even just general queries about your school district, building relationships and reinforcing why the applicant should work in your district. In our district, our recruiter hosts one-on-one virtual “coffee chats” with local interns and interested applicants as a low-key way to make the job search process more personable. The recruiter shows that they’re interested and available beyond the interview and that speaks volumes about their commitment to the candidate. In essence, it’s less of an interview and more of a conversation, making the interaction feel much more genuine (and less stressful!).
4. Secure as many resume books as you can!
If your experience has been like ours, waiting for applicants to find your digital booth at a virtual job fair is not quite as successful as pulling in candidates as they pass by your physical booth at an in-person fair. When we have been able to secure a resume book from the college or university ahead of time, we can communicate with potential candidates beforehand and “sell” our district’s uniqueness. This has significantly increased our interactions with students and bolstered our applicant pool.
5. Consider alternative ways of communication besides email.
Let’s be real. Email is not the most engaging or effective form of communication. For whatever reason, candidates, specifically those that are Millennials or Gen Z-ers, seem to be less likely to respond to an email versus something like a text. Our office uses a mass texting service to send out important messages and check in with candidates. The text can even be as simple as “Are you looking for a job teaching middle school math? I have a few vacancies open and would love to help you get in the door!” Within minutes, we have multiple responses of “Yes!” come our way and immediately build our applicant pool to share directly with principals.
6. Don’t leave your candidates hanging!
A common mistake that recruiters make is spending all their efforts recruiting the applicant and then failing to complete the transition between offer acceptance and the first day they actually step foot in the classroom. In the past, when we’ve only focused on getting candidates hired, we’ve seen a good percentage of our candidates fail to show up on the first day, leaving us with unexpected vacancies and frustrated principals. One way we’ve been able to make sure these newly hired teachers don’t feel forgotten is to create a new teacher Facebook group for them to connect with each other and to our Recruitment and Teacher Engagement Office. Within moments of creating the group, it was exploding with posts, pictures, and questions! Valuing their need to connect led us to create an experience that many said made all the difference in their decision to follow through with teaching in our district.
While recruiting teachers in itself can be quite challenging, transitioning to the world of virtual recruiting can actually be a welcome change if we focus on the fundamental elements that we know can help us be successful. For us, that was emphasizing authenticity and personal connections. Don’t allow the computer screen to remove the personal element of recruiting. Instead, use it as a tool to demonstrate your district’s flexibility and determination to help them be successful as they start their careers in your schools.
Jessica Solano is the Teacher Engagement Leader for Polk County Schools and was recognized as the 2017 Florida Teacher of the Year and 2016 Polk County Teacher of the Year. Check out Jessica’s other Impact Florida Insight post, Math Moments.