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Quick Tips for Effective Teacher Recruitment

I have been a school administrator since 1977. In the last few years it has been getting more difficult to hire good teachers. In the United States there is a teacher shortage and reports state that colleges of education are down about 1/3 in students for teacher training. Many states are going to alternative certification to find the number and quality of teachers they need in their school districts.

I have been on both ends as a school administrator that was actively recruiting teachers as well as a dean of a college department that trained students to become certified teachers. As a school leader, you owe it to your students and parents to find the best teachers available.

Our situation is a little different as we are an American international school in Cairo. So we are looking for American teachers as you are as well. We use search companies as most school districts do not. But we both can visit candidates at job fairs and colleges.

To recruit good teachers, we feel you should start early and have a plan. Try and find out from teachers in the fall what their plans are for the following school year. Are they moving out of the area, retiring, leaving education, etc.? This will give you some idea of what your needs will be. However, some districts do transfer existing teachers over the summer when they know their staffing requirements.

Know what you need: subjects or grade level teachers---the sooner the better.

If possible, go to job fairs and collect resumes. Visit local colleges of education and meet soon to be graduating seniors. If possible, see if your school can host several junior and senior interns. This is a good way of reviewing local candidates. When I was a dean, we had most of our seniors hired before they even graduated from college as principals were eager to hand them a contract. They knew the quality of teachers they were getting since they worked at their schools for at least a semester.

See if you can meet teaching candidates at your school so you can look them over and they can see the school and the community. When I worked in several southern states, we might sign teachers at job fairs to contracts but they failed to show in August. If you do hire a teacher I would recommend that you stay in constant contact with the teacher so if they break their contract you know in time (hopefully) to replace them.

Work closely with your HR department and get to know how they do searches and screen candidates. Perhaps get involved with the hiring process so you can meet some of the candidates as well. I always found this very valuable as I got a firsthand look at what our district was doing to promote itself.

If possible and local, visit candidates in their classrooms and observe them teaching. With technology and approval, you can video a lesson (check district policies) of a teacher in a classroom and review. There is an old saying of “the best indicator of future success is past success”. Try and find out as much as you can about the candidate as you can prior to employing the teacher.

Certainly Skype a candidate whenever possible. This is what we generally do at our school and it is the quickest and easiest way of interviewing. We want to see the candidate if at all possible and thanks to Skype we can. We find this a more effective tool than just a telephone interview. Don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions during the Skype. You can Skype, email, etc. as often as you need to make sure you are getting the best candidate possible.

Do your due diligence on hiring. This is one of the most important things you can do for your school. As an international school, we have a lot of teacher turnover as we normally have to hire between 25-30 new teachers a year. We start in October and usually finish in the summer. It is hard but very necessary work.

Teachers are smart. Most know how to give the “right” answers to your questions. You must check and double check references as well. I have never read a bad reference. I encourage you to do a telephone reference check not just a standard paper one. Administrators may hesitate to put something negative about a teacher on paper but they are usually more forthright over the phone. I suggest calling the candidates latest assistant principal and principal. If the candidate gives you references from years ago and not from where they are working now, call where they are currently employed. Hopefully, the administrators will be honest with you about the candidates good and bad attributes.

Not only do I check the candidate’s ability to teach but can the teacher get along with colleagues, parents, and students. You do not need to hire that rotten apple who will make everyone’s life miserable.

Ask about your district’s policy to terminate a new hire. Not that you want to, but if you have to, you want to be in compliance with the district regulations. Is it better to cut an inefficient teacher in 90 days or keep them for 180 days?

As a school administrator you will get better with time and experience in the interviewing process. But I would encourage all administrators who need to hire new teachers to have a plan, start early and do your due diligence.

Les Potter, Ed. D.

Director

American International School West

Cairo, Egypt