During this challenging time, it is more important than ever to be part of a network; to have the space to talk to colleagues, hear what they are doing and share ideas. This week our primary virtual meeting focused on the issue of virtual recruitment, with an input from Robyn Johnstone (EPG). .
Our WE virtual meetings are designed to support you during this challenging time. They are an opportunity to learn with and from colleagues across the country during this fast-moving situation. Discover our WE ‘Summer Curriculum’ for Trusts, Primaries and Secondaries.
Ideas for brilliant virtual recruitment from the network
Attracting your candidates:
1. Start with your values and context to develop some principles for your virtual recruitment. This is even more important than ever in a virtual world where we are still experiencing a national shortage of teachers. Identify your non-negotiables and your clarity of the whole process before you begin. Anglian Learning’s virtual recruitment tips started with this, and we thought it was a great way to create a clear, consistent process.
2. In a virtual recruitment world, it is even more important for you to ‘sell yourself’ and your school. Think about who the candidate should speak to from your school community (e.g. staff, governors, parents, children) and introduce them to key people who can tell them the story of ‘what makes your school special’.
3. Make a simple ‘virtual tour’ of your school. Robyn has previously recommended school leaders use this approach to help candidates get ‘inside’ their physical school building. Record a virtual tour of your school on a mobile device – you can speed it up afterwards if necessary – so potential new recruits can see the physical space and feel of your school.
4. …and even better if you can involve your pupils. If you have children of key workers in school, could you ask them to make a video tour of the school from their perspective as a project to engage them? Or can you get their parents permission to interview them in your school tour about what it’s like to be a pupil in your school?
Preparing for the interview process:
5. Communicate clearly with candidates and set expectations – especially if the process is very different to one they are familiar with. School recruitment processes often take place over 1-2 days. Your timelines are likely to be longer virtually, so be clear with candidates about the process.
6. Make the candidate as comfortable as possible. Send some tips on the virtual software you’re using, or a video tutorial. Explain the process to them. Send them a guide on ‘acing a virtual interview’ (available in WE Primary Google Classroom), so they feel confident and comfortable.
7. Be mindful of work-life balance when scheduling interviews – for you and them. Do they have a young family at home? Are they self-isolating in a busy home? Make sure the time will allow them to feel confident and able to do their best. For you and your team make sure you’re not creating a huge workload by trying to interview lots of candidates in a day – this is different to an interview day, so you may be able to achieve less, especially if you haven’t interviewed virtually before.
8. Think about your room set up. It’s a simple thing but it’s easy to get wrong. Maddy Hicks from Five Islands School does all of the school’s recruitment virtually because of their remote location. She advised colleagues to remember to make sure they are visible, the right distance from the camera, and in a room that is cosy and welcoming with good acoustics (at one end of a giant, echo-filled hall might not work as well!).
9. Test your technology, test it with all of your team involved in the interview – and also have a backup plan. Make sure you have candidates phone numbers. If your Zoom/Microsoft Teams/video software stops working, be prepared to continue the interview over the phone.
10. Explore ways to involve pupils: could you include an element of virtual teaching? Could some pupils who are still in school be involved? Or could some older children join virtually?
11. Focus on what you can do better online – focusing on your vision, values and culture – and exploring if candidates are a good fit. Rather than trying to replicate the normal process online, leaders felt virtual recruitment was a really good chance to go deeper on vision and values. Schools can then look at other ways to get solid evidence of technical, teaching and learning skills.
12. … such as making greater use of references. Can you get a written statement from the candidate’s previous employer on their teaching and learning? Can they share a portfolio with evidence from monitoring activities to evidence their judgement on quality? This would give greater confidence than relying solely on trying to assess that in a abnormal environment.
After the interview:
13. Can you strengthen the probationary period or initially offer a temporary contract? If this is done in a clearly-communicated, fair way – with an understanding that it is being used because of the extraordinary circumstances to ensure children’s learning isn’t negatively impacted if a school and a candidate aren’t a good fit – a 6 month probationary period or temporary contract could help both sides assess this.
14. If you have a good relationship with an agency, when you have found a good candidate could you ask the agency to take the candidate on? If you negotiate prior to recruitment this shouldn’t involve huge fees, because they haven’t done the work of finding the candidate. It will still have a cost involved as the agency will have to do their normal checks (DBS, etc) but gives schools the ability to ‘try before you buy’ and provides the agency with income during a time when many suppliers are struggling, too.
15. Nurture a talent management pool. Claire Claxton, Headteacher from Orchards CofE School, said she always writes to unsuccessful candidates personally, giving them detailed, useful feedback and lets them know that the school will keep their details on file for any future vacancies. She said that this has always proved beneficial and they had recruited a number of roles this way, through building relationships with strong but unsuccessful candidates. By demonstrating integrity and honesty, the candidate is far more likely to want to come and work with them the next time around.
In circumstances like these, that’s more important than ever.
Register your interest in the series to share your ideas with other primary leaders across the country and find out how they are tackling shared challenges.