It's never too soon for pumpkin spice... or early hiring!

Written by 
Lauren Dachille

It's never too soon for pumpkin spice... or early hiring!

It’s fall. For most Americans, it's a time that means pumpkin flavor everything. For K-12 HR and talent acquisition teams, it's that time of year when staffing for this school year starts to (hopefully) slow down. Once school has started and classrooms are staffed, there's an opportunity to reflect on the last hiring season and begin to ramp up next year’s recruitment and staffing operation. 

We, at Nimble, felt that this was the perfect time for our annual PSA: it's never too early to start next year's hiring!

Early hiring is one of the most important things you can do to get the best teachers into your classrooms. If you already know the “why” behind early hiring, feel free to skip ahead. For everyone else, let’s talk data.

Research has shown time and time again that districts who hire earlier are more likely to get the best teachers. In fact, a new study out of University of Minnesota looks at early hiring programs at Minneapolis Public Schools, and finds that teachers hired early had higher evaluation scores than their peers and more often filled hard-to-staff roles.

The most comprehensive research on this topic was TNTP’s Missed Opportunities study, which looked at hiring data across four large, geographically diverse urban districts. The study found a few things: 

  • The districts studied extended offers to most teachers during summer, whereas many surrounding districts made offers in spring and were fully staffed by early summer, with their hiring process starting, in many cases, before the spring (February or earlier).
  • In all four districts studied, substantial numbers of candidates (50-70%) dropped out of the hiring process as a result of the slow hiring timeline, and most accepted offers at districts who had given earlier offers. 
  • Although roughly 80% of withdrawers accepted teaching positions in other districts, close to half said that they would have “definitely” or “probably” accepted an offer from the district studied if it had come first.
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the best applicants are the ones accepting those early offers in other districts. For example, withdrawers had significantly higher GPAs, were more likely to have a degree in their teaching field, and were more likely to have had coursework in education than those who were eventually hired. More than half were certified in and had applied to teach in shortage areas.

Here are four strategies to help your organization hire early and attract the strongest talent:

Vacancy projections

Start by analyzing your historical data. Chances are you won’t know your exact classroom vacancies until at least spring, but you’ll want to extend offers before then, especially in hard-to-staff areas, if you want to attract the strongest teachers. To get a sense for how many candidates you need to recruit and extend early offers to, you’ll want to start by analyzing your historical vacancies for the last five years, across teaching subjects and schools. You can also look at your applicant volume by subject area and your typical conversion rates by subject area to understand what your monthly recruitment goals should be. In Nimble, you’ll want to use your vacancy dashboard and pipeline dashboard to access this data. 

Longer term, consider implementing an intent survey and incentive to ensure you understand your true vacancies as early in the year as possible.

Nimble vacancy dashboard allows you to see your year-over-year vacancies across hiring seasons and subject areas

Pooled postings

In the years since the Missed Opportunities study, hiring timelines have gotten earlier and earlier. Many high-performing charter school networks are posting pools for the following school year as early as September or October. We recommend that you begin posting teaching roles for next school year by November at the latest, so that candidates can begin applying during their winter holidays. Since you won’t know your vacancies quite yet, it’s helpful to post broad pools that cover several grades and schools — for example, a general teacher pool, or an elementary pool.

In Nimble, you can use the pooled posting infrastructure to post jobs in fall, and add vacancies later through the vacancy dashboard or the job request process. Additionally, we recommend using our school preferences question to help route candidates within pools to the right principals. 

Stakeholder engagement

As you make the cultural shift within your organization from hiring mostly in summer to hiring mostly in spring, don’t forget to engage your stakeholders. Hiring managers are your most important partners; consider holding a workshop on what a modern K-12 hiring timeline looks like or incentivizing them with recognition programs for the schools who make the most early hires. If you make the central office shift to get the applicants in the door, but they sit in the hiring pool without outreach from principals, you won’t get the results you’re looking for.

And, of course, who is more important than the applicants themselves? Some of the most successful K-12 talent teams have provided incentives for candidates who apply early. For example, you might offer expedited screening for those who apply by a certain deadline, or even early signing bonuses in hard-to-staff areas. Be sure to coordinate with the communications team to publicize your application launch and priority deadlines. 

Early offers & cultivation

Getting postings up on the right timeline is just one piece of the puzzle. In order to round out the picture, you’ll need to do a combination of extending early offers and cultivating talent.

Some districts have an early offer program, wherein candidates can accept an offer at the district before receiving their final placement for the following year, sometimes signing as early as December. From there, these priority hires are screened for specific vacancies in the same way as internal transfers. These applicants can rest easy knowing they have a job for the next year, and you can rest easy knowing that you’ve already got your hardest-to-staff areas filled with high-performing applicants.

A new study of hiring at Minneapolis Public Schools found that teachers hired through their early offer program were more likely to work in hard-to-staff school settings and outperformed their peers on teacher evaluation metrics.

Beyond an early offer program, you’ll want a series of events scheduled throughout the spring, which allow those who have applied early to meet with principals and learn more about schools and the district. One way to lose candidates is to have them apply in November and then not hear back until March. Cultivation events like mixers, information sessions, and coffee chats (whether live or virtual) are critical to ensure your early applicants remain interested between when they apply and when their offer comes.

We hope these tips are a helpful start, but if you’d like to learn more about how Nimble can help you hire faster and earlier, reach out to us here. Happy hiring! 

Lauren Dachille
Founder & CEO @ Nimble