The right fit: what real teachers consider when choosing a job

Written by 
Tiffany Teng

It’s no secret that attracting top performing teachers is an ongoing challenge for K-12 talent management teams. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that hiring is a two-way process: it’s not just about school districts screening teachers, but also about them screening you!

We’ve consulted the research and interviewed several teachers who have switched schools within the last 5 years to identify tactical changes districts can implement to attract the best-fit talent for their schools.

According to the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), which conducted extensive research on teacher retention, hiring and personnel management is one of the top 5 areas districts can examine to solve issues related to the teacher shortage.

So what changes can you make to attract the best-fit talent?

Start earlier than you think.

First, it’s critical that districts hire early, ideally by May 1. Research by TNTP has shown that as a district’s hiring process drags out into the later part of summer, they are more likely to end up with a pool of less qualified applicants as the most qualified candidates accept job offers elsewhere.

In one of our teacher interviews, Christina, a middle school STEM teacher, commented that she had waited over six weeks to hear back from a particular district she was interested in, and soon withdrew her application because of the lengthy wait time.

She’s not alone. A similar experience is cataloged across candidates interviewed as part of TNTP’s Missed Opportunities study:

“‘The timeline is what made me decide not to pursue a position [with you]. It got to be the beginning of school [and] I ended up taking another offer, but this was the one that I wanted."

— Special education applicant

This same study prescribes several ways districts can bump up hiring timelines, like revising teacher notification requirements, reforming collective bargaining transfer requirements, addressing budget barriers, and revamping the roles and systems of human resources departments. And many districts, like Shelby County Schools, have seen great results implementing incentives that allowed them to identify vacancies earlier in the year.

Use tools like Nimble, that boost efficiency.

Changing hiring timelines may seem daunting to many districts whose current practices have been in place for years. However, districts can also secure more of the strongest candidates in the short term by leveraging hiring tools that promote an efficient and high-touch screening process.

In the Missed Opportunities study, TNTP notes that to be successful, a district must create a well-defined applicant process flow with clear steps, requirements, and status change notifications for applicants. This means utilizing an applicant tracking system that can be configured to your district’s exact hiring workflow and that prompts action when candidates are stuck in the process.

By implementing more user-friendly hiring software, DC Public Schools increased their team’s capacity and boosted the % of new hires coming from their centralized pipeline by 16%. They also filled 150 more vacancies by August than they had in the prior year!

Feature your schools in the process.

Our teacher interviews also underscored the idea that candidates prefer a process that’s not only well-defined but allows them to get to know the school environment:

“For me, I accepted a position at a school that utilized video demonstrations and in-person teaching demos because I liked that they clearly knew the metrics that a good teacher passes. It is crucial to role-play scenarios in the interview to see how teachers will navigate roadblocks inside and out of the classroom, including student behavior, family engagement, and challenges with colleagues.”

As another teacher stated:

“One of the interviews that I still remember, even though it was three years ago, was one where I got to do a live demonstration at the school and afterward I shadowed several classrooms. It was a smaller school so I was impressed with how personalized the admin made the experience, even asking me about feedback on their interview process when we were done.”

These three tips are just a small dive into today’s proven best practices for hiring. For more on how to attract top talent, check out:

Tiffany Teng
Product & Sales Associate @ Nimble