Recruiting teachers #1: If you want to see wildlife in a desert, find a watering hole

This is the first rule of all recruiting, no matter what level.


Do you know where your candidates hang-out? Do you know who they are, what they do with their lives? What they aspire to, what they’re doing right now instead? Do you know why they would change and start working for you?


Many people forget that for someone to join their organization implies huge change: the person was doing something else with 40-60 hours of every week before, and now you want them to come and spend that much time with you instead. What were they up to? Why would they make this masive change?

Sometimes they’re leaving a situation that is bad. Other times, you’re attracting them to a situation that’s good. Which is it? Make sure you know, it affects every other decision here…

Work, Home, Social, Advisers, Peer Approval

People talk about jobs in different venues, wearing different hats. At work, people talk about jobs in the same industry, similar employers. Here the “announce the job in the staff-room” tactic can work – people will talk about it, and if anyone mentions it to a teacher-friend at a different school, that school’s staff-room may spread rumours of it.

At home, partners often talk about work. You will have no way of knowing that person X is married to candidate Y – have you made it easy for all the “I’m not interested, but my partner might be” X’s to know about the opportunity? i.e. targetting NOT the places that Y would be looking, but where others who know Y might notice the opportunity and pass the message along.

For big changes, most people have a peer group of trusted adviser. For some it’s made of family, for others: friends. Or both. Where do those groups congregate, what links them? What do teachers do outside of school – who do they socialise with? Where?

“Network Effect”

Critical to a lot of hiring is the concept of network effect: the value of a social network is proportional to the size of the network. If you have 4 contacts, if those contacts have a further 100 contacts, then they are 10 times more valuable to you than if they have 10. Same number of people you know, but their value is hugely variable.

(I use the term “value” here very much as a short-hand; if you’re a hiring manager who objectifies people in terms of raw numbers and “value”, your hiring is probably doomed already)

This means in practice: a social group that is only members of your own school is almost worthless compared to one where every member works at a different school


To simplify all the above, it is normal to define one or more personas for each job role. These are stereotyped, unreal versions of the different people you think might enjoy the role and be good at it.

They help you answer the above questions even when there are multiple, contradictory, answers: for Persona A the answers might be easy and clear, and for Persona B almost the same but one answer is radically different. If you try to answer the questions with only one answer each, you get caught up in a tortuous net of contradictions. But answering on a persona-by-persona basis is usually much easier.

For instance, you might have Naive NQT:

  • Very young – graduated a year ago, finished QTS this year
  • Eager and tractable; very willing to try new things, because they don’t know what works and doesn’t
  • More likely to embrace job-description features that are unusual, which older teachers might reject with suspicion
  • Needs considerable mentoring – and knows it. Very aware of the need for strong mentorship in their first stand-alone role
  • Either supported by parents, or independent and desparate for help with practical issues like finding housing
  • Liable to make stupid mistakes like underestimating the impact of a long daily commute
  • Eager to socialise: will want to know about the night-life for friday after work, whether the staff go out together for drinks after school, etc
  • Available for many out-of-hours commitmets – they have no childcare to worry about
  • Expecting a low salary, and hence unlikely to accept part-time work (can’t afford it)

…I’ve made that up off the cuff, I’m not recommending it. It’s purely to illustrate the concept.

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