Paul Howells considers the changing nature of recruitment in our schools, and encourages you to consider how you can best save time while also getting best value

Click here to go straight to the school case study
Click here to go straight to the Top Tips for online recruitment I am sure that at some point during the new school year, you will have to undergo the arduous task of replacing a member of your team who has decided the time is right to move on. In my experience, with all the ongoing issues of managing schools to contend with, recruitment can prove be an extremely time-consuming process. Recruitment advertising is both laborious and expensive, with a staggering £120m being spent in schools each year in England and Wales. Furthermore, a recent study by the DfES has indicated that there are significant shortages of science, maths and foreign language teachers. The report also showed a worrying drop in graduates applying for PGCE training and teaching positions. This all makes finding the right person increasingly more difficult, with serious implications for both our schools and our children.

Print-based recruitment methods

Over the years it is likely that many schools have had success using the traditional methods of recruitment advertising. However, times are changing, with the education sector always overstretched and headteachers under constant financial pressure. I am, therefore, convinced that the money spent on recruitment could be better utilised and crucially put back into our schools for the children to benefit. If we were to look back to the 1950s, teachers would have been far more likely to find a job in a school and stay there until they retired. Over the years, this has slowly changed and it is now increasingly common for teachers and other members of staff to move, either in search of promotion or due to personal circumstances. The result of this is the rising cost of recruitment, which is having a real impact on the financial management of schools, and the British taxpayer. Historically, advertising in print-based publications such as national newspapers was really the only way to reach teachers. The benefit of advertising in national newspapers was, and continues to be, that readership is high. Due to the rise in demand, many newspapers now also produce regular education supplements. Regional advertising, on the other hand, has always been the most logical method of reaching candidates in your local area. The readership of local press also remains high and this advertising medium continues to be popular, especially when looking for local candidates – for example, because of limited hours of work. In more recent years the introduction of targeted and specialist magazines have also provided another link to teachers. The benefit of these publications is that they are available for much longer, with weekly, monthly and quarterly publications on offer. Print advertising has no doubt proved popular and successful for many schools over the last few years. But this medium also comes with its own problems. Perhaps the most significant for financial managers in schools is that with the turnover in staffing on the increase, the cost of recruitment is escalating. A single advert can set back your budget anything between £400 and £2,000 for a premium placement. Worryingly, if you do not find the right candidate, then you have little choice but to advertise the job again. Furthermore, the money involved in advertising in print publications does not take into account the hidden costs incurred for postage, prospectus printing, application packs and admin work, which again increases the cost in both time and money.

A possible way forward: online recruitment

With the evolution of technology, the internet has become one of the most used methods of communication in the world. Staggeringly, people are on average spending more time online than reading. It also accounts for one-tenth of all advertising spend in the UK and for the first time it has now overtaken national newspapers. With this in mind, it is inevitable that the internet should feature in where schools place their own recruitment adverts. In the last few years online recruitment providers have begun offering a channel to place adverts, with the sheer speed of the internet making it possible to start attracting applications within minutes of the position going live. Interestingly, the cost of online advertising can be significantly less than print alternatives, with a single job listing costing as little as £200. An added benefit is that due to the live nature of the internet, your ad can stay online until the position is filled, without incurring additional charges. Furthermore, application packs, policies and Ofsted reports can be uploaded with each vacancy, saving time and money on print and postage, as well as helping the environment by reducing waste paper. Unlike other forms of advertising, it is possible to see how many times your ad has been viewed, as well as how many application forms have been downloaded. This means that if you are not receiving enough applications, or too many from unsuitable candidates, you can change your copy to attract the right calibre of applicant. I certainly do not see the emergence of internet job sites as the end of print-based recruitment advertising. The fact of the matter is, however, that with the numbers of teachers in training dropping and the cost of print advertising rising, and the increasing prevalence of IT, schools need to consider embracing more online advertising as a matter of course. If online recruitment methods can produce the same results at a fraction of the cost, in both time and money, than surely it is possible to put that money back into the things that really matter such as teachers’ salaries and school equipment, and most importantly of all, into teaching and learning. My advice to any of you looking to replace a member of your team in the future would be to trial new approaches, as using one channel does not exclude another. Just because you have had success with printed advertising, does not mean you cannot have equal or improved results from advertising online. With the added benefits, not to mention the environmental impact, it must at the very least be worth a try – as the school in the case study found to its benefit.

Case study: St Cyres School, Penarth

Historically St Cyres School had relied heavily on traditional methods of recruitment through the Times Education Supplement, along with local press advertising. While these two advertising channels had been effective, the school was noticing that the costs involved were escalating. In addition to the monetary pressure, the recruitment process was demanding vast amounts of administrative resource to compile and send out application requests before dealing with the incoming submissions. In 2003, the headteacher, Brian Lightman, decided it was time to explore new recruitment options. After discussing his concerns with the Secondary Heads Association, it was suggested to him that his school should trial In the first instance, Brian called and spoke at length with a member of the team to understand the benefits and costs compared against the current recruitment methods. After careful consideration he decided that the best option for St Cyres was to take advantage of the yearly licence which allowed the school to advertise an unlimited number of jobs throughout the year for a one-off fee . Almost immediately a new position became vacant and Brian was able to place his first advert. Following user-friendly guidelines the position was ‘live’ within minutes and was attracting strong candidates within hours. Moreover, as offered an option where application packs could be posted alongside the job description, the administrative pressure was removed from his team. St Cyres continues to use and has now advertised more than 34 vacancies over the course of the last four years. Every position has had an average of 250 views, with these converting to an average of 20 applications per vacancy. Furthermore, as the school no longer has to send out expensive application packs valuable time is saved, while it has dramatically reduced the cost of recruitment through postage and advertising costs. The school has saved thousands of pounds and several hours of administration time on each vacancy.

How to get the most out of online recruitment

1. Get advice from the experts You don’t have to be fluent in IT to run a successful online recruitment campaign as the process is very simple and will only take you a matter of minutes. For those of you who are nervous, I would always recommend that you take advice from the experts. Good online recruitment providers have a detailed on-screen user guide and a live helpline where they are on hand to talk you through how to set up your account and place your first advert. You will be surprised how easy it is. 2. Ensure you get to the right candidates Before you place a vacancy make sure you have your job description and requirements clearly defined. Often these can be added to the vacancy advert to save time and avoid confusion. The more info you put into an ad the better the results – remember you are not being charged by the word or column inches like newspapers. 3. Save yourself time and money Attach application packs to the advertisement too, as this will save you a fortune in paper and postage as well as time. Instead of applicants requesting application packs from your school they will download them at their end. This also ensures your candidates are computer literate – an increasingly important criterion in its own right. 4. Monitor your adverts One of the benefits of using online recruitment services is that you are able to constantly monitor your advert. While it is live you can instantly see how many times your vacancy has been viewed against the number of applications you have received. Careful monitoring will allow you to understand if your advert is successfully attracting candidates and if applications are from suitable teachers. If viewings or applications are low you may be able to revamp the copy which might help to entice candidates to apply. 5. It’s www for a reason…

It is estimated that in excess of 75% of all vacancies are now filled online, so online recruitment can work for all your staff needs, from leaders to admin staff. Remember the web is truly global and you are likely to attract applicants from far and wide, so be prepared to state whether your vacancies are suitable for overseas workers or use filter systems to restrict applications to your local area, or UK or EU candidates, as required.