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Tips for successful recruitment (1)

June 22, 2008

Hello again,
Teachers are a language school’s greatest asset: on their performance lies the major part of your reputation. You may have wonderful premises and state-of-the-art equipment but without first-rate teachers your students will be unimpressed. It follows, then, that successful recruitment and retention of staff is one of management’s key priorities.

Remember that recruitment doesn’t happen as if by magic. It is a strategic process for ...

...seeking candidates who need what you have to offer and who possess the skills and qualities that will allow your school to achieve its objectives. The results of your recruitment will directly affect other areas: morale, motivation, respect, retention, quality of service, relationships with stakeholder and community members, funding. It will also affect your ability to devote time to your business plans instead of having to sort out teacher-related problems.

I have listed some tips to share with you in this and the next entry.

1. Compile a candidate profile
This is essential for clarifying your ideas on what you are looking for in a teacher. It helps if you involve everybody in this process because the new teacher will have to fit into an existing team. I suggest a general staff meeting at which you brainstorm the ideas for the profile of the ideal candidate. Think about level of experience; whether age and gender are Important; the qualifications you expect; whether you want a native-speaker or not; the type of personal qualities you expect.

Two approaches are possible to the profile. One is the analytical approach. This requires us to identify specific competencies that we require in teachers. A professional teacher needs to be confident without being arrogant. Nobody can expect to have all the answers, so if a student asks a really difficult question, the professional teacher should be able to admit defeat but offer to find out more for the student. And they must carry that promise out. Proper preparation is another crucial requirement of professionalism. When the teacher enters the classroom s/he should have all the required materials and the lesson plan ready.

Interaction with the group needs professional standards of behavior: polite, firm and fair just about sum it up. And in orchestrating the class the teacher must give everyone their chance to contribute and should be flexible enough to modify lessons if they are obviously not going to plan. Indeed a fall-back position is part of good planning.
It stands to reason also that teacher must observe punctuality and appropriate tidiness and dress: it is not possible to demand such behavior from students if the teacher doesn’t set the standards. Armed with a list of qualities drawn up by the team you can use it as a checklist for each candidate. Selection can be based on those who already demonstrate these competencies or those who are moving towards their acquisition.

But some employers might prefer a more intuitive approach based on their general reaction to the candidate. This might sound less rational but has its merits. After all, if the employer does not react well to a teacher, then how will students react? But how can you at least try to objectify this approach? I think the way forward is to think of the teacher as requiring three main attributes: an engaging personality; a set of skills that permit them to a organize a class well and a body of knowledge that they can use as a classroom resource. The second two attributes can be checked by appropriate questioning and verification of background, training and references.
The first, personality, could be the critical factor for deciding between two otherwise equal candidates. It may be less “scientific” to reject or accept a candidate on the basis of their personality but, as teaching is an interpersonal activity, it seems fair to me to assume that a teacher with appropriate personal qualities will create a better classroom atmosphere.

The candidate profile not only helps you to be precise about what you need in the new teacher, it also helps you direct some of the interview questions and to shape your reference request. For example, if your school requires teachers to complete a lot administrative records, then one of the qualities you will have to look for is willingness to complete these tasks. By asking candidates what they have been used to in this respect and how happy they are to comply, you will be able to ensure that your questions are properly directed. Similarly, when you request a reference you can ask a previous employer to comment on this aspect of the candidate’s performance.

2. Write an accurate and full job description
Whether you intend to advertise or use a recruitment agency, you will need a full and accurate job description in order to attract candidates of the right quality and deter those who are unsuitable. Include age groups to be taught; special responsibilities; contact hours: administrative duties; social duties. Describe the compensation package: salary, holiday entitlement, health insurance, accommodation, relocation and travel allowances, professional training opportunities. Include information about the school: its size; location; types of student; facilities; how long established; accreditation and status; the working culture (formal/informal); dress code.
When compiling the job description try to think beyond the obvious tangible benefits that might attract high-quality staff. People are not necessarily looking for just a job and compensation is not the be-all and end-all. Your teachers are likely to be young and eager for experience not just in the professional sense but also of new places, new cultures, new relationships. So paint an enticing but realistic picture of your country, its customs, its cuisine. Describe the people and their attitudes—I am not talking about stereotypes—for example, you could mention some national heroes, national pastimes, how people spend their leisure. Appeal too to their higher nature: what will they be able to contribute?

Teachers also like to believe that through their work they can “make a difference”. So even if the salaries you offer are modest, you may still be able to attract the best because of the overall experience teachers can expect in contributing their expertise.

3. Advertise…
If you intend to advertise, then select the best means of reaching the right candidates. If you are advertising for staff to come from abroad, use the best-known websites as these have worldwide coverage. Use the job description as the basis for the ad but include the following details as well: exact job title; level of experience required (recently qualified teacher; experienced teacher; director of studies); location (country, region and town); qualifications and type of experience required (basic requirements and desirable ones); full contact details, website address and deadline; selection process (state if all applications be acknowledged; when will interviews take place and where).

A skilfully written advertisement will help cut down the work of selection by ensuring that unsuitable candidates screen themselves out. Make it absolutely clear that you will only consider candidates who fit your criteria. You can ad to the impact of the ad by referring candidates to your school website. Have a page devoted to information for candidates. Try to give a flavor of what a day in the life of a teacher would be: use photos, even a video. That way teachers can make a much more informed decision about whether to apply or not.
…or use an agency
Using a recruitment agency can be a good solution for schools having to bring teachers in from other countries. The whole process of recruitment can become very costly so an agency might be more economic in this case, but there are some caveats.

First make sure you select a specialized and reputable agency. You need an agency that understands all the implications of ELT recruitment and also one that is familiar with the country you operate in. The agency will be the intermediary between you and prospective teachers, so you want them to be as well informed as possible. It would be invidious to make recommendations here but there are several methods of finding an appropriate agency. You might have a regional ELT association that can make recommendations; you could enquire at your nearest British Council office or you could run an Internet search and compare the services of several agencies.
Next check that the agency gives a clear description of its services and its fees. It should be willing to advertise extensively, to guarantee minimum teaching qualifications, to interview all short-listed candidates and to offer some kind of replacement policy should a teacher fail to show up or drop out.

It should also be clear what it charges for. You should not normally have to pay a registration fee or, indeed, any interim charges. A reputable agency will charge you only for a successful placement. Finally, an agency should show itself responsible in relation to recruits. Expect a reputable agency to request references that can confirm your school’s standing and financial status.

4. Read resumés and CVs carefully
Go through the applications using a highlighter to flag up any points you should check:
• Are the qualifications listed bona fide?
• Does the candidate give names and addresses of employers so that you can verify the details?
• Read between the lines: do the dates of employment make sense, or are there gaps?
• Does the candidate have outside interests that will help them to fit into the team?

5. Make it easy for candidates to apply
We live in a digital age so make sure that candidates can send their applications by email. If you want them to complete a pro forma application, ensure they can download it from your website. The advantages of a pro forma are that everybody’s resumé will be in the same format and it will be easier for you compare candidates. It will also help ensure that applicants avoid unnecessary or irrelevant information.

To be continued....

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  1. Zohray Shariati Says:

    Dear Sir/Madam

    I have been teaching since I was 25 therefore in the years I have built up my own experiences in the teaching sector. However, in this time I have taken an cert TESOL issued by Trinity College London in Iran which was necessary to teach within their programme and in which I have had the opportunity to upgrade my teaching skills.

    Furthermore, I have my M.A. Literature in English.
    Regarding my teaching experiences in detail, I have it on my CV which all my experiences are listed with an appropriate description. I can send it if you want.In addition, throughout my teaching experiences I have almost always taught to all level and for many years I have been working as a teacher trainer.

    I look forward to hear from you soon.
    Kind regards
    Zohray Shariati

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