For Strong Teacher Recruitment, It’s Not Just The Principal, The Entire School Leadership Team Needs To Have The Right Mindset

Strong teacher recruitment is part science and part art, with the percentages of each dependent on the specific work that you’re doing. When you’re cultivating candidates that could be a strong fit for your organization/district, that’s predominately art. When you’re setting your strategic plan/recruitment plan for the school year, that’s where the science comes in. For people that haven’t done teacher or leadership recruitment work extensively, they often don’t understand the steps involved to find, hire, and retain the best talent.

In my experience, school leaders specifically struggle to understand their role in the talent process. Many of them know they HAVE to interview teachers, but it’s usually not their favorite thing to do. The expectation is usually that Talent teams or HR handle the finding and initial interviewing, and school leaders come in to handle final interviews and sign off on teachers that they believe fit their school culture.

One of the largest issues with that approach is that there’s often a disconnect between recruiter expectations and school leader expectations around the ideal candidate profile and culture fits. Talent teams/HR have one concept of who fits the district/charter overall, and then school leaders have a much more nuanced understanding of who fits at their specific school. If there aren’t ongoing conversations happening year round about fit and culture, then when it’s peak hiring season and everyone is moving at rapid speed, there will be a lot of disconnect, friction, and tension.

In order to help alleviate some of that, I want to take time to walk through some important aspects of hiring that could be beneficial in regards to developing a “talent mindset”.

Timing is everything!

  • Starting the hiring process early is imperative for finding really strong teachers and leaders. While some districts are hamstrung by systems outside of their control, most schools and school leaders have the choice of when to begin hiring.
  • Ideally, you want to begin hiring in early March, after having conversations with your current teachers about who will be coming back (retained) versus who won’t be. Once you have a clear understanding of your teacher roster and the roles that need to be filled, speak with your talent person/HR to make sure they’re aware.
  • One of the pushbacks that I usually hear about early hiring is that schools still have open roles they need to fill so there’s no time to think about the future. I always counter by saying that the longer you wait to address future hiring, the less likely you will hire strong candidates. 
  • There’s a tipping point, and if you’re waiting until May or June to begin future hiring you will most likely be choosing from a pool of inexperienced candidates or candidates that may not be a good fit for your school. Early is always better!


  • One of the more difficult components of early hiring is having to keep a candidate “warm” until they show up to your school for summer professional development. Keeping them “warm” means having continuous points of conversation with each candidate from the moment they sign their offer letter until they show up for training.
  • This is one of the hardest topics for school leaders to comprehend and ultimately buy into because it means creating a cultivation plan to engage with future hires. This plan usually means a monthly phone call, sending articles that may be of interest to the candidate, or other communication.
  • I’ve seen smart school leaders leverage their assistant principals and teacher leaders in the building to handle the regular communication with future hires. Creating small cohorts of future hires for your APs or teachers to manage will decrease the work that you do as a school leader and also increases the leadership capacities of your staff members.

Ideal candidate profile

  • This is another key component of a successful recruitment plan, and another area where collaborating with your Talent team/human resource departments will be imperative. An ideal candidate profile is a list of soft and hard skills that a candidate needs to be successful at your school.
  • Do your teachers need to understand a specific curriculum? Do you want them to have certifications or certain specializations? Must they be certified to teach right away when they join you? These are questions that you should be asking yourself and sharing with your recruiters to help them develop a plan to find the right educators for your school.
  • Think about 4-5 skills (soft or hard) that your most successful teachers possess and use them as a way to vet candidates that come through the pipeline. As always, have your list vetted by your recruiter to ensure that these skills are not rooted in bias and are skills that you are able to use as metrics for hiring.

Involving other leaders/educators in the recruitment process

  • It’s important for you to not try and take on the entire teacher recruitment process on your own. You have an entire leadership teams: assistant principals, Deans, and teacher leaders in your building that with the right training and support should be able to play an integral role in identifying, hiring, and ultimately retaining strong educators.
  • In regards to training, be very specific about what role you want your team players to play. For example, you can have your Dean conduct the final interview portion around classroom management or family communication. 
  • You can have your APs lead interviews for candidates that they’ll be coaching, while also having your current teachers sit on panels to ask questions of the candidates and to answer any questions interviewees may have. How you involve your team is up to you and your recruiter(s), but ultimately it’s in your best interest to use the people around you to lessen your burden throughout the process.
  • Before delegating tasks, make sure to have a comprehensive conversation with your Talent team about any pre-requisite training(s) that your APs/Deans/teachers need to have before they can start interviewing.

This list is not exhaustive of all of the skills that a school leader needs to build out their talent mindset, but these are foundational pieces for beginning the process. Always keep in mind that any changes or adjustments that you would like to make should always be brought to the attention of your recruiter to ensure that they’re on the same page. They are there to support you, but can only help or support what they’re aware of.

Mal Davis
Mal Davis
Mal is an educator, podcaster, and social justice advocate that believes in the power of people. He has spent most of his adult life working with communities of color to identify issues that cause harm, and then working with schools and nonprofits to create solutions. He spent roughly five years in talent management, working to identify and hire teachers, support staff, and school leaders in New York City, Camden, and Philadelphia. He joined the Center as a Stoneleigh Emerging Leader Fellow, working in education policy with a specific focus on equitable hiring solutions for the School District of Philadelphia and schools across PA to increase the number of BIPOC teachers in the workforce.


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