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Last updated on 9 March 2018
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Recruitment season can be a tough time for secondary schools, which need to really stand out in a competitive market. Your job advert is the first place most candidates will hear of your school, so needs to sell it as a great place to work. Here's how to refresh the way you advertise this year.

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  1. Analyse previous recruitment rounds
  2. Make your job advert compelling
  3. Offer unique perks
  4. Advertise in the right places
  5. Improve your online presence
  6. Smooth out the application process
  7. Allow time for a contingency plan

We worked with Gareth Thyer-Jones, managing director of social media recruitment service Talented Teacher Jobs to write this article.

Analyse previous recruitment rounds

As a secondary school, you're likely to be comparable in size to a small or medium-size business. Take inspiration from businesses and put some time into analysing and improving your recruitment processes.

Use evidence from past recruitment rounds to work out what you need to change or do more of

Ask your support or HR staff to analyse your previous recruitment rounds. Look at your records from the past couple of years, and consider the following aspects of your recruitment process:

  • Position advertised for
  • Time of year
  • Applicant numbers and calibre
  • Advertising content, placement and duration
  • Method of recruiting (e.g. hiring newly qualified teachers through a university, word-of-mouth referral, responding to an advert, using agencies, headhunting)
  • Application process
  • Interview panel composition

Draw up lists of the common factors in your most and least successful recruitment rounds. Use this evidence to work out what you need to change, what you should do more of, and what new strategies you could try. 

Make your job advert compelling

Your job advert is often the first encounter applicants will have with your school, so it needs to be informative, engaging and a good reflection of what you're about.

In the advert (as much as the format allows), always include:

  • The basic information about the job
  • A high-quality picture of your school looking its best, and logo
  • Your school's ethos, culture and values

Highlight your school's unique features

Make a list of 10 selling points about your school and craft your advert around these.

Make a list of 10 selling points about your school and craft your advert around these

These may be obvious – is your pupil progress outstanding, or do you have great extra-curricular clubs or brand new facilities? Think also about your location, demographic and what this means, links with other schools/organisations/the community, and provision for pupils with different needs.

Look at publicly available data and compare your school to the nearest, similar schools. Look at:

  • Exam results
  • Pupil absence rates
  • Staff retention

Don't make direct comparisons with other schools, simply describe your school and talk about having "the best X in the area".

Your selling points might also not be your ‘best’ features. Be honest – if your school is underperforming, explain upfront that you're on a school improvement journey. You’ll only get applicants who are ready for the challenge, which will benefit you in the long run.

If you're not sure, ask your staff what they most value about your school with this survey template:

The responses can give you a steer on what to focus on, and can also give you great testimonials for marketing. Ask staff if you can use their comments on social media, your school website, or in a prospectus or other promotional material.

What not to include

Don't list too many specific details of the job description – teaching jobs, in particular, don't vary much between schools, so it's unlikely that this is what will make your school stand out.

Counter-intuitively, perhaps, don't focus on your 'outstanding' Ofsted rating if you have one. This won't tell applicants what it’s like to work in your school, or appeal to their desire to make a difference to children’s lives, or show how they're going to be supported to develop their career.

The Association of School and College Leaders has recently called for a similar de-emphasising of Ofsted grades in school advertising, saying that schools have many distinctive features that are "more inspiring than an accountability measure".

Don't focus on your 'outstanding' Ofsted rating ... This won't tell applicants what it’s like to work in your school

Offer unique perks

You have more flexibility than primary schools to offer bigger salaries and perks to candidates. Incentives don’t have to be financial – for example, some schools:

  • Allow staff to use their specialist facilities, such as gym or media equipment
  • Offer excellent professional development opportunities, such as secondments or extensive CPD programmes
  • Run social activities, like staff sports teams, quiz nights or choirs
  • Partner with local businesses to offer discounts

George Abbot School's benefits for staff include: 

  • Membership of a staff association and welfare group which consults staff on issues such as wellbeing and staff development
  • A healthcare plan
  • Priority admission to the school for their children 
  • Extra-curricular activities including sports teams, staff choir, organised fitness sessions
  • Corporate membership at the local fitness club 

Multi-academy trusts

Secondary schools in multi-academy trusts (MATs) may have a particular style of advertising that their trust requires them to follow, or may move staff between schools rather than recruiting new staff.

If you do still need to advertise, leverage the trust as a selling point. If applicable, highlight the:

  • Enhanced professional development opportunities available
  • Chance to work in other schools within the trust
  • Ethos and culture of the trust
  • 'Grow your own' culture of helping teachers to get ready for leadership positions

Don’t forget, though, that the person you hire will still spend the bulk of their time in your school, so make sure that this remains the focus of your advert.

Advertise in the right places

There are a lot of places you could advertise depending on your budget and who you want to reach:

Word of mouth is a cost-effective and often successful option. Ask your staff to refer candidates and share the vacancy with their peers and via their social media profiles. You could even offer a small financial incentive for any staff member who refers someone you later hire. 

Consider who your advert is aimed at

You'll reach different types of people depending on where you advertise. The general (un-scientific) picture is: 

  • Younger teachers tend to use recruitment websites, social media and local authority websites, so go online if you're looking for a less experienced teacher and you have a smaller budget. Forge links with your nearest university, as newly qualified teachers are likely to go to schools they have had a relationship with in the past (the school works with their university or they completed their placement year there)
  • Teachers in the 34-50 age bracket are likely to use more traditional methods like education recruitment sites, or to be signed up with recruitment agencies. They tend to be active on Twitter for education-related purposes, and are most likely to be members of teaching associations. They use Google a lot to find vacancies, so make sure your advert is search-friendly (use relevant key words in the title and opening paragraph)
  • Experienced teachers over 50 are not usually looking to move job, so are often headhunted or find vacancies through established peer networks and referrals. Ask your staff to refer candidates and share the vacancy with their peer networks, or proactively approach people you know who are working in other schools who would be a good fit

Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Take out a series of cheaper adverts in a variety of places if you're struggling to find candidates, rather than one big, expensive advert. Diversifying your advertising can help you reach people you wouldn't normally.

To cover all bases, post your advert on your school's website and online profiles, your local authority site, and one national recruitment website.

Have a recruitment mindset all year round

Promote your selling points in front of potential applicants all year round through your website and digital presence

Consider the timing of your advertising. Most schools advertise during the spring term, but doing so is only adding to an already crowded market. You could actively promote your school’s message and selling points in front of potential applicants all year round – partly by improving your school website and digital presence. 

Improve your online presence

Update your school website

Candidates will research your school to find out as much information as they can before deciding to apply. Help them do so by updating your school website, taking the chance to put across the best things about your school. 

Top tips for your website are:

  • Make sure it works properly and is engaging and easy to use. This means that:
    • All links work and go to the right places
    • Images load properly and are high quality
    • There is a clear 'menu' or other way of navigating around the site from the homepage
    • Text is succinct, clear and free from typos and errors
  • Make sure it looks good and works properly on phones and tablets – whoever created your website should be able to advise on this
  • Fill it with attractive photos of your school and surrounding area
  • Set up a permanent 'working here' page on your website (like other employers do), selling your school as an employer and place to work. Include: 
    • The unique/distinguishing features of your school
    • The benefits of living in your local area
    • Your priorities for staff – their professional development, becoming part of the community
    • Any benefits you offer – staff socials, the chance to get involved in research projects, work-life balance initiatives
    • Photographs and testimonials from current staff members saying what they like about working at your school – you could even create a promotional video using these tips from the organisation Marketing Advice for Schools

Here are some examples of this type of page:

  • Fitzharrys School has a detailed description of the school and a document which explains why teachers should "Choose Fitzharrys"
  • Woking High School begins with a glowing testimonial from a staff member and has a staff prospectus
  • Southborough High School highlights features such as the school's reputation for innovation and the staff social committee
  • The Careers page on The Key's website describes 'Life at The Key'

Use social media

Social media is very popular with teachers, but schools don't yet tend to use it much for recruitment. However, it can help you because:

  • There are many groups and forums where teachers talk and share ideas – you can post vacancies in front of large, tailored audiences 
  • Candidates can get a day-by-day sense of school life through a well-maintained Facebook page or Twitter account – use it to highlight your school's best bits
  • It is free to use and can save you money

If you don't have school social media profiles, set them up with help from our article on how to use social media for publicity and communications

Once you're set up:

  • Post your advert on your school's profiles and ask your followers/connections to share it with others who would be interested
  • Include an image of your school to attract attention, and always include a link to the full advert and job description on your school website
  • Search Facebook for relevant groups you can join and post your vacancy in
  • Tweet your advert using popular hashtags used by teachers on Twitter such as #teachingvacancyuk, #teacherjobs or #ukedchat

Take it to the next level

You could learn more about search engine optimisation (SEO) – making your post appear in the top Google search results – and paying for online advertising which targets certain audiences.

Many websites have advice and courses to help, like Moz's free beginner's guide to SEO.

Alternatively, you could hire a social media company to do this for you. For example, Talented Teacher Jobs will post your vacancy on social media platforms and use online advertising to make sure your advert is seen by the candidates you want to attract. It will also take care of SEO, and give you all the statistics to help you analyse the success of your advert – helping to inform your future recruitment strategies.

Smooth out the application process

The application process is as much for you to sell yourself to potential candidates as it is for candidates to demonstrate their suitability to you. You want to make a good impression, and you don’t want candidates telling their peers about a stressful or unprofessional experience.

Make sure your website works for people using smartphones and tablets, and is easy to navigate

With your website, make sure:

  • It works for people using phones and tablets
  • It’s easy to navigate, and to find the job advert, job description, and to work out how to apply
  • You can apply online (if at all possible) if the job advert and job description are online

Your first step in the recruitment process should be simple. Just ask for:

  • Basic personal information – name, contact details, whether they’re a qualified teacher, etc.
  • A CV or description of their experience and work history
  • The necessary safeguarding information
  • A statement about why they want to work in this role, at your school

Don’t make all applicants fill in an unnecessarily long application form, as this will be time-consuming and may put people off. It can also frustrate candidates who don’t get any further – meaning they might not want to apply again in the future, or might discourage their peers from doing so.

For teaching jobs in particular, make sure your application process fits around the demands of the job.

You could get a staff member to test the application process, checking how easy and user-friendly it is to find the job description on the school site and complete the application. 

Keep applicants informed at every stage of the process. Communicate dates and deadlines properly, thank applicants for their interest in the role, and provide timely updates.

Notice periods for teachers

Teachers employed under the conditions of the Burgundy Book must give a certain amount of notice.

Run your recruitment rounds in plenty of time for your successful candidates to meet these deadlines when giving notice to their current school: 


Term end date

Minimum notice

Notice deadline


31 December

2 months

31 October


30 April

2 months

28/29 February


31 August

3 months

31 May

Allow time for a contingency plan

Firstly, make sure your job advert is live for at least a month so people have time to see it.

Make sure your job advert is live for at least a month

Teachers work a lot of overtime, and it takes time to find a vacancy and complete an application – yet some schools only put adverts out for 1 or 2 weeks.

Secondly, don’t assume that you’ll find someone in the first round. The teacher recruitment market in particular is challenging at the moment, so leave yourself some contingency time in case you don't find a good candidate at the first try.

The earlier you start your recruitment process, the more time you will have to go out again if you’re unsuccessful (and the less chance you have of panic-appointing a candidate who might not be right for the job).


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