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Last updated on 8 March 2017
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How can we ensure our recruitment processes are financially efficient? We relay advice from a recruitment expert on long-term strategies that can make recruitment more cost-effective. We also refer to a report published by the CIPD on recruitment.

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  1. Be proactive, not reactive
  2. Build a brand
  3. Develop good recruitment habits
  4. Ensure applying is easy
  5. Make the process comfortable
  6. Pick the right person
  7. Don't forget retention

In this article we relay advice from Dean Kelly, a recruitment specialist and adviser, about how to recruit in a financially effective way.

We also refer to research on effective recruitment conducted by the government's Behavioural Insights Team and published by CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development. 

Be proactive, not reactive

Dean explained that when recruiting, a lot of schools are reactive: they only think about recruitment when vacancies occur. This approach can cost more money, time and effort than is necessary.

This approach can cost more time, money and effort than is necessary

If schools wish to save money, they should look to be proactive with recruitment. Schools are currently facing rising costs and potentially shrinking budgets.

As human resource is a large cost within a school, schools should be planning well into the future, changing how they manage recruitment and retention in order to cope with a smaller budget and higher costs elsewhere.

Being proactive with recruitment does not mean frequently advertising job positions.

Dean advised against doing this, because if people see that you are advertising excessively they will assume your school has a high turnover. This suggests that it may be an unpleasant place to work.

Build a brand

Google your school

If you were to search for your school on Google right now, what would come up?

If you were to search for your school on Google right now, what would come up?

Candidates will search online to find out more about your school and how it is different from others. It’s therefore important to make sure that what they find is positive. 

Dean said that schools should take advantage of low-cost digital marketing, such as social media and websites, to push a consistent, positive message that is in line with their culture and brand. Similar positive stories could also be shared with the local press.

Communicate your strengths and aims

Promoting positive stories through social media and the local press shouldn’t just be done when you need to fill a role. It requires year-round brand-building, so that when a vacancy does arise there is warm interest. Brand-building can be time consuming at first, but in the long term it creates efficiencies that can save your school money.

Dean explained that building a strong brand relies on you knowing your school's strong points and being able to communicate them effectively.

To identify strengths, ask your best teachers what they enjoy about working at the school. Ask about:

... building a strong brand relies on you knowing your school's strong points and being able to communicate them effectively

  • what the school does well
  • their reasons for feeling emotionally attached to the school
  • what might attract other teachers to apply
  • what has been the school's most significant improvement in the last 12-24 months

You could also ask pupils and parents to give their views. 

To pinpoint the school's vision and aims, Dean suggested surveying the senior leadership team (SLT). Each member of the SLT could be asked to write down:

  • What the school does
  • How it does it
  • Why it does it

Answers can be used to help you reach a consensus on the strengths, aims and goals of the school. Building a strong sense of purpose, and creating a clear aim, helps a school to build a positive reputation, culture and network. This can in turn help you to attract and retain the right staff.

You'll find further advice on digital marketing and brand-building in our article on marketing your school effectively

Case Study

Case study: having a unique selling point

We spoke to Dave Sammels, headteacher at Mayflower Community Academy in Plymouth, about how his school recruits and retains staff.

He emphasised the importance of having a “unique selling point” (USP) that helps to both recruit and retain teachers. Mayflower Community Academy’s USP is:

  • Investing time, money and energy in people
  • Creating opportunities for staff to develop their understanding of pedagogy
  • Giving staff opportunities for career progression
  • Involving staff in the school's vision so that they can be “part of something bigger than themselves”

Dave said that the school communicates its vision consistently, with no mixed messages. This helps to ensure staff are positive about the school, and to attract and retain teachers.

It also means they can be clear about the challenges of working in the school, which has a high proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals and, at the time of the case study being taken, had been judged ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted. In 2016, the school was inspected again by Ofsted and was given an 'outstanding' rating.

A full version of this case study appears in our article on effective recruitment.

Develop good recruitment habits

Dean said that some schools have picked up unhelpful habits when it comes to recruitment. For example, they may keep using the same advertising methods even if these have proved to be expensive and ineffective.

Test what you're doing

Page 23 of the CIPD report (linked to in section 1) sets out the importance of evaluating what works in recruitment and adapting appropriately. It explains:

There is no substitute for consistently and rigorously evaluating what works for the organisation.

For example, truly knowing the implications of different approaches in advertising jobs requires evaluation on a case-by-case basis, linking different approaches to later outcomes, such as employee performance, satisfaction and retention.

With robust data, this can serve as a feedback loop that allows organisations to improve the validity of recruitment methods.

Experimenting with a job advert is an easy way to start. Page 9 of the report explains the value of trying different wordings on job adverts, and measuring the success of each. Your school could try three different adverts and measure which attracts the most interests, for example. 

Page 11 recommends that employers diversify where they advertise their roles. Your school could place adverts in a range of places and see how successful each one is. 

Look outside the education sector

Schools may find it useful to look at information and research on effective recruitment produced outside the education sector.

In particular, schools could research the behavioural science of recruitment and selection. The CIPD report summarises some of the available research on this topic. It looks at:

  • Attracting the people you need
  • Designing selection processes
  • Improving the candidate experience

The report also links to other research literature on recruitment and retention.

Ensure applying is easy

CIPD: On a website ... one or two clicks from the home page should get people to the actual application

Schools should carefully consider what information they’re sending to applications who have expressed interest. Interested applicants may be deterred by generic information and long application forms.

Page 11 of the CIPD report (linked to in section 1) discusses the importance of making sure your application form is easy to fill in and find:

Small changes in how easy it is to apply can have large effects on people’s willingness to make the initial effort. On a website, for example, one or two clicks from the home page should get people to the actual application. Arduous forms can discourage even the most motivated applicants.

Make the process comfortable

The CIPD report contains more information on the candidate experience. It explains that a candidate's experience of the process is their first impression of an organisation's culture and company values.  

Furthermore, a bad experience can be spread through word of mouth. If a candidate finds applying to your school arduous or stressful, they may tell others about this and dissuade good candidates from applying in future.

Pages 19-20 recommend that employers:

  • Avoid creating stressful environments to test how people will perform under duress. This is not a useful or fair way of looking at how someone will perform on the job. If schools want to test resilience, there are specifically designed exercises that do this better than creating a stressful environment
  • Only ask about identity and demographic information at the very end of the full recruitment and selection process
  • Ask for feedback on the process from both rejected and accepted candidates. In the same way that it is good practice to provide feedback to rejected candidates, it may also be worth asking them about their impression of the organisation through the process, as well as their opinions on the tasks and process

Pick the right person

It may be worth asking candidates to fill in a quick profile questionnaire

A recruitment process that ends in the recruitment of a new teacher who is not a good fit for the school is not financially efficient. Dean said that such a process could lead to low retention, unsettled pupils and the need to recruit again.

Schools should therefore focus on recruiting candidates who are a good fit. The values and aims of candidates should match the values and aims of the school. It may be worth asking candidates to fill in a quick profile questionnaire. This should include questions about attitude, values, behaviours, situations and environments.

Page 8 of the CIPD report also recommends taking a "fresh look" at the person-organisation fit:

Write down a definition of organisation fit as well as person-job fit, explicitly listing employee characteristics that the organisation needs, and commit to only evaluating candidates on these characteristics when it comes to ‘fit’.

Avoid bias

Dean said that, as well as this, schools should anonymise all applications and CVs. This includes removing all names, gender information and education history. This will help to remove any biases, even if you don’t think you have them.

Without biases, schools will be better placed to judge applications off their content and decide if the applicant is a good fit for the school. Removing subconscious bias helps to create positive, diverse and engaging environments.

Pages 12-13 of the CIPD report explain that biases creep in even when we think they don't. It therefore also recommends that, when possible, names and other identifiable information (including addresses) be removed from CVs and applications. 

Don't forget retention

Dean advised schools to look at recruitment and retention together. This means building a supportive and positive atmosphere over time, with a focus on what will attract and retain teachers. This could be:

  • Job satisfaction
  • Peer groups that teachers enjoy
  • Reasonable pay
  • The opportunity for progress

Another of our articles has information on improving staff retention. It includes practical advice from the deputy headteacher of Lawrence Sheriff School, a teaching school in Warwickshire.

This article was written in anticipation of members' needs.

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