Recruitment is a bit of a minefield. Getting it right takes time and sometimes a lot of patience. By following the Axcis Guide to Good Recruitment Practice, you can increase your chances of finding that perfect candidate the first time. In part two I talked about writing a person specification. Part three covers deciding on your application process and writing an effective job advert.
The Application Process
Before you can get started writing a job advert, you need to decide how people will apply. Will you ask for a CV and covering statement? Will you ask for an application pack/form to be completed, or will you simply ask for a CV? Bear in mind that your application process can be a double-edged sword. The more time consuming and complicated you make the process, the fewer applicants you will get but those who do apply are clearly very interested in the role and serious about their application since they’ve put in several hours to apply. On the other hand, if you make the process quick and easy, you will get many more applicants but they may not always be suitable for the role or particularly passionate about joining your school or organisation. My personal preference is to strike a balance; ask for a CV, but add in one or two other, simple application criteria. This serves two purposes – you should still get a reasonable number of applicants but you also get the opportunity to throw in a quick competency test – have your applicants demonstrated the ability to read and follow instructions carefully? This is surely a quality we look for in all employees?
For example, at Axcis, we are currently recruiting graduates for our 2015 Graduate Training Programme. We asked for three things:
- CV – You can tell a lot from a CV (more about this later!)
- To confirm availability for a graduate selection day (no point applying if they can’t make it on the day)
- A statement of no more than 400 words on why they want the job (basic test of written English skills plus an insight into their interpretation/understanding of the role)
Despite being told that there are hundreds, if not thousands of bright graduates out there struggling to find jobs, we have so far not had a single applicant follow this simple application process!
As an employer, you can decide if you will overlook this lack of following the correct procedure should a fantastic CV turn up on your desk. However, it can be very useful as part of the initial screening process.
The problem with school application packs
While school application packs are generally very thorough, they often require a lot of written information. Some schools even insist on hand written packs, meaning it isn’t even possible to “copy and paste” from a previous CV or application pack. Doggedly writing our your qualification and work history, achievements, plus a statement on your teaching philosophy (for example) can take a very long time. When you factor in that most teachers, support staff and school managers are very busy people, the deadline often drifts by before they get a chance to complete the pack. In this way, some schools are certainly missing out on some potentially very good applicants by making their process of application too complicated.
Perhaps the best thing to do is decide what information is absolutely essential for your application process and keep things like equal opportunities forms, disclosures and other legal paperwork for a later part of your recruitment process. Try to keep it as simple as possible so as to maximise the number of applicants.
Here is a list of elements your job advert should contain in order to attract some great applicants:
- Job Title – Keep the job title simple. Think about what search terms people are likely to use when searching the web for a job. If you need a Teaching Assistant, make that the job title – by keeping it simple you will maximise the number of people looking at your job and hence increase your chances of finding the perfect person. You can add more complex information later in the advert.
- About The Job – As an introduction, it’s a good idea to give a brief (50 words or so) description of the job. This will help people to get a quick understanding of the role and decide if they should apply. For example, you might say “We need a Teaching Assistant with excellent Makaton skills to work one-to-one with a non-verbal student in a secondary MLD group”. By including a core skill which is required at the start, it will help to weed out applicants who do not offer this skill (hopefully they won’t apply but I wouldn’t count on it!)
- Core Responsibilities – Although you might offer a copy of the Job Description for potential applicants to read, remember that many will just look at the job advert and use that to decide on whether to apply. So make a list of what core responsibilities this person will have. It doesn’t need to be long/detailed but should give the applicants a good feel of what will be expected of them. It might include working hours, any out of hours expectations you have, day to day duties and who they will report to.
- Person Specification – Just as above, you can offer a full version of this to applicants to read, but include a boiled-down version in your job advert too.
- Key Selling Points – Remember, you have to SELL your job/company/school/team to the applicants. Good candidates will often have their pick of the bunch where jobs are concerned, so make sure you tell them what is GREAT about your organisation and this particular role. You can include here any key benefits such as training and development opportunities, payc/bonus structure and anything else you can offer your employees such as discounted school fees or support with child care costs.
- Location and Transport Links – Speaking as an experienced recruiter, there is nothing more frustrating than going through the entire recruitment process, getting a person started in the role and then finding that they don’t feel the location is right for them! These people will inevitably either turn up late to work on a regular basis or leave a role as soon as something more convenient comes up. So make it clear where you are, what time you expect people to get there and what your local transport links are.
- Profile of your School/Organisation – It is important that applicants are made aware of what the school or organisation they are applying to is all about. If you are a challenging secondary school, be honest about this and ensure you attract candidates who enjoy this type of challenge. If you are an SLD school with high staff to student ratios, make sure this is clear. Try to avoid directing people to your website and telling them to find out about the school themselves. You know the organisation, so should be well placed to write a brief summary.
- Application Process – Ensure that you make the process for application absolutely crystal clear, as well as the closing date for applications. It is usual to include an equal opportunities disclaimer as well as a statement informing applicants if they can expect to hear from you if they are not successful.
Search terms and where to advertise
It is important that you have a basic understanding of key search terms in your industry and that you ensure these are included in your job advert. When you consider that a 2014 survey found that 60% of people aged 18-24 went straight to a search engine to look for a job, and 80% used social media in their job search, it becomes clear that having a good job advert online is essential. If you don’t know much about search terms, sitting down with colleagues and doing a quick brainstorm of what people might type in when looking for this sort of job, and ensuring these terms are included can be helpful.
Many schools will advertise on their own site as well as the LEA job board. Some may pay the outrageous fees to advertise in reputable broadsheets (I won’t name names!) and some might try out other online job boards, social media sites or asking for referrals from their current staff.
The best advice I can give is to put yourself in the shoes of your ideal applicant. What sort of person are you looking for and where do you think you might find them? If you’d ideally like to find a graduate then university job boards are a good bet, whereas for senior positions a trade magazine or broadsheet might be the way to go.
Whatever avenue you choose, think carefully about your budget for advertising costs and consider whether this money might be better spent by using an agency who can not only advertise on your behalf, but will also shortlist and vet only the best candidates, saving you huge amounts of time (and therefore money) as well as the cost of advertising. Remember, paying for an advert once doesn’t guarantee you will receive a good range of applicants. You may have to pay numerous times to re-list your advert before you see results.
If you’d rather let someone else do all the hard work
The recruitment process is labour-intensive and time consuming. Many organisations now rely on recruitment consultancies to do the vast majority of the hard work for them – which is why recruitment as an industry is worth over 25 billion pounds and growing year on year. For special educational needs positions, at Axcis, we have an extensive database of candidates with valuable skills and experience. We do the advertising and interviewing, pre-screen interested candidates and negotiate pay on your behalf. We also undertake all relevant compliance checks. So if you’d rather let someone else do the majority of the hard graft, contact Axcis with your vacancy now to see how we can help. Our recruitment service is absolutely FREE OF CHARGE until you find your perfect candidate and want to hire them for a temporary or permanent role. So, if we don’t find you anyone you feel is worth hiring, you won’t pay a penny! So, what have you got to lose?
If you’d like to read more of our series on Good Recruitment Practice, the following articles are available: