Eleven ways to make your vacancy stand out from the crowd

With parents continuing to prioritise the quality of teaching staff above everything else when deciding on where to send their children, it’s no wonder that most schools place recruiting top talent as their main priority. Well publicised teacher shortages in certain key areas are creating potentially very expensive recruitment challenges for many schools. Yet some schools, and not just those with large recruitment budgets, are rising to the challenge.

In this article, we take a look at the ZERO cost initiatives schools are using to make their vacancies stand out in the marketplace. And that, in a nutshell is YOUR challenge. How to make YOUR vacancy seem more attractive than your competitors’.

Integrate the following tips into your recruitment advertising process and we are certain that before long you’ll be seeing the results in terms of more and better quality candidates – and a smoother recruitment process.

There’s no magic bullet here. But there are some changes that you can make, and better still, most of the cost is in time rather than money.

Take a closer look at some of the other hundreds of job listings on TVER, the DFE’s site as well as the TES and take a bit of time to dig a little deeper and see what schools are actually saying about themselves. More importantly, what your school is saying about itself in your advertisements?

The importance of your advertising should not be underestimated. It’s often the very first time a prospective candidate will interact with your school, even before they hit your website. It’s your shop window and you have very little time to make a great first impression. Get it wrong and you’ll be passed over in less than a second. Little interaction, few applications and at its worst, unfilled vacancies.

But let’s be clear, we get it. You’re busy and you probably see writing job ad copy as a bit of a chore. Perhaps it’s something that you put off until the last possible minute and then hastily throw together. It could even be that you’re just doing a ‘rinse and repeat’ of previous advertisements that were originally written in 2002. But are these doing your school any justice and is your current process taking you away from other priorities?
Here are 11 tips to help get your advertising back on track and ensure it stands out from the crowd:

Tip 1: Walk in your candidates’ shoes.

Take time to identify your ideal candidate. Who are they? What are they doing now? What might they be looking for?

Flexibility? Responsibility? Challenge? Progression? Environment? Resources? Colleagues? Facilities? Location? Whatever they might be looking for, describe how they might find it with you.

Put yourself into the mind of your ideal candidate and take some time to review your existing advertising copy with THEIR critical eye. Does it really say what is different, new or challenging about your school from THEIR point of view? Does it make THEM want to find out more about the role?

Need some help? Ask recent new teaching or support staff in the area with the vacancy what they thought of your advertisement, and whether or not it met their expectations? Ask too, about what drew them to their role and what surprised them when they arrived. And of course what keeps them motivated.

Tip 2: Review the competition.

Look at other schools’ copy and pick some examples of schools that are getting it right and schools that are getting it totally wrong. Benchmark your advertising against your chosen examples to see where yours needs to improve.

Need some help? Some schools are using their free listing on TVER as a way of testing a couple of advertising approaches for the same vacancy, just to see which is the most effective. If they fill the vacancy great. It hasn’t cost them anything. If they don’t. At least they know the best approach to take to the paid-for media.

Tip 3: Tell your story.

Every school and every department within the school has a USP (Unique Selling Proposition). If it isn’t obvious, dig a little and you will find it. It could be the ethos and journey of the school, new equipment, pupils who are eager to learn, a transparent and supportive leadership team. For the recruiting department, it might be a particular challenge, achievement, project or environmental factor. There will be something. And when you’ve found it. Use it. It makes your advertisement far more authentic. But be honest, and don’t over-egg it, or you could end up with that egg all over your face!

Need some help? Talk to your staff, pupils, and parents and ask them what they feel makes your school special or unique. Think about using direct quotes or testimonials. And remember, if you’re using online advertising, you also have plenty more space to write in, so use it!

Tip 4: A job description doth not maketh an advertisement.

Your advertisement should never be a copy of your job description. It is a ‘Pen Portrait’ of your school, the opportunity, the ideal candidate’s broad experience, and qualifications, the prospects, the benefits and an inviting ‘Call to Action’. No more than that.

Feel free to add in some elements of what the job entails and some of the qualities you’re looking for, but think of the journey your candidate is taking. They’ll probably read your advertisement and if they are interested to find out more, they will go to your website. Do you really want your candidate to be reading the same copy twice? It’s lazy and shows a lack of care.

Need some help? Download TVER’s simple to use Recruitment Advertising template here.

Tip 5: Shopping lists are for the supermarket.

A bullet-pointed shopping list of wants is not compelling. Given the teacher recruitment crisis, we’re very much in a candidate-led marketplace. Gone are the days of expecting prospective candidates to be grateful to work at your school. Like it or not, your advertisement needs to focus on why someone should want to work for you and what they will get out of it.

Tip 6: Write in the first person.

Use the first person in your copy when addressing a candidate. ‘You’ is so much more personal than ‘The successful candidate’. You’re also creating a one-to-one dialogue with your reader and getting them to imagine themselves in the role.

Tip 7: Don’t state the obvious.

Don’t tell a teacher how to teach! So many schools make the mistake of using precious advertising space to state the obvious – for example, that a teacher needs to be able to teach! Use your space wisely and include information that a candidate really wants to know – the environment, learning and development, team nights, anything that enriches the candidate experience.

Need some help? Focus on the things your candidates may not know or could be surprised or attracted by. There is little point in telling a physics teacher they will be teaching physics – yet we see it all the time.

Tip 8: It’s all in the detail.

Details can make a big difference. Are you near a major transport route such as motorways, stations or bus routes? Is there ample parking? Can your staff walk to the shops in their lunch hour if they need to run an errand? Can they use the school’s sports facilities? If a candidate is relocating, can you suggest local estate or letting agents that they can get in touch with? This really does help save candidates’ significant research time when considering your school.

Tip 9: SEO – Make the job boards work harder with your copy

This is very much a subject of its own, and lookout for a future article from TVER on SEO. But suffice it to say most job board searches reveal the heading and start of the ‘body copy’ of an advertisement, so make the most of this and grab your candidate’s attention. This is what the various search engines will be picking up. So don’t waste it. It needs to be a summary of your ‘proposition’.

Does your job title make sense? Is it peculiar to your environment? Will it be readily understood? If not, make sure you qualify it with a quick definition of the role.

‘A wide-ranging role that involves (insert key responsibilities here)’ for example

Is your ideal candidate likely to be doing something different at the moment? If so, qualify the role.

‘Marketing Officer

The chance for a great administrator to build a marketing career’ for example.

A brief teaser that gives readers a flavour of the role, the challenge, or prospects will improve your chances of the advertisement being read. For example “An opportunity for a qualified Maths Teacher to shape subject delivery with a high-achieving school….” and encourage people to find out more.

Need some help? Run a search on the job title you are writing for. We guarantee most of the results will start off with a school’s name, or ‘this is an exciting opportunity’. The school’s name appears elsewhere on the listing so that is unnecessary duplication and something else could have been included. And you can do better than ‘this is an exciting opportunity’ can’t you?

So already your advertising is rising above the crowd.

Tip 10: Calls to action.

If you have the resource, add in a phone number or email that the candidate can call if they have any queries. If they have one question that can easily be resolved by a conversation, this could give you an application that you may not otherwise have had. Promoting school visits to candidates (particularly in hard to fill subjects) is even better if you can offer this. Failing that why not ask candidates to email their interest, and arrange an informal telephone chat with the recruiting department.

Need some help? Make sure the recruitment process is ready for the candidates. Evenings for informal telephone chats arranged. Times for school visits chosen. Diary time allocated. Interview slots pre-booked. And don’t wait for the closing date to swing by before you do anything. If you have an interesting application – jump on it. Let the candidate know you are very interested before they are snapped up by someone else.

Tip 11: Create a time-saving toolkit

Now you’ve spent some time working on your recruitment advertising copy, start creating a bank of intro and outro paragraphs that can be tailored to suit different vacancies. Not only will this save you time when a job authorisation form lands on your desk, but it will stop your advertisements looking stale.

Build departmental profiles, with the help of the departments themselves. These should list the reasons why they are great places to work. They need only be a couple of sentences each but can do wonders in terms of giving an insight into the ‘personality’ of a school.

Whenever you see or hear anything that throws an interesting light on your school and why it’s a great place to work, squirrel it away for future use. Before too long you will have a valuable resource to draw on, and recruitment advertising that really does set you apart.

By using these simple steps you’ll soon find that you’ll not only save yourself valuable time, but you’ll have a much better chance of capturing the attention of teachers who could very well be your next great hire. We look forward to seeing the results on our site.

Thanks to Copywriter Alasdair Murray, and our colleagues at Ambleglow for their input into this article.