Administration & Leadership

5 Ways to Recruit a Diverse Team of Teachers

By thinking strategically about the interview process, school administrators can attract a diverse pool of strong candidates.

May 9, 2024
sturti / iStock

Recruitment season is upon us—and I love it. Over the past three years, I’ve been fortunate enough to play a substantial role in recruiting and hiring teachers for my district. Through recruitment and strategic hiring, the high school English language arts department I supervise is now the most diverse department in my district.

The recruiting process is an opportunity for schools to grow, and I view it as an asset-based approach to team-building. I’m a problem solver, so I love trying to find the people who become the right puzzle pieces to complete the picture. Because part of my role entails working with new teachers, I love seeking out candidates because I will likely have the opportunity to work with many of the teachers I recruit.

Even if you relish recruiting prospective teachers as much as I do, you’d have to admit that filling teacher vacancies can be an awfully rocky road to trek these days. I’m sure you’ve heard all of this recently: Teacher mobility is on the rise. The national teacher shortage is real. Science and math teachers are harder than ever to find.  

It’s a teacher’s market, for sure. However, even with a challenging and highly competitive applicant pool, finding the right fit for your team or school should outweigh the need to simply fill the vacancy. The role of each teacher in a school community is invaluable. Here are some ways to successfully find and compete for the teachers your children need.

5 Ways to Recruit and Hire a Diverse Pool of Excellent Teachers

1. Collaborate to identify the ideal candidate. Before beginning the recruitment process, take the time to collaborate with the hiring team to identify what you are looking for in a prospective candidate. A great résumé and quality experience does not always equal a good fit. Because our students and schools need teachers who want to plant their roots in the district, recruiting strong candidates without an eye on retention is counterproductive.

In my case, our team is always looking for teachers who are community oriented and teachable. Being community oriented means the ideal candidate will be invested in building relationships with students, families, and colleagues; and someone who is teachable will be reflective and respond well to feedback.

Your school may prioritize a different set of values than my school. Nonetheless, once you know what these values are, design the interview process to see how candidates align with these values.

2. Ensure that interview questions are aligned with hiring objectives. There are standard questions every school leader or principal has for a prospective teacher. Walk me through a sample lesson. Check. How do you differentiate instruction? Great. What are your strengths and weaknesses? The Mount Rushmore of interview questions. 

But we have to go further. Because my team wants to find teachers who are committed to building relationships and embedding themselves into the school community, we created a bank of questions such as these:

  • Talk to me about a time when you were able to leverage a relationship with a student to accelerate their learning.
  • What does respect look like in the classroom?
  • What are some strategies you have used to learn about your students and their families?

The attributes that you imagine in an ideal candidate do not always come in the package you might expect. It’s amazing when a teacher checks every box during the interview process, but this is not always the case.

To find the right fit, I often ask myself, “Would you rather…?” For example, “Would you rather hire someone with less experience who reflects deeply on their practice and implements feedback, or someone with more experience but who believes they have it all figured out?” For me, it’s the first one every time.

3. Put candidates in “real life” situations. Because we want teachers who are reflective and responsive to feedback, we decide to end every demonstration lesson with actionable feedback for the express purpose of assessing the candidate’s response.

After the demo lesson has concluded, we ask every teacher, “What do you think went well? What might you change if you could do this lesson again?” We look for thoughtful, concrete, and actionable responses indicating that the teacher takes ownership of the lesson. 

4. Diversify your team of teachers. In 2020, 80 percent of all U.S. public school teachers were White, in contrast with public school students being only 46 percent White. Regardless of student demographics, every child benefits from a diverse faculty of teachers. For schools where the majority of children are White, teachers of color are necessary to broaden student perspectives and dispel stereotypes. 

If you have Black and Brown students in your school, prioritize seeking out teachers who represent the demographics of your student population. Representation matters. Students need to see themselves accurately represented in both the curriculum and the person who teaches the curriculum.

One way to do this is to seek out teachers who are pursuing or have obtained certification through alternate pathways. Unpaid student teaching hours and barriers associated with licensure tests have a disproportionate impact on Black and Brown students seeking to enter teaching through a traditional route. I target alternate-route teachers in our vacancy posts by advertising “Alternate route teaching positions available.” In my experience, this draws a far more diverse pool of candidates. 

5. Be transparent with prospective teachers. There is certainly a level of marketing involved with recruiting teachers. You have to stand out in one way or another in order to attract or create curiosity so that teachers apply for your job to begin with. When I talk to anyone about my school, I always highlight our sense of community, which I see as one of our greatest strengths. I also talk about our spirit of innovation—teachers with ideas and ambition thrive here. We value building capacity and promoting from within, so there are always opportunities for growth.

Even so, I always maintain a healthy level of transparency. Every school has its challenges, and every educator understands how these challenges have been exacerbated in the aftermath of the pandemic. Finding the right fit works both ways. Candidates should have an opportunity to see your school community in motion—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Allow prospective hires to see how your school functions, flows, and feels. If you sell too much, you will always run the risk of buyer’s remorse. Pulling back the curtain allows teachers to assess whether or not they will want to come to work after they are hired and—hopefully—stay a while.

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