Recruiting the right person at a school

14 May 2019 | by Peter Neale

The first and most important step in recruitment is retaining your existing staff by treating them well: providing them with the resources to do an effective job and addressing their concerns in a fair and compassionate way.  Prospective candidates will believe your employees before they believe your corporate literature.

Having said this, your website is a crucial way of projecting your school’s vision, mission and achievements, and your social media can be an infectious way of spreading good news.  The employment section of your website should not only describe available positions but also contain compelling information about why a potential candidate might want to apply.

It’s easier to recruit good quality staff at some schools than others.  Some are inundated with applications for every vacancy whereas others receive no applications at all.  There are several ways of advertising a role, via jobsites, traditional newsprint and agencies - some of which can be prohibitively expensive.  The DfE’s new Teaching Vacancies website at is shaping up to be a useful, and free, service.


Selection for appointment should be fair, open and impartial.  There should be no bias in the appointment of candidates, and decisions should always be based on merit.

In the past I have seen daughters, nephews and cousins of existing members of staff appointed in schools (sometimes without even having been interviewed) and, while those individuals may be perfectly competent, it is always difficult to prove that they were the best available person for the job.

You must take care not to discriminate: if in doubt, always consult your Human Resources advisor.

The Interview

Your school will have protocols about who should make up an interview panel, and at least one member must have successfully completed Safer Recruitment training.

Set the questions at a level that test the candidate but don’t try to catch them out: when I interview somebody I want to see them at their very best.    


I used to say that if I had a choice between a candidate with a great attitude but without all the requisite skills and one with all the skills but a poor attitude, I’d take on the one with the great attitude.  Bitter experience has shown me that neither may be suitable, and nowadays I’d have the courage to turn them both down.  It’s far better to make no appointment (and to try again) than to make a bad appointment.

A candidate is on interview from the moment they arrive until the moment they leave, and it is perfectly fine for you to ask the opinion of anyone that they have come into contact with, including (and especially) students.

Ask yourself: can they actually do the job, would they fit in here, would they enhance our current provision, or would we spend hours trying to solve problems they have created?

It’s essential that once a decision is made you check references carefully and undertake background checks in accordance with safeguarding guidance.

Follow Up

As soon as the successful applicant accepts the job offer, start to organise a programme to settle them into the role, so they quickly become effective – and genuinely want to stay.

 This is a revised version of an article that first appeared in The School Business Manager's Handbook, shortlisted for a 2019 Business Book Award.