Each recruitment season brings with it a set of strategies that school district job recruiters hope will lure qualified teacher candidates and other certified workers to open positions. Since the pandemic, one such tactic has surged in popularity: the use of private job boards.
The uptick in private job boards by K-12 recruiters is one of the takeaways from an EdWeek Research Center survey of 400-plus K-12 human resources professionals conducted last fall. The job boards’ growth in popularity results in part from an initiative of the Biden-Harris Administration announced last August. It promised commitments from leading job platforms—including Handshake, Zip Recruiter, and Indeed—to support schools in their efforts to address teacher shortages. While it’s too soon to draw conclusions about the initiative’s effectiveness, early feedback from recruiters gives the strategy mixed reviews.
Big effort, little reward
David Robertson, the director of human resources/labor relations in the Twin Rivers Unified School District in McClellan, Calif., said that he has between 180 and 200 job vacancies for certified positions to fill for the upcoming school year. To attract candidates, the district’s HR team decided to take advantage of Indeed’s offer this spring to school districts to highlight job postings free of charge on its site during the month of March as “sponsored,” meaning these postings get higher visibility than others.
The offer was part of a broad Indeed initiative aimed at supporting school districts nationwide in filling critical vacancies, according to Maggie Hulce, executive vice president for Job Seeker at Indeed. “We want to be able to use our products and services such as Indeed Hiring Platform, Sponsored Jobs, and Resume, and to make it easier to fill these gaps and get quality, dedicated teachers into these open roles,” Hulce wrote in an email.
As part of the initiative, Indeed committed $10 million to public school districts across the United States to help them fill open positions through free job advertising and a series of virtual hiring events. Indeed reported that, subsequently, job postings for education roles on their site increased 87 percent compared to 2020. Over 300 school districts used the free services, and a total of 34,000 sponsored jobs were posted on the site.
But for the special offer that Robertson used, Indeed did not pull job listings from Edjoin.org—the online job site that most California public school districts, including Twin Rivers, use to post jobs online, he said. In order for the district’s job ads to be listed on Indeed as “sponsored posts” the Twin Rivers’ HR staff had to submit each posting individually, a task Robertson said was time-consuming and ultimately unrewarding. The district received very few responses from its Indeed-sponsored postings and just one from a qualified candidate, an out-of-state math teacher, Robertson said.
For one district, a job board experiment didn’t feel ‘sustainable’
Justin Wing, the assistant superintendent of human resources at Mesa Public Schools, Arizona’s largest school district, reported stronger results when his district took advantage of an education-related promotion from a different private online employment service. But he doubts his district will continue using it.
Looking to fill over 400 vacancies for certified positions, Wing turned to a free, short-term service this spring offered by LinkedIn to advertise and recruit talent across the country, a program he said was promoted by LinkedIn as an offshoot of Biden’s initiative to address the educator shortage. The offer involved six months of free advertising services and allowed the district to post up to 120 classroom-only positions.
Despite receiving robust support from LinkedIn to set up the account, Wing said that managing the LinkedIn application process required about 30 hours per week of administrative support from the district’s staff.
“With limited funds in public education, we cannot sustain about one person [employee] handling just LinkedIn for most of his/her time each week,” Wing said.
He also noted that the service is only free for a short period. “If it were affordable, school districts across the nation would have been using all of these services, so this free, short-term opportunity would not have been necessary,” Wing said.
In just a few months of using the service, Mesa Public Schools received 287 applications from applicants who learned about the vacancies via LinkedIn, a 249 percent increase over applications received via LinkedIn during the entire 2021-2022 school year, said Wing. But advertising on the Arizona Department of Education website yielded 494 applicants, almost twice as many.
Wing suggested that’s because job applicants—especially newly minted graduates looking for their first teaching positions—are accustomed to using district websites as their primary source of job postings. But Wing theorizes that job changers combing private job websites like LinkedIn may be more likely than traditional educator applicants to click on job postings advertised by his district—especially those highlighting the district’s own teacher certification program, which allows individuals who meet certain criteria to get paid to teach while they complete their coursework requirements toward certification.
“We touted that program [on LinkedIn], and it helped us build reach for that,” Wing said.
A rebuild, not more advertising, is what’s needed, some say
Robertson takes his lukewarm assessment of the advertising landscape a step further than Wing.
“What we need is not the ability to advertise more, but a systematic plan to rebuild our teaching workforce,” he said. Robertson points to several factors keeping people away from the profession of education altogether, including the highly charged politicized environments in which educators find themselves caught in the middle and the lengthy education process to become a certified teacher, which typically takes five years in California.
“We need to streamline the processes for people to become teachers,” said Robertson, “including a fully paid internship during their student teaching.”