ESL Recruitment: An Overview
Why recruitment is a key to success in your school, and how
to get it right
By Lucy Pollard
Recruitment is the process of getting the right person in the
right job and so is a key to success in your school. All too often you have one
hour with somebody to decide whether they're going to fit into your school and
your existing team. If you hire this person, you're going to see them on a
daily basis, you'll be sharing in their successes and failures, and the image
of your school could depend on their abilities. So you want to get it
Mistakes that are made can be costly and very time-consuming. If
the person doesn't fit the profile or doesn't fit into your existing team, you
might find yourself starting up the recruitment process again. On the other
side of the fence, if the interviewee doesn't get all the necessary info
regarding the post and the school, they're not in a position to make an
informed decision. They can regret their decision later and leave you. Out of
fairness to interviewees and to save yourself extra legwork later, you need to
be clear, precise and focused. I think that an hour is a very limited time for
both sides to make such major decisions and like to use the time to the full.
Before starting any recruitment process, it's essential for you
to know exactly what you're looking for. As one very wise person said, "If you
don't know where you're going, how will you know whether you've got there?"
This sounds obvious but you'd be surprised by the number of recruiters who jump
this essential step.
Have your goal or end point firmly in sight. For this, you'll
need to ask yourself a certain number of questions. Here are some suggestions:
- Think about where your school is heading in the near future.
For example, do you want to set up young learners' courses? Do you want to
expand the range of business courses offered? You won't be looking for the same
profile, so be clear to yourself about what you want.
- If your school is likely to be expanding, do you want to hire
an experienced teacher? This person could move into a post of responsibility
later or have a role training and guiding less experienced
- You also need to consider areas such as organisation,
paperwork, report-writing. If your school (or one of your clients) insists on
extensive paperwork, then you'll be looking for a teacher who is happy with
- Do you want to hire a teacher who is autonomous? If you have
a lot of in-company classes the teacher will get much less moral and
pedagogical support than the teacher who teaches mostly in the
- Do you want to hire a full-time teacher on a permanent
contract? This would increase the amount of commitment on both sides. Or do you
prefer to hire one or two teachers on part-time contracts or hourly-paid
teachers? These two options allow for more flexibility (both for you and the
new teacher) for increasing and decreasing teaching hours.
- What are the legal requirements for interviewing and
recruiting in your country? I can't explore this here as I'm writing in an
international context but I will say that the legal framework is crucial. If
you're unsure about any aspect, get professional advice.
Once you know what you want, you're almost ready to start
looking. Before starting, it's helpful to brainstorm the profile of the perfect
candidate. You could consider three categories:
- qualifications - is a university degree important for
you? do you want someone who has the TEFL Cert or Diploma? Will you train the
teachers yourself and so think that teaching qualifications are not
- experience (type of teaching, number of years,
countries, size of school)
- personal qualities (adaptability, rigour, good with
From this wish-list, you can decide which elements are essential
and which are an added advantage. This is your person specification (person
spec) and will help you at every stage of the recruitment process.
Think about how you are going to check each item on your person
spec. What can you check through asking for references? What will you ask the
candidate in interview? How will you check certificates and diplomas? Will you
ask the candidate to bring them to the interview? What will you ask the
candidate on the phone before deciding whether to continue with the recruitment
process? Remember that bringing someone in for an interview is very
time-consuming for you and the person concerned. So get as much information as
possible before inviting the candidate in.
Now you know what you are looking for, you're ready to start.
Here is my suggested procedure and one that has worked for me.
- Place advertisement - make the school look seductive
and attractive, but be truthful. Essential info includes:
- experience, qualifications and personal qualities you
are looking for in a teacher
- info about the school: location, structure
- info about the classes: in-company or in-school; size of
classes (group, one-to-one...); type of teaching (young learners, business
You might also want to add info about possibilities
for training and development and the sort of support provided.
to ask yourself about placing the ad include: where should I advertise to find
the person with a corresponding profile? Internet, daily newspapers that are
widely read by teachers (eg The Guardian in the UK), word of mouth, the
notice board in a library used by teachers. Of course, this will also depend on
If you choose to advertise on the Internet, the advantages
are that it is instant and worldwide. You can have CVs coming in within hours.
Another advantage is that you can put more detail in your ad and even link it
to your website. There are thousands of job boards to choose from, some free
and others not. As with anything, you get what you pay for. Paid ads have the
advantage of being more credible in the eyes of teachers looking for work and
so you might get a different class of applicant.
The disadvantage of
recruiting at a distance is that you might not get a chance to meet the person.
This is where I think care is needed. If you can, use a local agent to help you
recruit. The extra cost will be compensated for if you get the right teacher.
If you can't go for this option, you should at least do a telephone interview
and follow up references.
- Potential candidates contact you and you give further
details about the post. Decide beforehand whether this information will be
given orally over the phone or written and sent out on request.
- CVs are received. Qualifications and experience are
checked and suitable candidates called for interview. Think about time
management at this point. Your person spec will help you wade through the CVs.
You can sort CV's into three categories: teachers you definitely want to
interview, those you are unsure about and those you definitely don't want to
hire. For applicants you're not sure about, phone and ask a few questions for
clarification so as not to spend an hour with an unsuitable candidate in
- Interviews are held in a quiet place to avoid
interruptions. Put the person at ease, you won't gain anything by stressing the
person out. You won't see them at their best and they'll reveal less. What's
more, it's unethical. Outline the interview, first we'll talk about...then...
As the interview ends, indicate what the next step will be, eg you can expect
to hear from us in xx days.
For the interview you'll need to plan your
questions. Decide what you'll ask everybody and what information you need to
give out to all candidates in the interests of being fair. There will also be
specific questions that you'll ask concerning each person's CV.
usual to have two interviewers for two reasons. Firstly, to cover yourself in
the event of any complaints from candidates. Unfortunately, it happens and so
cannot be overlooked. Secondly, one person can take notes allowing the other
interviewer to give their undivided attention to the candidate. The note-taker
can also ensure that the essential elements are covered. This person very often
notices discrepancies in the candidate's answers, as (s)he is not involved
directly in the discussion. So allow the note-taker some time at the end to ask
- Write down your initial impressions as soon as you
come out of the interview, then consider the interview again 24 hours later.
Follow up references, if you've decided this is part of your procedure. You can
then decide whether to make an offer or send a letter of regret. Your person
spec will help you with decision-making.
- Make confirmed offer (or regret). It's wise to wait at
least 24 hours before contacting the candidate. If you decide to confirm by
phone have a spiel ready in case you get an ansaphone. Make it clear and short.
Give - and repeat - your phone number. Don't leave a message turning down your
- The contract is signed and details are finalised
(start date, etc).
All the above can seem very time-consuming. Especially when
you're ready to hire. I strongly believe that any time invested in finding the
right person is time well spent. The more time you spend getting your hiring
right, the less time you'll spend with problems and/or departures later.
The expected outcomes of a well-thought out recruitment process
are an increase in the number of suitable teachers who come to work with you
and stay with you. The extra costs of a teacher not fitting in and leaving
should be reduced.
Of course, some people still prefer to see hiring staff as an
art and follow their feelings. By now you will have guessed that I'm in the
camp of those who see recruitment as a science. I love spontaneity, but not in
the interview room!
Don't forget that recruitment doesn't end at the interview. You
might have decided to have a probationary period - or the law of the country
you work in might require this - if so, how will you handle it? You also need
to work at keeping your staff. Newly-recruited teachers are expected to be
effective as quickly as possible, and they have their expectations of you too.
ESL Recruitment: The
© Lucy Pollard 2004
Lucy Pollard has worked as a
teacher, teacher trainer and Director of Studies for over 15 years. Her
teaching experience is very varied: adults, English for specific purposes and
English for academic purposes, as well as teenagers and young children. She has
worked with multi-lingual classes in the UK and in various European countries.
Lucy is available for teacher training and staff training in Western Europe,
and further afield. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are
Recruit ESL Teachers