As the candidate pool gets smaller and smaller, finding top applicants in education has become more competitive than ever. Being a high-profile school is no longer enough to draw top candidates to accept offers. Districts must do more to win the hiring battle and appeal to the teachers and administrators who will become their very best.

While it’s critical to find teachers who are the right fit for your school, it’s important to remember that hiring is a two-way street. Not only do you need to make sure they are the best candidate and will succeed at your school, but you also need to show that your school and district are the right choices to help them succeed and grow.

Hiring team members who are the best choice for your district means creating a candidate experience that will guarantee they say yes when you make an offer.

Why the candidate experience matters

According to the Robert Walters Group, 67% of candidates are more likely to turn down a job offer after a poor interview experience. Education is not exempt from this truth, as the candidate experience is essentially a first look at the culture of a school or district. If that experience leaves a bad taste in a candidate’s mouth, feels unorganized, or is poorly communicated, it creates a lasting impression and can decrease the likelihood that a candidate will accept a position if offered.

It’s challenging enough to find qualified teachers who will live out the themes of your best employees—don’t risk losing those desirable candidates because of a lack of clarity, communication, or process in your district. If the interview experience does not come through as professional yet personal, candidates are less likely to choose your staff as one they want to join.

Perfecting the candidate experience

As the importance of this experience continues to rise, what is your school or district doing to maximize its significance? Here are some ways you can take your candidate experience to the next level and give your top choice every reason to accept an offer.

1. Clear communication

Start with good communication. This extends to every part of the application and interview process as you look to hire top candidates. Provide them with helpful information and timelines as you review their application and schedule interviews. If you don’t respond quickly and clearly, it will cause more confusion or anxiety for candidates, which might diminish their view of the role and your district.

2. Unified internal processes

Be structured and unified in your HR, building-level, and department-level interviews. Unorganized processes will show and impact an applicant’s experience. It reflects poorly on your district, making applicants fear that the disorganization isn’t limited to hiring. The best systems include HR and other departments from the beginning of the process—not waiting to bring them in until after the principal makes a decision.

3. Consistent, structured interview

Investing in a consistent, structured interview process will not only show that your hiring team is prepared, but it also decreases the likelihood of asking off-topic or inappropriate questions that might damage the candidate’s view of your school as a whole.

Having a structured process gives interviewers confidence and ensures candidates are treated in a consistent, unbiased way, allowing the hiring process to be focused and intentional.

3. Personal feel

While a structured interview can add to the candidate experience, the structure should never outweigh the personal feel for the candidate. Everyone in the process should focus on and listen to candidates in a way that makes them feel like they are already an important part of the team.

Ask questions that allow applicants to share their views, motivations, and beliefs. By treating candidates with respect, you convey a welcoming and professional atmosphere.

4. Commitment to employees

Describe the standards you use to make hiring decisions and the level of accountability between a new hire and the district. This demonstrates that the school district knows that all hiring decisions affect the personal life of applicants and makes it clear that team members are valued as individuals. It also shows that your district doesn’t just hire and then let an employee go without making a serious effort to help them succeed.

A candidate’s experience doesn’t end after they’re hired.

As applicants continue to look for opportunities to grow both personally and professionally, their positive experience at your school will reflect the potential that began during their application and interview process. Have a learning and onboarding plan for teachers you’ve added to your team so you can ensure success. Create a culture that is proactively creating a great experience for all your employees.

Practice what you preach.

Ultimately, the candidate experience will reflect the values that your school lives out. Listen well to the community of employees and encourage them to be part of student success. Create a culture where everything revolves around the growth of students and adults, beginning with your hiring practices. The best candidate experience comes naturally because it shows the values your school embodies and invests in the long-term growth of the individual.

By hiring based on the themes your district values and continuing to grow your employees based on those same values, you can hire top candidates who create a positive experience for future applicants and team members.