Recruiting Out-of-State Teachers

by James R. Polzin

Recently at a job fair, a school district administrator in charge of staff recruitment lamented, “Recruiting teachers from out-of-state is like searching for a needle in a haystack.”

Teacher shortages in certain geographic areas and in specific academic fields are forcing school districts to import teachers from preparation programs well beyond the state’s borders. When they do so, they may be facing some uncertainty in unfamiliar terrain.

Where should recruiters go to find new graduates who may be willing to move to another state? What might entice a newly certified teacher to move elsewhere? Is out-of-state recruitment now a means to place highly qualified teachers in schools where they are needed to meet No Child Left Behind standards? If so, what measures can help districts hire these new teachers?

Road Shows
Recruiters typically have gone on the road to make an annual appearance at job fairs at major universities to fill their open teaching positions. Yet a 15-minute job fair interview is barely enough time to assess the candidate’s skills, much less to recruit him or her to move across the country to start in a job in an unfamiliar place.

To be successful at this type of recruitment work, much more time needs to be spent to develop a permanent presence on the college campus, by the recruiter, consortium or agency responsible for identifying and nurturing potential hires. Having a consistent representative in the geographic area where the teachers are being recruited is a first step. This individual can provide information throughout the final year of teacher preparation, teaching seminars on where the jobs are, what opportunities out-of-state districts offer and how to determine a “best fit” job.

When it comes to recruiting from out-of-state, it’s not just about selling a school district, it’s about building trust and reassuring candidates they can be successful teachers in an unfamiliar place.

If a district’s recruiters go on the job- fair trail to Midwestern universities once a year to deliver a 15-minute sales pitch and find this method of recruiting to be ineffective, it may be necessary to reflect upon the district’s model for recruiting.

Regional Supply
Some points to consider:

• Review the research about where teachers are produced in greatest supply and what makes an out-of-state district attractive to new teachers.
Approximately 75 percent of all education graduates are produced by Midwestern colleges and universities. At the same time, these institutions place only 80 percent of their graduates. Therefore, significant numbers of newly minted teachers never enter the profession, while classrooms in high-growth districts go without professionally trained and certified teachers.

A large part of this waste of teaching potential is due to a lack of candidates’ knowledge of out-of-state opportunities and a lack of support in the decision-making process to accept an out-of-state position.

• Audit your recruitment pitch.
Would a change from selling “sun and bonuses” to excellent professional development opportunities provide a better demonstration of what the school district can offer? Our survey of education graduates from five Midwestern universities documents that sun and fun and bonus pay are low priorities for recruits while the district’s instructional values and quality professional training rank as the top two factors in candidates’ decisions to take jobs out-of-state. New teachers want to make a difference and view being able to help students succeed as a reason to teach.

• Look seriously at the district’s use of recruiting resources, time and personnel.
Can a consortium or intermediary recruiter better serve the district, perhaps lowering some of the hidden costs of being on the road while increasing teacher hires? An on-the-road approach is an annual hit-or-miss routine that does not recognize the candidate’s decision-making process to teach out-of-state. It takes time to decide to make the leap to a new state for a teaching job, and the better informed candidates are, the better the chances of them accepting and remaining in an out-of-state position.

Honest Promotions
Build meaningful relationships with career center directors and with the student populations through ongoing, year-long interactions.
Deciding to teach out-of-state is a much more difficult decision to make than accepting a job in your hometown. School districts need to minimize the risk factors by slowly nurturing a candidate’s knowledge of the district and building a sense of trust.

Practice truth in advertising and meet candidates’ expectations.
The basics of hiring and interviewing for all teachers are especially true for the hiring of out-of-state candidates. Candidates expect and deserve a professional, challenging and behavior-based interview rather than casual small talk. Promotional pitches need to be truthful with no big surprises about teaching assignments, student demographics or support for new hires. Teachers whose expectations are met or exceeded stay in their jobs. Those who leave generally say, “This was not at all what I expected.”

If these new relationships are built, if teacher candidates, career centers and districts think nationally, and if new recruiting resources are used, more certified teachers can be placed in more classrooms to meet the NCLB mandates and to create better learning opportunities for students. Hiring out-of-state teachers can be a win/win/win scenario for teacher candidates, university career centers and school districts by simultaneously keeping more new teachers in the profession and helping fill important staffing needs.

James Polzin is founding partner of Mid-America Recruitment Services, 1091 Candlewood Drive, Downers Grove, IL 60515. E-mail: Mary Clement, associate professor of education at Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga., assisted in preparing this article.