When hiring teachers, avoid these 3 mistakes


When hiring teachers, avoid these 3 mistakes

While the typical district hiring process begins in March and runs through September, many district leaders in the post-pandemic world feel like they're trapped in a never-ending hiring season.

With more teachers leaving the profession and fewer entering it, high turnover rates mean districts must keep repeating the time-consuming hiring process again and again. Finding qualified staff has never felt more urgent for districts as they endured high teacher vacancy rates for more than two full school years now.


of public schools nationwide reported having teaching vacancies (March 2022)


positions are filled by underqualified teachers nationally


of public schools reported being understaffed at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year

Without adequate staffing, superintendents are struggling to address high-priority student challenges. States and districts have both tried to confront urgent staffing needs with many different strategies.

However, districts are wrongly prioritizing the volume of applicants rather than the quality of applicants. Hiring the wrong applicant can cost an organization at least 30% of the candidate’s first-year earnings. Here are three strategic processes districts can implement into their hiring practice today and avoid hiring mistakes this upcoming year.

Mistake 1: Passive marketing misses out on qualified candidates

Most districts use the same strategies to reach potential candidates: they post openings on the district website or general job platform and encourage employees to share the opportunity with their personal network. But these strategies only reach candidates actively looking for a job posting in the district.

By identifying high-yield marketing channels, districts expand the applicant pool and maximize the recruiting process to find the best-fit candidate. To optimize future marketing strategies and provide districts with data, the Biden-Harris administration and prominent job site platforms worked together to simplify the district hiring process. These new platforms enable districts to be more specific in where and how they post open jobs, so they don’t miss applicants:


  • ZipRecruiter’s new online job portal is dedicated to partnering with all K-12 school districts in the U.S. to post open roles for free
  • Indeed hosts and facilitates virtual hiring fairs for educators and supports districts with the end-to-end hiring process across the country
  • Handshake hosts free virtual events for college students to explore careers in education and creates job boards for districts to hire college graduates

Mistake 2: Job descriptions and marketing materials fail to attract candidates

Typical job descriptions include only the essential information for candidates: position titles, role descriptions, necessary “hard” skills, and other legally required information. Districts can find the “top” candidates on paper through screening processes, but district leaders struggle to determine the “best-fit” candidate for their school culture and environment.

Candidates who closely align with the district’s mission and values are critical to district success. In addition to listing required “hard” skills, districts should also include necessary “soft” skills and value-based qualities to find the applicants who will best align with the district. Promoting growth opportunities, training, and unique benefits in the descriptions communicates the distinctive appeal of your district.  


  • Highlight what soft skills a candidate should possess to be successful in your classrooms
  • Promote career development opportunities
  • Emphasize the unique culture of your district’s community and schools
  • Describe what satisfied teachers enjoy about working in your district

Mistake 3: Burdensome applications and excessively long hiring processes lose the best-fit candidates

Districts lose the attention of once-interested applicants during long, multi-step application processes. Online applications are long, and most candidates who apply do not receive feedback on their status until invited for an interview. The average time to hire for public education (K-12 and higher education) is 119 days, which is three times longer than the private sector average of 36 days.

Districts showcase their commitment to finding the right candidate with a streamlined hiring process managed through an easily accessible online portal that clearly outlines the hiring timeline and expectations. Using proactive communication for application status updates ensures that candidates remain engaged, so they complete the application and interview processes.


  • Give candidates the option to interview online, in person, or through a pre-recorded video interview
  • Define a communication plan internally for who will communicate with candidates, and when
  • Get to know candidates prior to bringing them in for an interview
  • Ask candidates for feedback on their interview process

Uncover hiring mistakes with your district leadership team

Finding the best-fit candidate is challenging. Use these discussion questions to clarify where you can improve your district hiring process and overcome these common hiring mistakes.

Mistake 1: Which advertising channels can we deprioritize, and in which should we be investing more?

  • Where does your district advertise new job openings?
  • Does your district collect data on which marketing channels generate the greatest number of applications to your district? The least?
  • Does channel efficacy vary by subject matter?

Mistake 2: How should we update our job descriptions to attract best-fit candidates, and represent our district’s greatest strengths?

  • Do your job descriptions clearly communicate who you are looking for, and what soft skills are desired?
  • How do you communicate to a candidate why they should apply to your district?

Mistake 3: Is our application process transparently communicated and easy to navigate for all applicants?

  • At which stage of the process are you most likely to lose candidates?
  • Why are candidates disengaging at that point in the process?
  • Is your hiring process clearly communicated to all candidates? If so, when, and how?

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