Recruit Teachers to Become Employees Using Group Targeting

Jul 28, 2008

Recruiting campaigns can be broken into two types: individual recruiting and group targeting.

A less-known alternative, the group targeting approach focuses on attracting a specific group of individuals who share something in common (i.e., Hispanic software engineers or fabric patent holders). Group targeting is common in political campaigns and product advertising but is rarely used effectively in corporate recruiting.

Convert Teachers Into Corporate Employees

There are several large groups of employed persons who are routinely interested in a major career change, including nurses, soldiers, and yes, teachers. However, there is no more highly qualified group of potential employees to recruit than teachers.

Before you howl about the social impact of “raiding schools” and hiring away all the teachers, remember that you can opt to limit your recruiting to retiring baby boomers, those recently laid-off, or teachers who have determined they no longer wish to teach.

There are no “hands off” groups in recruiting. It is a recruiter’s job to target everyone who is interested, qualified, and available. Yet corporate recruiters have avoided targeting teachers, which is perhaps the largest group of potential recruits simply ignored.

The Ideal Target Group of Recruiting Prospects

So take a minute and think about the fabulous opportunity that exists here. First, forget the word “teacher” for a few minutes if you can. Instead, look at this group from an objective, non-emotional perspective.

The fact is that any group of individuals with the following characteristics would be judged as an ideal recruiting target:

  • Highly educated. Teachers are a highly educated group, all having at a minimum a bachelor’s degree, many hold Masters and PhDs. Many have specialties in high-demand technical areas like math, science, computer science, and communications.
  • Highly competent. As a group, they have excellent communication and presentation skills. They are well-organized, good at planning (i.e., lesson plans), and tend to be highly goal-oriented. They are used to working under pressure and no one can match their skill and experience in “doing more with less.”
  • Adaptable. If you are concerned that they couldn’t learn a new job at your organization, be aware that these individuals are continuous lifelong learners. They love to read and they excel at research, so they have the capability of rapidly learning whatever a new job might require.
  • They don’t focus on pay. Money is clearly not the #1 motivator for these professionals, so even if your organization pays only average wages, they won’t be frustrated or quit over a few pennies. Whatever you pay, even in entry-level jobs, it will likely be a raise for them over their current earnings.
  • Seeking opportunities. In teaching, there are few opportunities for promotion or learning a new profession. The abundant breadth of opportunities in a large organization would be viewed by many as “a way out” of their seniority-based system with only one career track.
  • Dedicated individuals. Few would argue against the fact that they are dedicated and committed workers. Even though they love their current profession, my experience has been that they will shift that dedication to a new profession, if they must leave their current one.
  • Team players. They work in an industry that emphasizes collaboration and teamwork, so they transition easily into a corporate environment that stresses the same approach to work.
  • Opportune timing. Because of their relatively low incomes, they are likely to be suffering disproportionately from the current strain from increasing mortgage payments, commute costs, and food prices. Obviously, the looming threat of budget cuts and layoffs within school systems make them even more eager to seek out opportunities with more security and income potential. In families where both spouses are teachers, the odds of getting at least one of them to jump to the corporate world is now quite high.

Take a Chill Pill

Before you out-of-hand reject the notion of targeting teachers, take a step back and think about it. It’s a standard practice for school districts to specifically target corporate employees in order to get them to leave corporate life and switch to the teaching profession.

So turnabout is only natural. I am not suggesting “raiding” the school system and stripping it of every teacher, because you might only hire a handful at most from any one school.

I’m recommending a cherry-picking approach where you target the very best who might need to move on because of finances or burnout.

Teachers are intelligent individuals who are free to make up their own mind on what’s best for them. By merely targeting them and offering them opportunities, you are in no way forcing them to leave. That is their choice.

Recruiters can not “steal” from any organization because employees are not “owned” by firms. It’s also not your firm’s fault that their school system and the citizens in their community chose to underpay and under-appreciate them.

Think of yourself not as a recruiter but as a “rescuer” doing nothing more than expanding their options. Under any definition of the word, it’s not unethical to approach them and make them aware of alternative opportunities.

Will They Be Successful In The Corporate Environment?

Teachers have been leaving the teaching profession in large numbers for decades. Most leave in a haphazard manner to a variety of new careers, but now is your opportunity to develop a formal process to target them as a group. The concept of targeting educational professionals is not new; Google in particular has successfully recruited numerous top professors to join its organization. One large Las Vegas hotel has discovered that elementary school teachers make the most successful bartenders (it makes sense considering that drunks many times act like third-graders!).

There are plenty of examples of teachers successfully making the transition to corporate work. Remember, many teachers already hold second jobs during the summer, so it is likely that they already have a broad skill set. If you are still unsure of their capabilities, remember that teachers are off during the summer and during long school break periods. This gives an organization that is unsure an ideal opportunity to hire them on a short-term or contract basis to assess their potential or to build their skills.

Which Jobs?

Obviously, you’ll have to look at your own firm’s jobs to determine where they would best fit. But remember, many teachers are specialists in math, science, and computers, so they could easily fit into technical jobs.

For others, tell them they must first prove themselves in entry level professional positions like customer service jobs, customer training positions, in call centers, writing manuals, in wholesale sales jobs and obviously, in HR training and development positions.

How to Recruit Them

Identifying teachers and principals to target is quite easy because they all join an association, have a teaching license, and are listed on their school’s website. Employer referral programs are the best way to recruit them because many of your employees already know them as a result of being parents.

Identify them through university alumni groups from Colleges of Education and through ads in teaching journals. Find them at seminars and teacher conventions, as well as online social networks and discussion forums. Because teachers are a tight-knit group, once you make several aware of your interest in teachers, the word will spread virally to others.

Final Thoughts

Recruiters and recruiting managers are constantly looking for large numbers of highly qualified but “untapped” talent. Step back and take the emotion out of it; it’s easy to see why there’s no more ideal group to target than teachers.

Yes, you should limit the number you hire and be aware of the community impact. But remember, you are a recruiter, not a member of the school board. Summer is the perfect time to begin. They are readily available for interviews and you will face no competition in recruiting them. What are you waiting for?

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