Know Your Candidate


Do any of the following statements describe your school or organization?

  1. You use generic recruitment marketing materials that are not position-specific 
  2. You receive "too many" responses for some positions and not enough for other job-types. (i.e. lots of English teachers, but hardly any Math or Science teachers) 
  3. You receive applications/resumes from numerous candidates that, while they meet the minimum technical requirements for the position, "just don't seem like a good fit" when they are interviewed. 
  4. A significant number of otherwise promising candidates mysteriously drop out of the process after an on-sight or telephone interview (i.e. after they actually have human contact with a member of your team). 
  5. You are experiencing high turnover of new hires within the first year in the position. 
  6. Your recruitment managers spend too much time combing through resumes of people who never make it past initial screening.

If one or more of these statements describe your school organization, you are probably not practicing Habit #2 of Highly Effective Recruiting which is Know Your Candidate. The 6 statements above are really just symptoms of underlying challenges in correctly identifying exactly who you want to work in your organization. Too many recruitment professionals make the mistake of assuming their target candidate pool is anyone who meets the minimum hard requirements (like certification, years of experience, educational attainment, etc.). This has profoundly negative implications for the entire recruitment process. Casting a very wide net for anyone who meets the basic requirements has the potential of overwhelming your recruitment team with so many candidates; they miss out on some the best ones. Wasting staff time processing candidates who will really never be hired robs you of the ability to give individual attention to more promising candidates.

Some of you may be saying, "We like a lot of resumes because we want to make sure we don't 'miss' any good candidates." Organizations that recruit by such flawed logic argue that because they do such a thorough job of screening and vetting candidates, its o.k. and expected that most candidates who enter the application process won't really have a shot at being hired. At best these schools are spending way too much staff time and effort screening and filtering through too many applicants. Wouldn't it be far better to have a much smaller base of candidates, but who are almost all potentially hirable AND a good fit with the mission, culture and systems of your school?

How do you get to "Know Your Candidate"? 

1. Develop detailed candidate profiles by job-type

Break down your hiring needs into distinct projects/efforts by job-type and develop a detailed profile of your ideal candidate for each. Think about the following questions:

  • Do English teachers generally read the same magazines as math or science teachers? 
  • Do they pursue the same hobbies or recreational activities? 
  • Are they similar in terms of being left-brain vs. right-brain in the way they think? 

The answer is generally no. So why is it that we so often see job descriptions and/or other generic recruitment materials that are used to recruit teachers of all different subjects and often even non-instructional candidates? The answer is that most recruiters don't make a serious effort to figure out who/what type of person they seek for each different job-type. Though there are of course some similarities between teachers of all subjects, in general, Science/Math types are very different people than English, Arts and Social Studies teachers. Further, business operations and management candidates are most often very different than teachers and require an entirely different recruitment approach and marketing message. So in sum, the first step to really knowing your candidate is to break your recruitment effort down by job-type and spend some time brainstorming and developing a detailed picture of the right candidate for each job-type. If you simply do this and nothing else, you'll be ahead of many of your competitors and on your way to building a much more focused, efficient and effective recruitment effort.


2. Determine the soft skills/personality characteristics of your most AND least effective employees and use this information to inform your screening and selection process

The second and equally important step is to systematically address the question of "who/what type of person really fits in and does well in my school organization?" Specifically, you should:

  1. Develop a system of measuring the organizational fit and personality characteristics of your existing staff
  2. Use the information gleaned to inform who/what type of candidate you should be targeting. Personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs can be very useful. You should be sure to try and get the entire existing staff to take the test. (One easy way to do this is to make the test a formal part of your final candidate screening or new employee intake process). 
  3. Once you have the personality/soft-skills data on your existing staff, examine the scoring of those employees you consider most successful in your organizations AS WELL AS those who are least effective and/or terminated for poor performance. It is highly likely that you will find glaring differences in the personality characteristics between your highest and lowest performing employees. 
  4. Use this information to build a profile of the "right" candidate in terms of personality and organizational fit. This information should then be used to inform the development of recruitment marketing materials, screening processes and in making final hiring choices when you have multiple qualified candidates for the same position. 

If you do not focus on exactly the type of candidate whom you want in each position, including soft-skills and personality characteristics, your recruitment efforts will remain unfocused and ineffective. In fact, if you haven't first figured out in detail who you want to hire, you'll never be able to practice our next topic, Habit 3:   . I will cover this and much more in the coming weeks. Until then, happy (and effective) recruiting!


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