Put yourself back in the classroom. Can you recall the people teaching, running and leading the education of future generations? Teachers, principals, residents, instructional coaches, assistant principals, and more all work together to ensure that a school is bringing the best education experience to their students. Education leaders certainly have their hands full, and recruiting for them is a handful itself!

Don Gladish is the Director of Leader Recruitment for IDEA Public Schools. Their charter network has 44 schools in Texas, with around 3000 employees serving over 25,000 students. Don has seen the network go through rapid growth, with plans to expand to new schools, regions, and states in the next several years.

We met up with Don to talk about how he finds success recruiting for a K-12 charter school network. From leveraging teacher and employee networks, pipelining future leaders, and hiring principals in a crisis – learn how one man makes a massive difference for his schools. Through his strategic approach to recruitment, IDEA Public Schools is getting talent they need make sure that all kids have the chance to get an excellent education.

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Some edited highlights:

Recruiting challenges in education:

In the nonprofit world, specifically in K-12 education, there's definitely a war for talent.  There’s [a war for talent] in every business but especially for the type of instructional leader and the type of teachers that we're looking for, and the scale with which we need to add them – there’s a lot of competition.  We need to get our name out there and find more of these fantastic folks because they're not everywhere.

I think the passive talent pool for education is probably even lower quality than the passive talent pool for general businesses. We need to try a little bit harder to find those diamonds in the rough.

What we've found is just the quality of talent and the quality of person that we find on LinkedIn is just remarkably different from our really passive application sources. If you're truly an exceptional educational professional, you're probably on LinkedIn, so it's become a really great source for us.

Pipelining pays off in a crisis:

Typically we don’t lose principals mid-year. However, it does happen. Obviously in any business cycle losing someone at any time really hurts, but at a school it is not ideal to lose a principal mid-year. It was March, state testing time in Texas - teachers were stressed, students were ready for the summer - and we lost our principal. We needed to find a top quality candidate as soon as possible to make sure that the school continued to function, the students excelled, and the teachers were happy.

So I went to LinkedIn, where I had been putting together pools of candidates for an innovative training program for future principals.  I had been talking to a few folks in the area. I reached out to one of them and said, “I'm not in the business of taking you from your current school right now… but I wanted you to know that there's an immediate opportunity opening up.” He came to interview; we made the hire in a month of having the vacancy posted. (This short of a time to fill is basically unheard of in the world of leadership recruitment for charter schools.)

The new principal had the chance to train and get used to the role through the end of the school year, and then launch in the new school year. This exceeded the expectations of our senior leaders. I know this is a small example of one hire, but I really impressed by the fact that this contact I found and was keeping warm turned into such a successful hire.

“It’s not my job” is not in my vocabulary:

Being a charter school district and a nonprofit, we don’t have huge sums of money to throw at recruitment. However, people are acknowledging as we're growing that we need to find better and more effective ways to recruit folks.

I've been starting to introduce people to the power of [LinkedIn Recruiter].  Our Chief of Human Assets noticed the work that I've been doing with LinkedIn and every once in a while he'll tap me and say, “I know you're really busy, but could you help out another team with recruitment?”

For example, we had an advancement team opening. (They do all of the fundraising for our school district.  As a charter school, we rely a lot on private donors and institutional donors.)  My Chief put me in touch with the Chief of Advancement, who told me that the applicant pool for a new Director of Advancement was really low.

I started doing a little bit of LinkedIn searching for him, just using the advanced search features on Recruiter.  I’d pass along the results, we'd go through a “who's great, who's not, who's fitting” exercise, and refine the search. After about two weeks, he emailed me and said, “Don, the quality of applicants that you're sending me after a half-hour of searching is higher than what I've seen over the past 3 months from our applicant pools and talking to other folks. How can we keep this going?”

That instance has started to replicate across the organization, where people are starting to hear LinkedIn is a great source.  It’s interesting to see! Our operations team, which runs logistics and transportation and campus nutrition, is saying, “Hey, we need some great folks, can we set up some time to search together?” I'm starting to figure out ways where I don’t have to be the one-man team championing LinkedIn. I'm training folks more and more to show them what I'm doing with LinkedIn is not that hard.  It is not a magical formula. I'm starting to set everybody up so we can benefit across the organization.

As a K-12 educator, IDEA Public Schools gets discounts on LinkedIn Talent Solutions:

Without the nonprofit discount from LinkedIn we would not be able to afford these tools.  I think about the benefits two-fold.  Number one, the fact that we saved that money means that all of those dollars go back to what's most important - sending all of our students to and through college. Secondarily, because the tool is cheaper, we can purchase not only [LinkedIn Recruiter] but additional pieces like Job Slots or a Careers page. We have access to a variety and quality of talent that we've never had access to. This sets us up to attract more talent that is prepared to fulfill our mission. These leaders will be able to train the teachers in the right way so that our students are going to and through college. 

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