When I was a principal and head of school I knew how important the recruiting process was (and is). I don’t know how you feel during that most hectic of times, but I lived in constant fear of missing the right candidate or not missing the wrong one.

I love being organized. All those applications coming in needed to be read AND filed with all the spouses listed AND supporting documents linked AND details ready so they could be contacted when we started interviews. Over ten years I slowly moved my organized madness from binders with paperclips to excel with hyperlinks. Continuous Improvement! I should have been proud of my detailed and comprehensive approach. And yet it was exactly that improvement in my systems that I regret the most.

“The electric light wasn’t invented by continuously improving the candle.”

I read a great article recently that contained the line “the electric light wasn’t invented by continuously improving the candle.” That expresses beautifully what I regret most about my ten-year journey. I was trying to invent the perfect system for managing applications based on an old and outdated way of thinking. I did it for the right reasons. There was nothing off the shelf exactly right for the international school. We were all using google docs or drop box or excel or sharepoint anyway. I didn’t want to invest in something I could probably do by myself. So I kept making a better candle – and ended up sitting in gloomy darkness.

I am happy to admit that I got it wrong. Spending hours creating that silk purse was a false economy.

We all know that school administrators are time poor, so we have to find the fastest way of solving our problems. What is more expensive? Using time to build a new system OR working inefficiently? Paying for a ready-made system OR toiling with systems you make yourself?

I hope that you can learn from my error and use your precious hours better than I did. I hope you see that it is better to use electric lights than candles. I encourage you to get a system that helps you do your job better during those busy recruiting months.

What are the characteristics of a good Candidate Management System (CMS)?

There are a few characteristics of a good candidate management system. You’ll want to make sure you:

  • Can collaborate with your entire team – with different access levels
  • Have background screening in place
  • Can access advertising for your vacancies on a widely read job board
  • Have the capasity to search applications to find hidden nuggets of information

If you aren’t Steve Jobs and therefore won’t be building your own system any time soon, but are interested in being organized and efficient spend ten minutes to read The 7 Critical Elements of a Candidate Management System.

As a Director and Principal most recently in Beijing and Laos. Greg Smith understands the challenges of recruitment and the pressures surrounding international schools in particular. He founded Schrole Group with business partner Rob Graham and together they designed Schrole Connect to provide innovative solutions to the recruitment problems faced by school leaders.