The education sector must modernise its hiring processes or risk being left behind

With outdated HR processes driving candidates away, the education sector is facing a hiring crisis. Investing in innovative technology could streamline and speed-up recruitment, offering a much-needed solution


The education sector is facing huge challenges in recruiting and retaining talent. According to statistics from the Department for Education, 40,000 teachers resigned from state school positions in 2022, representing just under 9% of its entire workforce. 

At the same time, teaching vacancies are at an all-time high. The same survey found that more than 2,300 teaching posts went unfilled in 2022, with a further 3,300 filled by supply teachers. Poor working conditions and long-term pay erosion - teacher pay fell by 9% between 2010 and 2023 in real terms, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies - have been blamed for the fall-off in recruitment, but there is another issue troubling the sector.

Inefficient and outdated hiring processes are hampering recruitment in education, with an average time-to-hire duration of 44 days. HR teams spend far too long on manual processes that could be automated, leaving candidates frustrated and often without updates to their applications. The outcome? Candidates look elsewhere and recruiters in education miss out on their preferred talent. 

Use Zinc’s ROI calculator to see how its referencing software could save your organisation time and money

Use Zinc’s ROI calculator to see how its referencing software could save your organisation time and money


Tech-enabled solutions

One organisation looking to revolutionise education recruitment is award-winning background checking solution Zinc. As an all-in-one software that automates background checking, Zinc offers a quicker, more candidate-friendly way to verify references, employment history and government records like DBS checks.

“Traditional background checking is slow and painful for both candidates and employers,” says Zinc co-founder and CEO Luke Shipley. 

“Our software provides a global average turnaround time of just three days, which compares with the traditional industry standard of around three weeks. The impact of that in a sector like education, where there is often a need for temporary staffing and finding talent at short notice, can be huge,” adds Shipley.

By automating manual processes like checking printed documents, collecting and verifying address history and contacting references, Zinc’s software can save HR teams an average of 90 minutes of admin per hire, allowing them to spend more time communicating with candidates. 

“Background checking involves interfacing with lots of old-fashioned, antiquated entities like the government’s criminal record service, credit unions and education institutions. Their processes are outdated and most background checking services mirror these entities, asking people to print, scan and sign documents. They simply haven’t caught up with modern consumer expectations,” says Shipley. 

Candidate experience

This focus on candidate experience is another of Zinc’s strategic pillars. Shipley and his team built the service with the candidate front of mind, creating an intuitive, mobile-optimised experience that allows users to complete background checks on the go. 

One early adopter of Zinc’s solution was apprenticeship matching provider Multiverse. Led by Euan Blair, Multiverse’s tech-led approach to education aligns with how Shipley believes the sector needs modernising. 

“We partnered with Multiverse when they were trying to do their checks the traditional way with other providers, and we’ve been able to help them to grow really quickly and get top marks in Ofsted audits. I think the example of how they’ve grown and lent into modern tools like Zinc and other ATS and HR systems has enabled them to go in the opposite direction to those in traditional education,” he says. 

Zinc’s technology isn’t just about offering solutions to under-pressure HR teams - it also aims to turn the traditional referencing model on its head. While candidates have the right to ask to see their references and checks, they rarely do, with information stored on company hard drives and checking sites regardless of whether the applicant becomes an actual employee. 

Zinc allows applicants to see, store and reuse their references in a shareable profile, which can be accessed at the click of a button. 

“One of our core beliefs is that background checking information should be reused, but that’s not the traditional way of doing things,” says Shipley. 

“When you get checked on Zinc as an individual, you keep the results. So, when you go through another background check and are asked to provide information on the past seven years of your work history, you can share results from your previous check. This will dramatically speed up the process for everyone, whether they’re using Zinc or not,” he adds. 

Speed and a great candidate experience is a key factor in how candidates choose their next role, yet traditional HR processes often make hiring quickly impossible. Beset by antiquated processes, poor communication and an overwhelming number of applications, HR teams in the sector are underutilising time that could be spent on finding, hiring and onboarding talent better suited to the role. 

By utilising automation and implementing technology solutions like Zinc, recruiters can remove friction for their team, speed up processes and spend more time focusing on finding the right candidates. This is all part of a broader transformation in HR, evolving it into a people-first department that prioritises the well-being of new and current employees alongside the interests of the business.

Embracing new solutions can lead to transformative results, argues Shipley. “The education businesses I speak to tell me that the sector is extremely busy and they don’t have enough time in the day. That’s probably because they’re swamped with manual processes and a lot of administration they could benefit from getting off their plates,” he says. 

“Yes, trying new tools requires taking time to get up to speed with the technology, but it’s worth it,” adds Shipley. 

Platforms like Zinc can help HR teams transform their departments, and the jobs within them, by redesigning hiring processes. By offering a competitive, quick and hassle-free candidate experience the education sector can get up to speed and avoid losing out on the right talent.

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