A teacher sitting on the edge of a desk in an office, looking past the camera, while one of her students is completing an assignment next to her.

How Teach For America Meets Ambitious Diversity Hiring Goals

Teach For America is a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing educational inequality by finding, developing, and supporting equity-oriented leaders who can transform education and expand opportunities for children across the U.S.

For Jessica Morton, Vice President of People at Teach For America, this mission strikes a chord. Jessica explains that her upbringing through a “Black Adoption” (an informal adoption, common in the African American community, where relatives raise and care for children who are their biological relatives) gave her an early insight into educational disparities, despite being shielded from those inequities herself. Then, as a college student in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the hidden issues of educational inequality were starkly revealed to her. 

As a Black woman spared from the grips of poverty, these realities became deeply personal for Jessica. Teach For America spoke directly to her experience and values.

After meeting a Teach For America recruiter in graduate school, Jessica spent three years teaching as a corps member before joining the recruitment team herself. After years supporting teacher recruitment, Jessica transitioned to in-house recruitment work, became the Head of Talent Acquisition, and now co-leads Teach For America’s People Team as the Vice President of People. Today, she and her dedicated team seek individuals who not only share their enthusiasm for the organization’s goals but also mirror the diverse communities the organization serves. 

“We have a very strong commitment and very ambitious goals,” Jessica says. “We have a baseline goal that 50% of our candidate pools identify as BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, or other People of Color].” 

Jessica’s story is one of empathy, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to creating a brighter future for all children. To help make that happen, she and her team invested in LinkedIn solutions to strategically tap into diverse talent pools — doubling their applicant volume in the process. We asked Jessica to walk us through how they did it.

How Teach For America uses LinkedIn Recruiter to source diverse talent

Teach For America doesn’t just recruit seasoned teaching professionals to bring more skilled, diverse talent into classrooms. To expand their talent pool of potential teachers, Jessica and her team cast a wide net — searching for people from a broad range of backgrounds who may be interested in switching careers to join the fight against educational inequity by working as an educator. 

One way they’ve done this in the past is by using LinkedIn Recruiter’s advanced search filters to look for candidates with both the right skills and signs of mission alignment.

“We looked at their profiles to see things like if they held leadership roles in undergrad, or attended… historically disenfranchised colleges and minority institutions,” Jessica explains. “[We asked ourselves] what sorts of experiences did they have that would speak to their desire to work for a mission-oriented company?”

When it comes to hiring for in-house staff positions at Teach For America, Jessica and her team often look to the organization’s vast alumni network. Recently, this strategy helped them land an ideal candidate for a critical compensation specialist position.

“We used LinkedIn to strategically source and curate talent for this vacancy,” Jessica says. “And we ended up finding a local Teach For America alum who had significant experience in compensation. They’d gone on to work for the airline industry and other nonprofits [after teaching], had such a strong depth of experience… and also identified as part of a marginalized community. [...] To find someone that matched the nuanced skill set we were looking for and was also one of our own was such a win, and we couldn’t have done it without LinkedIn.”

Today, 60% of Teach For America’s hires are the result of its strategic sourcing efforts. “We exclusively use LinkedIn for those efforts,” Jessica says, “so we’re getting 60% of our hires from LinkedIn.”

How Teach For America uses LinkedIn Learning to reduce recruiting bias

Sourcing the right candidates is only the first step toward building a diverse, dynamic workforce, as Jessica is quick to point out. “It’s not enough to just get a diverse talent pool,” she says. “We need to ensure that our hiring practices are mitigating bias.”

To help its recruiting team develop and refine key recruiting skills, especially around inclusive hiring, Teach For America has created a Talent Acquisition Learning and Development Plan that leverages over 50 LinkedIn Learning courses. These courses include:

The Talent Acquisition Learning and Development Plan is especially valuable for onboarding new recruiters, ensuring they’re equipped with foundational skills and are able to apply them within the specific context of Teach For America. But Jessica says the plan has also helped the team as a whole to “re-ground [themselves] in best practices.” 

“100% of our recruiters complete 100% of the learning plan that is based on LinkedIn Learning,” she adds.

Teach For America’s tips for nonprofits to make the most of LinkedIn

For other nonprofits looking to leverage LinkedIn to support recruitment efforts, Jessica has three key pieces of advice:

1. Use data to track return on investment

Working for a budget-conscious nonprofit, the talent acquisition team at Teach For America are very strategic about where they invest and re-invest financial resources. Jessica continuously monitors the analytics available through LinkedIn Recruiter to ensure that the tools her team uses are delivering results year after year.

“As a leader, I ground every decision that I make in data,” she says. “The way that the system is designed, getting the data that we need is seamless. It’s very clear where our talent comes from, what that talent looks like, and the uniqueness of the talent that we’re able to find on LinkedIn.” 

2. Leverage AI-assisted tools to streamline and enhance your work

Candidates are significantly more likely to respond to customized outreach, but crafting these messages can be time consuming. That’s why Jessica and her team have leaned into the new AI-assisted messaging feature in LinkedIn Recruiter to help draft compelling, highly personalized outreach messages in seconds. 

“We don’t rely on the use of templates — we want our outreach to be customized,” Jessica says, adding: “The AI tools that LinkedIn has rolled out… have been incredible and time-saving.”

Jessica has also encouraged her team to use the AI-powered features available through LinkedIn Premium, particularly before sending their LinkedIn profiles to candidates to give them an idea of who they’ll be interviewing with. 

“The AI tool that helps you strengthen your profile is such a game changer,” she says, “because folks want to know who they’ll be working alongside, and LinkedIn has been good at validating our external presence.”

3. Continue investing in your own development

Jessica doesn’t just have her team using LinkedIn Learning. She frequently takes courses herself.

“[I encourage] leveraging LinkedIn Learning even as a seasoned nonprofit executive,” she says. “At this point in my career, I use LinkedIn Learning to stay on top of trends. LinkedIn Learning positions me to continue to be able to do that.”

If you’d like to equip your team with LinkedIn Learning or LinkedIn Recruiter, get in touch with our team today.