Hiring and Interviewing: Do’s, Don’ts, and Duh’s

Hiringby Anthony P. DiFonso, Principal, Henri A. Yelle Elementary School, Norton Public Schools

Seemingly, when your school finds its groove and the year is going well, this, that, and the other thing happens. An unexpected retirement occurs. A teacher leaves, which you did not see coming. Budget cuts take place. They all share one thing in common, and that is, throwing a wrench into our “plans,” which we all know never change.

That being said, when this occurs, we need to be ready and proactive as it relates to personnel matters. What does the process look like? What are some best practices to institute during the process? Who should be part of the vetting?

The aforementioned process truly begins before any job openings come to fruition. Huh?

What I mean is that any good administrator will know his or her teachers well, especially as it relates to their strengths and weaknesses in regards to instructional practice. This is, of course, a very obvious statement, but this knowledge is vital so you know exactly who and what it is you are trying to replace. Do you need someone with better classroom management? Is the person leaving weak when it comes to differentiating instruction? Knowing your personnel is critical.

Now, it’s time to post the position. Be specific with what skills you are looking for, which should in turn attract candidates whose skills better meet your needs. Don’t be generic. You now have a stack of resumes piled high that need to be reviewed. As administrators, do we all have the time to sift through each and every candidate in the thorough manner needed? Ideally, yes, but truly not to the desired level.

This is where delegating some responsibility comes into play. A great practice to have is assembling an interview team that is specified to the respective posting. Use the expertise of your staff to help you review candidates and pull any and all resumes your team feels would best represent the criteria your school needs.

Collaborate with your staff in coming up with a universal set of questions to ask your interviewees. Ensure the questions are the same for all candidates interviewed. One piece we have found critical to assessing how each interview team member views each candidate is to calibrate feedback. In order to do this, develop a scoring system for each question. Our interview team would score a candidate’s response on a 0-5 basis with five being the highest score possible. Upon completion of the interview, we would debrief on each candidate and compare scores and overall opinions.

The most crucial piece of the whole process where we truly separate the stronger candidates from the weaker ones are the demo lessons we have candidates present. Having great responses in a first round interview is well and good, but until you see a candidate in front of students, we truly cannot gauge an individual’s potential to succeed in the classroom. Children are our frontline customers, so it is their feedback and how well they respond to a candidate that is most critical in the hiring process.

Lastly, don’t lose sight of the fact that creating an inclusive atmosphere in relation to the hiring process goes a long way to fostering a collaborative school environment. Teachers want and should be part of the process that ultimately shapes the culture and classrooms within our schools. Who knows better than your own staff?

DiFonsoAnthony is currently Principal of the Henri A. Yelle Elementary School in Norton. He also serves as an adjunct faculty member for American International College. You can follow him on Twitter at @HAYSchoolNorton.

Are you interested in sharing your ideas, insights and questions? If so, click here to sign up for a post. Julie Vincentsen, Principal of Ruggles Lane School, will reach out with specifics. Are you interested but nervous because you’ve never blogged before and don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry – as long as you know how to use Microsoft Word you will be up to this challenge. We write for our communities all the time – this just changes your audience. You probably could even take a current newsletter you’ve written and repurpose it for your colleagues.

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