When it comes to finding good teaching candidates, there isn’t an exact science. Applications can all look the same, and sometimes interviewing and hiring is all about timing. It can be a clunky process—and one that doesn’t always work out perfectly.
One of the structures that I have put in place to avoid this is to have a team with me while I interview teaching candidates. I will admit that there can be a downside to having an interview team—if the team doesn’t agree or prefers a different candidate to my top pick, it can be awkward. It can make the team feel as though their input wasn’t taken seriously or heard. These situations are the exception, but they do happen.
For me, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Here are some of the reasons I would suggest using this approach:
- It creates a connection from the start: I usually try to have people on the team who will be working directly with the new teacher. The interview is a chance for them to start to get to know one another and their personalities. Having strong teams is important for creating strong schools, and these connections can help to make sure the team feels it is a good “fit” personality-wise, independent of the teaching skills.
- It adds perspective: Since all of us see the world in a different way, it is critical to have different eyes and ears in an interview. More than once, members of my team have caught things that I missed, which helped us to make a better decision about who to hire.
- It takes the pressure off: If the hire isn’t a good one, it was a team decision. It the hire was a good one, it was a team decision. I do always let the team know that while they are advising me, the final decision is mine. Nine times out of ten, we can all clearly see who the best candidate is.
Here are some other insights that may help:
- Picking your team: As I mentioned earlier, people who will work with the candidate should be on the team. It helps to give them a “feel” for the person and hear first-hand about some of their experiences. I also want people who are going to be honest. The point of an interview is to critique (i.e. be critical), so I want someone who will give me solid—and honest—feedback.
Additionally, I want my best teachers to be on the team. Great teachers know about great teaching, so they have an ear bent toward hearing the great strategies and tools that the candidates are talking about. I often don’t know all the ins and outs of the curriculum, but my great teachers do—and they are able to discern which responses are better than others.
- Do it during the school day: I always try to make sure the teacher team doesn’t have to give up their own time in order to help me. We get subs for a half day and usually do them back to back. This makes sure the conversation isn’t stunted or rushed, and can also be some bonding and professional learning time for us as a group. There has been more than one occasion when a candidate left the interview and we immediately started talking about the ideas they mentioned in their responses.
When the day is done and all the candidates have been interviewed, I usually ask for some formalized feedback, either electronically or on paper. This gives everyone a chance to voice their thoughts—even though we have probably discussed everything already. It also adds a process that allows for me to reflect on the feedback.
In the end, I tell the team that I will make decisions on who to offer the position to and where the process goes from there. This isn’t to be sneaky, but sometimes other things come in the way once offers are made. Candidates turn jobs down, the money does or doesn’t work out, and information may come up in the interview that causes concern for the principal. I never want anyone to feel like they were “second choice” when they are hired, so I keep all of that under wraps until we have a contract with the new teacher.
As I said, there can be a downside to this part of the process, but I would encourage all employees to use teams to help interview and find great candidates. For me, it needs to be a teacher team and not just an administrative team. The bonds and connections, the feedback about learning, and the buy-in of the staff all have made it a great process for me—and one I believe in.