Let the Interviews Begin

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If you don’t know, we are both big fans of Todd Whitaker. As you follow us, you will find references and Whitaker-isms scattered throughout our articles because this guy knows what he is talking about. Todd Whitaker points out that you should never ‘settle’ for a mediocre candidate just to fill a vacancy quickly.  You will spend more time documenting a poor teacher than you will be interviewing to get a great one.

As the school year comes to a close, another season begins—the interview season. For a variety of reasons, staff positions open up and need to be filled before the new school year begins. While some administrators groan through the process because interviews take an inordinate amount of time that could be used for other necessary tasks, great leaders understand that this is an awesome opportunity to add members to their team who will be integral in shaping the culture of the school.  

Just the shift in the attitude of the team interviewing the candidate can make all of the difference in the selection of the candidate. Fact: interviews take time. No doubt about it, but it is time well spent. As you begin the interview season, keep in mind some strategies that can assist you in hiring the best candidates.

Rethink the interview process. Principal Jay Billy is not a big fan of a committee style interview—and his thoughts have some merit. Gather some stakeholders and discuss the interview process and decide what works best for your school or district. Maybe it’s time for a change! Whatever your committee decides, make sure to include all stakeholders, especially the ones that will work hand-in-hand with the new staff member.

Don’t rush! Before each interview, remind members of your committee of the importance of taking the time to vet the candidate. The person you hire will likely be your legacy. They may be there long after you are gone, so you want to ensure that you are leaving your school with great people who can carry on the vision and uphold the culture of your school or district.

Design questions that really give an opportunity to get to know the recruit. Stock questions often garner scripted responses. Candidates can be masters of their curriculum and pedagogy, but will they resonate with their students and colleagues? Put the time into developing questions that allow the personality of the candidate and their approach to working with students to come through.

Do your homework. Candidates provide references of their choosing. Although that is the perfect place to start, you may want to dig further. Look for connections in their resume that will yield other references that may be able to shine a light on to the qualifications of the candidate. This step can help to avoid issues down the road.

Be open-minded. Many times, you or someone on the interview committee think that they have found the perfect candidate before interviews begin–and while that may be true, it is paramount to keep an open mind and give every candidate an opportunity to wow you. You may just find that another person would be better suited for the position.

Trust your gut! If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Many times, you can’t quite put a finger on it; something doesn’t resonate well. You can’t ignore instinct. Discuss your uneasiness with your interview committee or administrative team. Often, they feel exactly the same way but didn’t want to be the cog in the wheel.

Consider alternatives. Everyone wants to start the new school year with the permanent staff member, but it may not be possible. You may have to wait for the right candidate to be available—and it will be worth it. If necessary, fill the position temporarily. Again, think legacy!

CELEBRATE your new staff member by making them feel welcome! You want your new staff member to know that they are joining an elite group of people dedicated to creating a culture of excellence. Make them feel part of your school family–and in return, they will be family.

If you want to be the best, the only way to accomplish it is to attract the best people!


Paul J. Berardelli is a proud principal of Delsea Regional High School. Paul has challenged himself to be a true educational leader by inspiring his staff and students to excel. More recently, Paul has been featured in ASCD Journal for his article “Road Tested / Getting Up to Speed with Speed PD” and “Why Every Administrator Should Team Teach” and “Our Teachers Deserve More Praise”, and numerous blog posts in ASCD InserviceYou can follow Paul on Twitter @PaulBerardelli

Michele Hill is a passionate educator in her 25th year of teaching–students first, curriculum second. Throughout her career as an educator, Michele has been a champion for struggling and impoverished students. Michele has been a guest blogger for ASCD Inservice, McGraw Hill, Principal Leadership, Teacher Tool Kit UK, Edweek and ASCD Road Tested. Michele is the producer of DisruptEdTV School Spotlight. You can follow Michele on Twitter @HillMrispo or visit her blog: spiritededucator.blogspot.com


This article is part of a monthly series from Michele Hill and Paul Berardelli where they share their advice and expertise as a classroom teacher and school administrator who demonstrate the importance of working together to help create a school culture of excellence. You can read more from them by clicking on the ‘Dynamic Synergy’ tag or by clicking here.

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