Summer for a number of school administrators is consumed with filling teaching vacancies. Although good administrators are aware of the importance of hiring quality teachers, the process itself can be exhausting depending on the staffing needs of the school. Most administrators would prefer to spend the summer planning for the upcoming school year rather than screening and interviewing a countless number of teaching candidates. In 21 years in the field of education, I have yet to hear one administrator describe the teacher selection process as exhilarating or intoxicating. Often, teacher selection is described by administrators as being tedious and time-consuming. There is nothing more deflating than finding out in the opening minutes of an interview that your candidate does not cut the mustard; especially when you consider the time expended to reach this particular point in the process. So, are there actions that administrators can take this summer to maximize their time and efforts in the teacher selection process? Are there steps that administrators can take to increase the likelihood of hiring effective teachers well-suited to meet the needs of the school? The answer to these questions is a resounding YES; there are definite steps that can be taken to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of teacher selection.
Step one: Understand your specific instructional needs.
The goal of hiring is to find a match between the needs of the school and the candidate. This can only take place if those making hiring decisions are aware of the precise instructional needs of the school. Do you need an experienced teacher? Will a novice teacher suffice? Will the teacher be expected to sponsor an extracurricular activity? Will instruction take place within a block schedule or blended learning classroom? Will instruction take place across multiple grade levels? Will the teacher team-teach or work within a departmentalized organizational structure? Having answers to these sorts of questions will aid in the screening phases of teacher selection and create precision in identifying candidates that are more likely to fit the needs of the school.
Step two: Employ effective screening practices.
Most school administrators believe that new hire screening begins with reviewing resumes; however, the screening process should begin with your employment application. The application can be viewed with the resume which is intended to collect information about the candidate that can be used to determine who advances through the process. From the application, you can collect information on teaching experience, certification status, completed coursework, criminal background history, accomplishments, and writing ability; all of which can be used to make more informed decisions about the candidate. The key is to construct an application which incorporates the job-related factors, and criteria required by the position into the document. In addition, how the application is formatted when it is received by the school is equally important. The school should be in receipt of the employment application in advance of the interview to allow proper screening. I have observed a number of instances where the candidate completes the application on the same day the interview is scheduled. Unfortunately, this practice often results in a misuse of time, due to eliminating the ability to deselect an unqualified candidate before the interview is conducted. But what about those candidates with acceptable applications – what should be done with them? The candidates with sound applications should advance to the next stage of screening, which consists of a phone interview. Conducting phone screenings allow you to learn more about the candidates, along with providing a forum to gauge verbal ability. Also, the application and phone screenings should be scored using a rubric in order to limit bias. Using the application and phone interviews to screen candidates does not guarantee that they will be effective teachers if hired. However, the use of sound screening practices should aid administrators in understanding which candidates should remain in consideration for employment.
Step three: Approach the face-to-face interview tactically.
Unlike screening decisions based mostly on paper credentials, interviews are based on an interpersonal interaction between the interviewer and applicant. To aid in this process, schools and hiring teams should develop procedural guidelines for conducting in-person interviews. The protocol should address the types of interview questions asked, the purpose of the questions asked, and how responses will be scored. Experienced-based questions inquiring about the previous performance of a candidate, are expressed in the literature as being the most effective type of questioning technique to use in interviews. Unlike informational or situational questions, experienced-based questions are intended to understand specifically what the candidate did in a given situation. Understanding what the candidate did in the past, may help you to predict what he or she may do in the future if hired. Given this, it would be wise to construct your interview protocol around experienced-based questions. It is also important to thoughtfully plan what questions will be posed to candidates in advance of the interview. You want to be certain that the questions asked are connected to the area you are seeking to understand. For example, asking a candidate “what they do to ensure that all children learn,” will not elicit a response that helps you to understand how they manage student progress. Constructing questions for your protocol in advance will ensure that the questions asked are well aligned to the specific areas in which you wish to elicit responses. Lastly, as with the screening process, you want to be certain to employ a scoring rubric in order to reduce bias and oversights. It is easy when conducting interviews to allow our personal judgments to influence our decisions. The use of a rubric will aid in limiting this common occurrence.
The importance of teacher selection is well documented. No one other than the student has a greater impact on student achievement than the teacher. Given this, the process used to determine how teachers are hired should be of vital importance to school administrators and hiring teams. We owe it to students and parents to make sure that we are doing everything necessary to hire the most effective teachers. Doing so can be the difference between academic achievement and failure. Teacher selection is enhanced when paired with a well-structured process. It is my desire that the steps that I have outlined will aid readers, by identifying processes that may be taken to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of teacher selection. Happy hiring this summer and beyond.
Dr. LaMarr Moses is the President of Results Education Group. He has over two decades of experience and currently provides professional development to schools, districts, foundations, and non-profits. Prior to his current position, he has served in the capacities of teacher, principal, superintendent, and school developer.