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How to Create Your School Dream Team: How to Hire the Best Educators

Dawn Imada Chan

One of the most important responsibilities of school administrators and leadership teams is to recruit and hire the best educators. A significant investment of time up front means the best team for your students and less time and effort on hires who are not the right fit for your school.

An essential consideration before hiring is to determine what skills, abilities, and attitudes your ideal candidate will have. Being very clear about your school mission and how this translates to the classroom will help you determine a profile of your ideal hire. In addition, aligning your interview questions and your rubric or rating system to these identified abilities and attitudes is essential. 

Below are some tips and considerations for the hiring process:

Conducting an Interview

  • Train staff to be professional and warm. Long gone are the days of trying to unnerve candidates as much as possible during the process. Being warm and friendly to candidates can be in the form of small efforts, from acknowledging the candidate by name as they arrive and leave or offering the school newsletter and something to drink while they wait.

    Remember that superstar candidates are doing a search of their own to determine if your school is a place they can see themselves at, and it starts with their first impressions.
  • Conduct the interview in pairs and try to structure the interview as a conversation. While this does require more planning and preparation, multiple interviewers tend to catch different elements of a candidates response, providing greater insight into a particular question.

    It will also allow you to tag team the delivering of questions and documentation of responses, so that one individual is always fully present to listen. Lastly, structuring the interview in a more conversational format, as opposed to rapid fire response, allows you to observe the candidate in a more natural state that aligns with their day-to-day behavior.
  • The interview process in its later stages must include a classroom teaching experience. Observing a candidate in the classroom will validate already identified strengths and also give you guidance as to where you can assist a candidate in their professional growth. It offers an opportunity for students who are a part of that experience to offer their insights into a candidate.

    Teams may also choose to offer feedback to the candidate about their classroom experience, giving insight into how a candidate may respond to future feedback. Schools may hesitate to take this time as it does make the process longer and requires more preparation, but it is well worth getting a new hire that can both “talk the talk and walk the walk.”
  • Leave time for the candidate to ask questions. Thoughtful questions from a candidate can give great insight into an individual’s motivations, concerns, and thoughts that you never could have elicited from your selected questions.

Choosing the Best Candidate

  • In later interviews, consider incorporating a few staff members to meet and chat with the candidate informally. Staff will offer different questions from a colleague point of view and are the individuals who will work closely with your new hire. They can also the best advocates of your school’s positive work and school culture.
  • Assemble a team to assist with the decision making. The idea that more heads is better than one is ideal as hiring is not a black and white process. Multiple perspectives can help you come to a better conclusion, especially if it is a close call between candidates.
  • Always check references. Generally speaking, it is unlikely that you will find reference that will not support a candidate. Look at this conversation as an opportunity to further identify what truly motivates your candidate and how you can support this individual to become a major contributor to your community.

The Best Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

The truth is that the best questions, the ones that will help you determine the best hire for your school, are ones that closely align to your school mission and philosophy, the job description, and hiring rubric. They are the ones that elicit stories from your candidate about their experiences and help you to assess if this person would be someone who would help to grow your school. 

Some examples of questions might be:

  • If I was a fly on the wall of your classroom, what would I see and hear?
  • Tell me about a time when you…(led a school initiative, had a conflict with a colleague, etc.) Give a brief description of the situation, how you handled it, and what you learned from it.
  • What makes you angry? What are you passionate about?

Hiring the best candidate for your school is an investment into student success and achievement. With a collaborative approach, preplanning, and a willingness to break out of some of the traditional hiring practices, you will be ahead of the game in finding your dream team of educators.

Dawn Imada ChanDawn Imada Chan is an education consultant and graduate student in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and a 2012 ASCD Emerging Leader.



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