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Hiring the best educator for a position is an arduous process. Choosing the right person will be one of the most important decisions you will make because of the impact on your school culture. You want to feel confident about your choice and be satisfied that the chosen candidate will add value to your school community.
Before meeting candidates, reading cover letters and curriculum vitae are worth your while. Doing so will help you craft your questions, making your the face-to-face a genuine experience. When considering candidates, you want someone who is knowledgeable and has some experience, but above all, you want someone who is passionate about investing in your students and school.
Here are three tips for conducting prosperous interviews:
Upon entry, help candidates feel comfortable. Enable them to ask questions throughout the interview, not just at the end. You are really interviewing each other and mutually want to know if the person and the job are a match. If interviewees ask about your experiences and background, these inquiries should be valued.
Be transparent about the demands of the position and be open about expectations and how things operate. People value honesty in knowing what they will be walking into if they are hired for the position. If the person or position is not the right match, you need to know right away to avoid time lost for both parties.
First impressions of a space can be as meaningful as first impressions of a person. Table and chair set-up can reflect your own personality as well as the culture of a school. Sitting across from each other can suggest detachment, however sitting beside each other or around the corner of the table creates a more collaborative setting.
Props such as the CV, notebook, or professional books can be used as a common point of conversation and can ease nerves. Easing the tension by setting up a comfortable and collaborative space shows your interest in finding a team player.
Asking pedagogical questions may tell you how the candidate works in the professional environment, but also asking questions about other life experiences, travel, or volunteer work will indicate passion.
As a participant in an interview panel, I had the opportunity to meet many prospective teachers. At one interview, I was particularly intrigued by a gentleman who had some unique teaching experiences listed on his CV. My first statement to him after our introductions was, "Tell us about your experience overseas." That statement opened the door to a rich conversation about his passion for education. We knew we needed this man on our staff.
He later shared his appreciation for the inquiry.
Questions that no one wants to answer? "What is your greatest strength or weakness?" "Tell me about yourself." "What is your greatest accomplishment?" These overused questions indicate little interest in the specific candidate interviewed, and as a result the responses lack ingenuity. Just as the interviewer seeks someone who has done their research before an interview, interviewees appreciate thoughtful and specific questions. Both parties want to work with someone who has invested time in getting to know who they are before they actually meet.
Once you've completed your interviews, choose the candidate who exudes passion. The candidate may allude to a passion for educating students in the cover letter, but your face-to-face will be the evidence. You will recognize it as he or she speaks about experiences in the classroom, and his or her desires in growing as an educator.
Candidates who also speak about experiences beyond the classrooms exemplify their passion for learning and make things happen. These people are what I call "doers." They do what they say they will and bring people with them. Their actions will have a positive impact on your environment,because their passion to educate, to make a difference, to extend, to lead, to think, and to keep learning.
Get the most out of your interview time by spending your time together in a well set-up space having a meaningful conversation. This may help you find the right person for the position.
Tamera Musiowsky-Borneman works as an instructional coordinator and coach with the Division of Early Childhood Education in the New York City Department of Education. She is an active member of the ASCD's Emerging Leader class of 2014. Her prior roles include teaching 3rd and 4th grades in Harlem and multiple teaching roles in Edmonton, Canada.
Pathfinder is a career article series brought to you by ASCD.
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