Everyone knows that making solid hires is one of the best strategies for ensuring that your school is a successful learning community that is attractive to the families in the area. We know that a terrific team member will make everyone’s experiences so much more positive. We also know that a bad hire can be a nightmare. They are draining both emotionally and financially. Families disenroll, other staff members quit, and you spend extra time “cleaning up” the messes left in the wake of this bad hire. Here are three smart strategies that experienced school leaders use to ensure that they hire the right person the first time when positions are available in their schools. Use these three strategies for hiring teachers and team members who fit with your culture and have the potential to become long-term members of your community.
1. Ask SMART questions in the interview.
You may have heard of SMART goals as a way of setting strategic objectives. I think that the same theory applies to interview questions. These are questions that are:
- Specific: ask the candidate to be as detailed as possible in describing their answer.
- Measurable: the candidate can articulate a clear outcome of the situation they are describing.
- Applicable: the candidate is sharing information about situations that are applicable to your school.
- Realistic: all of your questions guide the candidate to talk about how they have handled situations in REAL life.
- Timebound: the candidate is guided to name a specific time and place in which the answer they are giving happened.
For a more detailed look at these questions, check out the Trillium post Stop Wasting Your Time and Start Hiring SMART.
2. Check references thoroughly, authentically, and legally.
This is one area in which you really should not skimp when hiring. If you have well-crafted questions, you will come away knowing a lot about the people you are considering for hire. Should you find yourself in a situation where you have more than one great candidate for a position, reference checks can be incredibly helpful in making the final decision.
Your new hires should be able to easily provide you with three to five people you can call and ask a series of specific questions that can help you better understand the person you are considering. This is another opportunity to use the SMART strategy in choosing your questions.
One of the most valuable pieces of information you can glean from these questions is how the candidate has grown and changed over time as a professional. You need to know that this is a person who is open to growth and change because successful schools are dynamic and always exploring best practices.
Most importantly, make sure that every question you ask should be legal and not put you in a position to be sued for discrimination. How do you make this happen? You either need to set aside time to research and make note of state and federal law or you need to put down the money to have an attorney give you the information you need. But don’t stop there, the next step is to make an official policy for your organization that is clear on how you do hiring, including background checks so that you have formal evidence of how you conduct this work.
3. Offer significant context, support, and training to all new hires.
Hiring a strong staff member is a step in the right direction. Now the work really begins. Every new employee should be subject to significant investments of time and training in order to set them and the classroom up for success. Here is a run down of a strong training and orientation practice (you must pay them their regular hourly rate for all of the time they spend doing these activities, but it is worth it):
- Have them observe at least one classroom at every age level in the school so that they have context on the full developmental spectrum in your program and can respect the work of the adults at other age levels.
- Have them spend a full work day observing their program for the hours in which they are present.
- Review the employee handbook and licensing/health/fire regulations with each new employee and all staff members annually.
- Give them short, easy Montessori reading (think blog posts) if they are new to the curriculum. The Absorbent Mind is awesome, but not a great starter book.
- Provide them time for frequent one-on-one check ins with their team, especially at the beginning so that they can make plans and develop rapport.
- Prepare them for the reality that they will be receiving feedback in real-time from other classroom staff. Let them know that your school is one with a culture of open communication and defensiveness is unwelcome in your program.
- Facilitate a culture of continual, open feedback and growth amongst all staff members.
- Check in with them weekly for the first month.
- Check in with their team members weekly for the first month.
- Make a professional growth plan with every staff member and check in on it regularly.
One of the best hiring strategies I know of is to train and treat your employees well so that hiring is few and far between.
Bonus Strategy: Do a 60 or 90 day check in and review with the employee.
When you hire this staff member, give them a copy of their detailed job description and the sixty day review and immediately set a date and time for your follow-up meeting. Let them know that you will be carefully observing them during their probationary period and that you will be openly discussing the items in the document at your check in meeting. This way they are empowered and informed as to exactly what you expect as well as exactly how and when they will be evaluated by you and their team of peers.
This article by RB Fast first appeared on beelineconsulting.net