In the throes of summer, school leaders pore over picking the right people to serve kids.  Never a perfect art, I’ve sat through rigorous hiring processes engineered to successfully picked the wrong people.  I’ve also seen improvised question protocols find true diamonds for schools and students.  All things considered, here are factors I (currently) believe are important when it comes to hiring and getting hired.

It’s About Attitude:  For the most part, you can teach someone the skills and knowledge necessary to be effective in the classroom.  Content knowledge is important, but you can’t teach attitude.  Hire for attitude and you’ll have someone who enjoys kids, has a desire to be better, wants to teach to influence lives.

Don’t Undervalue Small Talk:  Coming from someone that isn’t naturally good at it, I’ve learned to be intentional about small talk.  Talk about kids, past moves, likes, dislikes.  All of these things show unique glimpses into personality and ATTITUDE instead of the well-formed questions most people expect and rehearse for interviews.

Situations instead of Answers:  “How do you handle students with challenging behavior?” is a less effective question than “Tell us about a time you handled a student with challenging behavior and got him/her learning again?”  The example the candidate presents tells a far greater story than a formulated answer.

Mental Toughness:  Working in a high school isn’t pink lemonade and sunshine.  Small to large degrees of unpleasant parents, pessimistic colleagues, disrespectful student behavior, and nonsensical bureaucracy plague every school.  Ask situation questions to gauge whether the candidate can withstand these issues, stay optimistic, and stay the course.

Extra Credit:  Conversely, if you want to get hired, all of these factors matter.  The candidate that does the best job of “connecting” with the interview committee has the greatest chance of landing the job.  Instead of rehearsing answers to expected questions, think of brief and concise examples/stories that illustrate your answers.

Hiring is the most important thing school leaders do.  When we hire someone new, our school essentially becomes more like that person.  Picking the right attitude, mindset, and skills helps move the school closer to its vision.


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