Monday, June 30, 2014

Worth Hiring?

Almost eight years ago I was asked to be on a committee to select two teachers to join our staff. I was happy to be a part of the selection committee...but I quickly found out that it was a very difficult process.  I remember looking through nearly one-hundred resumes, I remember sorting them into piles and having lengthy discussions about candidates.  The process was tedious and a bit frustrating.  The frustration came from the fact that nearly all candidates looked strong on paper.  Eventually we narrowed to eight candidates.  

At this point you would think things would gain traction and the real excitement would start. Unfortunately that wasn't the case.

As we sat in our air conditioned computer lab and interviewed candidate after candidate I was simply amazed. Each one of us on the committee took a different approach, in hindsight this was a good thing.  We all had unique perspectives and thoughts.  Yet after the interviews concluded things became awkward.

I'll never forgot sitting in that room and listening to the comments of my colleagues.  Not one comment focused on who would be best for kids.  The comments were -

"They would be a great fit with our staff."

"I could really team well with that person."

"Their positive attitude would lift up our morale."

"I would love to work with that person."

As I listened and took in these comments I began to wonder, do educators hire the best candidate or a possible friend?

You may be reading this and thinking, Hire a Possible Friend?  Yes, I've witnessed it first hand...going back eight years ago the teachers I was on the committee with had a selfish viewpoint.  They focused on who they wanted to work with, not who the best candidate was.  

What I've learned through participating in nearly two dozen interview committees is this: The person that is best for kids will likely be a great fit with staff.  The focus must be squarely on, who is best for kids.

I feel compelled to offer a few ways I look for the best candidate...

I've been told the first three minutes are crucial.  Some even say you know if you want the person within the first three minutes of the interview.  My personal viewpoint is, you can't be hired in the first three minutes, but you can shoot yourself in the foot in the first three minutes.  It's important to come in positive, upbeat, happy and ready to share.

Does experience matter?  I would say no.  My personal viewpoint is, I want the candidate that has a growth mindset and shares a passion to work with ALL kids.

Finally, when interviewing a candidate the answers do matter, but the connections and personality matter more.  Here is why, if the candidate has a growth mindset, I'm confident they will learn new methods, strategies and procedures.  I don't expect candidates to know everything, in fact, I appreciate the honesty when candidates admit they don't know something.

If you have had the opportunity to be on a hiring committee I hope you have kept the core values of teaching at the forefront.  Hiring a new teacher is a life changing decision.  It's life changing for the individual, but more importantly it's life changing for 25+ students.

This week's big question: Would you be comfortable hiring a candidate that pushes you as an educator?


Articles Worth Reading:

When Teachers Bully Teachers +Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp

A Balanced Approach To Social Media for Teachers +TeachThought @TeachThought

The Thin Line Between Passion and Anger... +Jeff Zoul @Jeff_Zoul

Common Core or Guided Reading? @ReadingShanahan

Reflections of a 1st Year Administrator +Colin Wikan @ColinWikan

Excuses Hold Us Back +Eric Sheninger @NMHS_Principal

16 Things You Shouldn't Have to Justify to Anyone Else +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel


Videos Worth Watching:

5 Things that make Summer Awesome! (3 min)





Jim Gaffigan makes me laugh out loud! (3 min)





Easily one of my favorite speeches of all time... (17 min)




What makes a hero? (4 min)







10 comments:

  1. Ben thank you for giving me an inside peek at the other end of the process. I have often been the interviewee not the interviewer. Some of the points you brought up never even crossed my mind. I would hope that I wouldn't mind hiring someone that pushes my thinking because in the end it makes me better. This is a very interesting topic because I feel that interviews often don't tell us enough. Thanks for opening my eyes and giving me some tips along the way.

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    1. Jon,

      Each time I enter in and go through this process I learn something new. This year is no different...constant learning and a few curveballs that I never anticipated.

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  2. Ben, I always enjoy reading your perspective, because it returns us to the question: "Is this decision what is best for our students?" While I do believe it's important to include potential team members in the interview process, there is that fear that we tend to select "birds of a feather" over those who might stretch our thinking and our abilities. This serves to remind us that we have to constantly push ourselves to be less comfortable than we're accustomed, and be willing to meet and hire those who see things differently. This is where we grow, as educators and as people.

    I take hiring decisions, recommendations, and board appointments very seriously. It's possibly among the most significant decisions we make because as you mentioned, it's a choice that will impact a significant number of students and families over a significant amount of time (~30 years!) The true challenge lies in, once hiring is completed, to effectively mentor and sustain an environment where "induction" is not reserved for beginner teachers, but for everyone. In fact, after an arduous hiring process and three years later, when making tenure recommendations, I make a point of welcoming our new teachers to "the starting line". The real work becomes inviting and supporting veterans to a group of educators willing to learn and grow.

    Building capacity around people with a growth mindset is where we will make our mark in education.

    Great post, Ben! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Dennis,

      You put that so well..."there is that fear that we tend to select "birds of a feather" over those who might stretch our thinking and our abilities. This serves to remind us that we have to constantly push ourselves to be less comfortable than we're accustomed, and be willing to meet and hire those who see things differently."

      Your comment and feedback really add to this post. Thank you for commenting and being a trusted friend. I appreciate you.

      -Ben

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  3. Great post. I often sit and listen to the questions people are asking the candidate and I agree, it is more about your gut instincts on if this candidate will be good for kids. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Jay,

      Thank you for taking the time to read and respond. Your feedback is appreciated.

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  4. Great thoughts! I agree we often hire for "fit". I like the saying, "Hire someone who will make you better, not just fit in and sustain the status quo". Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Traci,

      You are stepping into a new spot that I'm sure will bring some of these scenarios. After dozens of interviews and committees I can simply say...I never stop learning.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Traci!

      -Ben

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  5. Ben,
    This is an awesome post; thank you for sharing your wisdom on so many issues that impact us--and our students. There is perhaps nothing we do as important as hiring the very best person for every opening we have in our schools. We simply must hire the person who is best for the students we serve. You make several important points with which I concur wholeheartedly. First, experience is not the most important variable; excellence is. Experience is not necessarily a negative, of course, but it does not guarantee excellence. Moreover, "fit" can sometimes be misconstrued, as you suggest. We do want the person we hire to "fit" with us, obviously, but it is much more important that we start with the question, "Will the be a fit for our students?" If this answer is "Yes," the fit chances they will "fit" with the adults are pretty high! I actually strive to hire teachers who do not necessarily become more like us; instead, I want someone so excellent who pushes us so much that we become more like them in some way. Thanks again for this great post!

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    1. Jeff,

      You bring a wealth of experience to this process and your feedback means a lot. I really like your last part...in fact I need to bottle this up and share with all interview committees..."I actually strive to hire teachers who do not necessarily become more like us; instead, I want someone so excellent who pushes us so much that we become more like them in some way."

      Thanks for reading and responding Jeff!

      -Ben

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