This post is part of our series that covers all the basics you need to create or update your program's administrative paperwork. Read more at 7 Child Care Forms You Need To Run A Better Business.
Hiring is a chance to raise the quality of your child care program. Finding a great addition to your staff makes your program a better place for the children in your care and for your current employees. The interview is an especially important step in your hiring process because it's during this exchange that you can get the best feel for candidates.
Sitting across from someone and hearing them speak about themselves and their experience gives you a rounded view of a candidate and how they will fit in with your child care center. To maximize each interview, be methodical about which questions you ask. This will help you evaluate each candidate fairly and make sure you get to know each applicant.
Here are nine child care interview questions that you should ask in every interview to find people that you trust to work in your child care program.
Personal questions about the applicant
A good way to begin any interview is to ask a few personal questions about the applicant. Not only does it give you a sense of who a candidate is, what they value, and why they want to work in early childhood education, but it also helps people feel comfortable at the beginning of your chat. It can be easier to talk about ourselves than our workplace philosophies, and opening with personal questions can put candidates at ease.
Personal interview questions to ask:
"When did you know you wanted to work in early childhood education? What drew you to the field?"
The answers to these questions will reveal a candidate's motivations. Working in early childhood education is a difficult job, and understanding someone's reasons for entering the industry will help you identify people who genuinely enjoy the profession.
"I see your background is [x], why did you decide to [attend that teaching program, switch career paths, etc.]?"
Everyone takes a different path through their career. Asking about a candidate's background and career choices doesn't just tell you how they got into early ed — it tells you how they approach a problem. Did they decide early on they wanted to be a child care professional and plan out their career from day one? Or were they self-motivated to switch careers, and how did they navigate learning about a new field?
"What would you like to be doing in five years?"
Even though every candidate will be interested in early ed, that doesn't mean they will be the right fit for your business. For example, if someone sees themselves transitioning into preschool administration, does that match with the size and scope of your business? If someone wants to start their own child care business in the next five years, are you OK with a shorter-term hire? What professional skills are they interested in developing, and do you have a need for those skills?
Questions about the applicant's professional experienceAfter learning about a candidate's personal background and motivation, ask about their professional experience to determine whether they will fit in with your program. Asking an applicant to talk about their challenges, strengths and weaknesses in an early ed setting reveals how they work. Do they take responsibility? Or do they blame others for problems and shrink in difficult situations? Always give the candidate time to think and respond in their own words — even if they must pause to gather their thoughts. Resist the urge to prompt them, as it will affect how they reply.
Experience interview questions to ask:
"What is the biggest challenge you've faced while working in early ed? How did you handle it?"
The answer to this question will tell you both what a candidate views as challenging and how they approach high-pressure situations. This is not an easy profession, and knowing what a particular candidate finds challenging and how they respond to adversity will help you determine whether they will be a good fit for your staff. Do they defer to authority? Do they test unconventional solutions?
"Describe a situation where you had to have a tough conversation with the parent of a child in your care."
One of the keys to running a child care center is having a good relationship with parents. Unfortunately, things can't be perfect all the time, and you and your staff will occasionally need to have a difficult conversation with a parent. You need to know you can trust your staff to handle these conversations with professionalism and respect.
"What is one thing you wish you had been more prepared for going into your last position, and how did you handle getting up to speed?"
Nobody's perfect, and one of the best employee qualities is a willingness to learn, to build on areas of growth. This question will help you understand how self-aware a candidate is, because it requires them to evaluate their own performance. It also tells you how motivated they are to learn and grow as people and employees.
Questions about the applicant's child care philosophyThere are many approaches to early childhood education, and asking about an applicant's philosophy ensures that your approaches are compatible. Employees who understand and embrace the mission statement of your center will be a positive force in your workplace and will require less training to get up to speed. You can ask outright about a candidate's philosophy, but learning about their day-to-day experiences working in early ed will illustrate how they embody their convictions.
Child care philosophy interview questions to ask:
"What is the most important thing a classroom needs to run smoothly?"
The answer to this question speaks to the heart of a person's behavior in the workplace — the standard they expect from themselves and others. It shows they understand the challenges (or don't) of working in early ed and reveals what they prioritize in their day-to-day work.
"What are the most important qualities of child care staff and why?"
This question requires candidates to frame their thinking about how a child care center should run in concrete terms. You'll learn how they approach working with children and parents, as well as what they deem gold standards in early ed professionals.
A scenario question, such as, "How would you handle a child who frequently resists following instructions?" or "If you were concerned a child was being left out, what would do?"
A candidate's response to a scenario shows their philosophy in action. Try using a scenario that you have encountered at your center before, as it will be easy to see if a candidate's instincts match yours.
Child care interview questions are an opportunity
Bringing in a new staff member to your child care center can be exciting and scary. You have the chance to add a positive addition to your staff, but finding them is a challenge. One of the best ways to separate the best employees for your child care center is through the interview process. Asking thoughtful questions that elicit thoughtful answers will allow you to determine who is the best candidate for your program and will raise your chances of hiring your next great staff member. Taking a fresh eye to all of your child care forms, including your hiring paperwork, can only improve your operations.
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