Are you opening a preschool? Or are you just looking to hire new staff? Either way, you might have a state-of-the-art facility with well-equipped classrooms and a beautiful outdoor space, but if you don’t have quality instructors, you’ll never succeed. Research has shown over and over that teacher quality is one of the top predictors of student success.
Finding and Attracting Candidates
Obviously you’ll have to advertise for your open positions–try local teaching programs, job fairs, social media, and the usual online forums. Ask for personal referrals from teachers, employees, parents–even friends and neighbors. Always be on the lookout and recruiting, even if you don’t have any current openings. It’s a good idea to have a running file of talent to draw from.
Attract quality candidates by having solid policies and a welcoming environment. If your school has a great reputation, this is the first step in appealing to top talent. If you’re a new school, start by offering fair pay/benefits, flexibility with scheduling, and professional development opportunities–all things important to teachers.
Offer leadership or growth opportunities so teachers can continually improve their skills, building on their strengths and developing professionally. A high quality candidate will more likely be attracted to a school where they will constantly be learning and growing, as opposed to just punching the clock.
The Interview Process
Once you’ve narrowed down your applicants and decided on a group of possible interviewees, put together a team to assist in the interview process. Take the time to approach this important hiring decision through a 3-step process.
- First, vet applicants on the phone or in a one-on-one interview. This step can be a fairly short screening, with the follow-up interview being more meaty.
- After you’ve narrowed down your candidate list by screening, invite your favorites back for a more formal group interview involving other staff members and hopefully a parent representative. In this interview, split up your interview questions between all members of your committee, giving each a chance to ask a question or two. Also, ask the candidate to do some roleplaying: have them answer an angry phone call from a parent, or talk to a parent about a student’s problematic behavior. This might give you a glimpse into how they’ll handle parent communication, or at least how they handle being put on the spot, which happens a lot at preschool!
- The third and final stage is to invite candidates back to conduct a short sample lesson with students, if possible. Seeing a teacher in action tells you a lot more about her skills than simply sitting across a table from her and asking questions.
Let’s set aside the certifications and licenses here–they vary from state to state, and we’re assuming you know your own state and city requirements. Hopefully it goes without saying, but be sure to verify all certifications and licenses as part of the reference-checking process.
Speaking of reference checking–don’t skip this part, even if you’ve fallen in love with the perfect candidate. Ask professional references about absenteeism, attitude, and flexibility. Preschoolers thrive on relationships and routine, so it goes without saying that you don’t want to hire a teacher who has a history of missing school regularly. You also want a candidate who is flexible and creative in handling problems and challenges, and one who can remain a positive and patient team member no matter what the day throws her way.
When making your final decision, consider the soft skills as much as the resume. Just because a candidate has more training or experience than another doesn’t mean she’s a better choice. The behavioral qualities that make up a good teacher are just as important as the professional degrees and certifications.