Are you opening a preschool? Or are you just looking to hire new preschool staff? Either way, you might have a state-of-the-art preschool 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 the quality of your preschool teachers is one of the top predictors of student success. In this article, you’ll learn how to hire the best teachers for your preschool, from finding and attracting talent, to interviewing and selecting the best fit for your organization.
1. Finding and attracting quality preschool staff
The first step in hiring great teachers for your preschool is finding them. Obviously you’ll have to advertise for your open positions. Try local teaching programs, child care job fairs, social media, and online forums related to early childhood education. Ask for personal referrals from teachers, employees, parents–even friends and neighbors. Always be on the lookout and recruiting staff for your preschool, even if you don’t have any current job openings. It’s always a good idea to have a running file of talented preschool professionals 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 recruiting top talent. If you’re new, start by offering fair pay/benefits, flexibility with scheduling, and professional development opportunities–all things important to preschool workers seeking employment.
Offer leadership or growth opportunities so staff at your preschool can continually improve their skills, building on their strengths and developing professionally. A high quality candidate will more likely be attracted to a preschool where they will constantly be learning and growing, as opposed to just punching the clock.
2. Interviewing the best preschool applicants
Once you’ve narrowed down your applicants and decided on a group of possible interviewees, put together a team to assist in the preschool interview process. Take the time to approach this important hiring decision through a 3-step interview process:
First, vet your preschool 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.
Next, after you’ve narrowed down your candidate list by screening, invite your favorites back for a more formal group interview involving other preschool staff 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 role playing: 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.
The third and final stage is to invite candidates back to conduct a short sample lesson with students, if possible. Seeing a preschool teacher in action tells you a lot more about her skills than simply sitting across a table from her and asking interview questions.
3. Choosing the right teacher for your preschool
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 for hiring preschool staff. 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 teacher for your preschool. Ask professional references about the candidate's absenteeism, attitude, and flexibility. Your kiddos thrive on relationships and routine, so it goes without saying that you don’t want to hire people to staff your preschool who have a history of missing work 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.
Preschool hiring decisions are some of the most important decisions you’ll make. When making your final decision, consider the soft skills as much as the candidate's resume. Just because a preschool instructor has more training or experience than another doesn’t mean she’s a better choice. The behavioral qualities that make up a good preschool professional are just as important as degrees and certifications.
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