Getting the Right People ‘On The Bus’

There is no doubt that schools are a ‘people business’. Management and leaders can have the most amazing ideas and vision for what they want their school to be, but if they don’t get the right ‘people on the bus’, then that’s a forlorn hope. Of course, once those people are on the bus, there are vital factors related to how they are inducted, trained, lead, motivated and incentivized – I can save those aspects for another day. Here, I want to focus on how people are selected to join a school’s team.

However, I have been concerned for a long time that way too many schools treat their recruitment processes too cavalierly. I’ve seen too much evidence of those who see it as more important to ‘get a body’ to fill a vacancy quickly, rather than developing the right pipeline to bring in the talent needed to fulfil the school’s vision. Interviews that last little more than 10 minutes are commonplace. Where schools do invest significant time in the recruitment process, I’m not at all sure that time is well used. For example, if a school espouses a philosophy based upon differentiation, personalized learning and the importance of the teacher’s relationship with students (understanding their individual needs), then what purpose is really served by demo lessons where the teacher candidate is asked to prepare a lesson, come in to school and deliver it to a room full of students they’ve never met before? The key word in that sentence is probably ‘deliver’ as the demo lesson is a throwback to days when teachers did essentially ‘deliver’ lessons. The fact that they might ask students to engage, take questions and answers and engage in two way dialogue isn’t really the answer. All too often, the most self-confident and assured students will engage and the ones who can’t answer the questions will be avoided by the candidate teacher (because they may make him/ her look bad).

Many years ago, when I was graduating from college, I went through selection processes with a number of organisations. Two in particular stand out. In one case, there was a preliminary interview. Then, I was informed that I had been short-listed for inclusion in a selection weekend. I went, along with around 40 other people, to a hotel in the city where the organisation had its Head Office. We all checked in on the Friday evening. Then, for 48 hours we were basically ‘under the microscope’. We had a variety of activities to participate in, completed psychometric profiles and various interviews or discussions where we were often asked to explain the thinking behind how we had acted/ decisions we had made in the various exercises. Assessment didn’t stop in the evenings in the bar or the restaurant! To me, here was an organisation whose recruitment process was clearly part and parcel with their ‘brand’. It sent a very clear message that having the right people in their teams really mattered. Also, although it wasn’t discussed, it must have provided a wealth of information to the Company to plan the development and professional progress of individuals after they joined.

many might say that the route taken by that company was incredibly expensive. However, there’s now ample evidence that the financial costs, not to mention all the other costs, of wrong hiring decisions can be enormous. In the bigger sense, can you really proclaim that you’re a ‘people business’ and that your team are the deliverers of excellence for your organisation – and then be so arbitrary in their selection?

Sometimes, I believe we need to be ready to take lessons and ideas from wherever we can find them. So, I was interested to read this article in which ideas are shared by a senior figure in the IT field – someone who contributed a lot to the success of Hulu and is now with Flipboard. The aspect I found most interesting was the use of data to manage the recruitment ‘pipeline’. Yes, we have some different issues influencing what we do in education and when we need to onboard new teachers etc. but i still believe we can learn from others;

Fast Company – hiring Formula for Finding the Right People

I would be interested to know from others;
a) What do you believe we should be looking for when selecting new teachers in a school – our criteria?
b) How best might we test for/ explore whether the teacher candidate meets the criteria?


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