Interviewing NAD Principals’ Handbook Excerpt
When interviewing prospective employees, there are several areas that cannot be discussed at the time of the interview or any time prior to employment. This chart can be used when interviewing.
There are additional areas that the principal and those conducting the interview might want to consider. These would include:
• Instructional techniques
• Professional background information
• Teacher relationships with colleagues
• Teacher relationships with parents
• Teacher relationships with students
The local conference office of education (LCOE) may have a protocol for interviewing prospective employees.
After Prayer, It’s the People
Doug Herrmann | Chief Administrative Officer, Loma Linda Academy
Except for praying for your school, the most important thing you do to affect school improvement is hiring teachers. It is a multifaceted process that takes time and careful thought. Rather than discussing all aspects of employment, let us focus on the vital interview.
I’m sure you are aware of the potential for false positives. Someone can be very skilled in an interview but unable to manage a classroom or design effective lessons for learning. Of equal concern is that the opposite result is also true. One might interview poorly but be an excellent classroom teacher.
Tasks Before the Interview
You have carefully read the cover letter, reviewed the resume, and contacted references. You have visited the candidate in their current classroom or home. It’s time for the interview.
There are two interviews to consider. First, as the principal in charge of the hire, you will no doubt have an opportunity to sit and talk more informally with the individual. Be aware that this might feel like a formal interview to the potential employee while you see it as more casual. You are not going through a set of questions and you are not taking notes. This is a conversation with more give and take where you explore ideas. The more relaxed the candidate becomes, the more you will understand his or her personality and people skills.
Second, you will conduct a formal interview usually with a group; your Personnel Committee, the Leadership Team, or the Ad Hoc Committee responsible for this hire. At this interview, you will have set questions. You and your board should have a consistent process designed for the recommendation of new hires. Let’s talk about those questions.
First, remember there are questions you do not ask. You cannot ask about the candidate’s age, marital status, number of children, or pregnancy status. Do not bring up citizenship (the application process should have clarified work eligibility). Do not explore race or national origin (this is not the time to find out where that interesting name comes from). Nor should you ask about disabilities. Of course, you can ask about religion, but you have already confirmed the candidate is a Seventh-day Adventist through the application process. The informal interview gives you the opportunity to explore their church connections, their unique name, etc.
Twelve to fifteen written questions have worked for me. These should elicit a clearer understanding of the candidate’s capacity in major areas of the work assignment. Assuming you are interviewing for a teaching position, you will want to probe prior experience, practice, and philosophy in areas such as classroom management, dealing with parents, instructional methods, use of assessments and grading/reporting on learning.
Effective interviews include specific questions or seek a narrative response. For example, ask the candidate to describe a time when confronted by an upset parent and their response. Or about a time a student was caught cheating, or when the whole class had done poorly on a test. Listen carefully for what happened and how he responded.
A question about the candidate’s spiritual journey might be what recent book encouraged faith, a favorite/preferred devotional practice, and/or how Christ is featured in their classroom. Knowing about a candidate’s mentors or role models is usually insightful. Ask them who was a favorite teacher and why.
There are many sources of good questions. You likely have a question or two that you always ask candidates. When concluding a formal interview, I will often ask what question they were expecting, but we missed.
The formal interview should be structured as much as possible to be on target and on time. Begin the meeting without the candidate. After prayer, review the position assignment and the candidate’s resume. For best results, a list of questions to be covered in the interview should be provided in writing to committee members with space to take notes. Often members will share the posing of questions, creating more committee participation. Or, you may choose to have one person conduct the interview with others observing.
At all times seek to put the candidate at ease. Start with a comfortable seat at eye level with all members. Then, introduce the committee members and have prayer again. I like the first question to be an opportunity for the candidate to review their resume and the highlights of their career. Then, proceed with the interview questions allowing for follow-up questions as needed for clarity. Be mindful of the time to ensure the interview concludes on schedule.
At the end, ask if the candidate has any questions. When finished, thank and dismiss the candidate. The best practice is for the principal to walk out with the candidate and personally express thanks. It is also important to convey the timeline for a decision and when he or she can expect a call from you.
Prayer is first and foremost. It will be your inspiration for the next important step—hiring the right people for your school and community.
Interviewing for the Right Fit
Becky Meharry | Director of Elementary Education,
North Pacific Union Conference
Leading the employment process is one of the most crucial roles of a principal. So, who’s surprised that it can be so stressful? The goal of determining whether a teacher candidate will be the right fit for your school is vital and the personnel interview alone is too brief to yield all the answers. However, as a culminating event in the multi-step hiring process, a good interview will provide a useful profile of the prospective employee.
The in-person interview should include thoughtful questions in both a structured setting and in an informal get-acquainted session which can be conducted nicely while touring campus. And consider the benefits of a demonstration lesson as key to determining that your next hire is the right fit.
Develop questions before the structured interview that will allow the candidate to share their strengths, beliefs about students, ideas about school culture, and commitment to teaching. Asking scenario questions such as “Tell me about a time when . . .” or “How would you handle . . .” will allow you to see how the teacher candidate may react in different situations. Try to use the same questions for each candidate to truly evaluate who the right fit would be.
When interviewing teachers, Associate Superintendent Archie Harris considers the following areas of focus when preparing interview questions.
Who are they? “I want to learn more about the teacher’s character than their teaching ability. I just get them talking—you can learn a lot by listening to someone talk about themselves.”
How do they motivate students? “I want to hear that they understand that it is their job to motivate students. I want to hear them say, ‘I make school engaging, so the students want to learn.’ I want to know that they love kids and will do all they can to assist the students in learning.”
How do they share God with their students? “I want to hear about how they have experienced God working in their lives, and that they can rely on Him in all circumstances. I want them to be able to share those experiences with their students.”
A campus tour provides a relaxed, less formal, opportunity to get a clearer picture of the prospective employee’s attitudes and beliefs. You will get to see how a candidate interacts with others and how they might fit into the school community. What is their focus during the tour? Are they interested in learning about the students and teachers? Are they focused on the broader school program or just the potential job? A campus tour also gives the candidate a chance to get a feel for the school and determine if they feel it would be a good fit for them!
Associate Superintendent Michelle Wachter summarizes the campus tour informal interview this way. “Teaching is so much about relationships. By bringing a candidate on campus, I can see how they interact with other faculty, students, and parents. It gives me a snapshot of how they may do as a classroom teacher with building relationships.”
Some information such as a candidate’s teaching style or their ability to engage with students is difficult to determine through interview questions. A pre-planned demonstration lesson can provide you with the opportunity to watch a candidate in action. A demonstration lesson is like an audition which can be invaluable in determining if the candidate is the right fit for your school. It is a strategy that may yield more than can be gained from an interview depending on just the question and answer dialogues. Principal Carisa Carr states, “A demonstration lesson gives you a window into the teacher’s interactions with students. It also helps you to get a feel for lesson flow and the nonverbal cues that good teachers use.”
Given the variety of skills and unique personalities God has gifted to different people, hiring will never be free of all unknowns. But, with careful planning, thoughtful questions and a listening ear throughout the interview process you can attain the goal of finding the next teacher who will be the right fit.
Hiring for Integrity
Dennis Plubell | Vice-President for Education, North Pacific Union Conference
Billionaire Warren Buffett has lived by a set of values and principles that have led to unbelievable success. So, whenever he speaks, leaders want to tune in. As it relates to hiring the right people, he said:
“Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.”
Buffett’s insightful comments align with what high-value Christian leaders ascribe to integrity. We would never consider a teacher candidate that lacked integrity! But, we must not assume that all applicants have integrity as a core strength that will permeate their thinking and passion for teaching.
Why integrity is so important in your hiring decisions?
Integrity is what makes it hard to question a person's decisions. His or her actions are open for everyone to see and you can rest assured that he or she will use good judgment. In the close, collaborative spaces of Adventist schools and conferences, colleagues of such new hires will quickly see them as dependable and accountable for their actions, which is a laser path to developing team trust.
Hiring people with integrity also addresses the leadership void. A person who walks-the-walk of integrity eventually becomes a role model who commands respect and exercises great influence. These are the type of leaders’ people desire and whom you want to promote to management roles.
Questions to ask when interviewing and hiring for integrity.
Practically speaking, assessing integrity is about asking the right questions that will get to the core of a person's character. Here are eight interview questions that leaders have stated worked for them in assessing personal integrity.
Your employment processes, including the crucial job interview, must ensure that no matter how talented, experienced, smart or passionate your job candidates are, your ministry in Adventist schools will be most productive and best protected by hiring people every teacher and administrator can trust.