I love the look of dismay when I tell people that I’ve never met most of our teachers in person, which is something that I usually reveal after just having told them that our faculty is outstanding. How do we hire highly competent, values-aligned professionals when we can’t interview in-person? Here’s the secret sauce:
Be unapologetic about who you are and what you need teachers to be able to do. You need to hire teachers who align with your values and, perhaps more importantly, want to grow in the areas where you want to grow. For example, in our job posting we link to our pedagogy whitepaper, say explicitly that the student-teacher relationship is the cornerstone of learning at One Schoolhouse, and describe how we work on tight deadlines. We go on to say, “If time management or building relationships are not your strengths, then this is not the job for you.” Candidates self-select into our pool who can meet our expectations because we don’t conceal anything about the logistics, values, or requirements of the job.
Create opportunities for candidates to display the skills and behaviors you are looking for. We don’t select our interviewees based solely on their resume, cover letter, and recruiter printout. We ask candidates to perform tasks that demonstrate the essential competencies of One Schoolhouse employees. To continue the simple example above, as an online school we need our employees to read and respond promptly to what is asked of them in email. So, part of our application requires that they send specific documents to our Director of Studies as the final step in completing the application, and part of the interview requires that they meet live on video chat under specific conditions -- strong internet connection, professional demeanor and background, etc.... Candidates who don’t follow the instructions don’t continue to the next step in the process. We don’t take for granted how important responsiveness is for online teachers, so we test it in various ways as explicit aspects of the interview. Philosophical alignment isn’t enough to do the job.
Design an interview process online. Our candidates participate in three “rounds” of an interview in our LMS over the course of three weeks. This is our opportunity to clarify our school’s values and practices, show people who we are through intentionally designed modules, and to give candidates the chance to interact with us (and with each other, which produces compelling results!). In a face-to-face school, this is the equivalent of the day where the prospective teacher walks the halls, evaluates the climate of the community, and gives a sample lesson. All these things can happen online through a finely tuned experience in the LMS.
Use a hiring rubric. As independent schools work to increase diversity amongst their faculty, a hiring rubric is essential to reducing bias. The hiring committee at One Schoolhouse is engaging in a candidate norming exercise this week, where we vet sample candidates against our rubric, then compare our results. For years I hired for “fit” but as our values have expanded into the realm of inclusive innovation, the methods to living those values demand far more intentional practices.
Without campus visits, this is the year to assess your hiring practices and take advantage of resources such as our Hiring During a Pandemic online course, hiring-specific Academic Leaders Webinars and blogs. This may just be your best hiring year yet.
Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)