Interview alternatives for education

Couple teaching high school in Africa

Finding employees isn’t easy.

You sort through resumes, applications, transcripts, and recommendations to pick people to interview.

You pull together teams, brainstorm questions, devise rubrics.

Then you interview, choose, offer the job.

And after all that work, the person you choose may still be  a dud.

Jason Freeman , the humbledMBA, recently shared an alternative that works better in his entrepreneurial business, 42Floors.  Freeman basically has candidates to do a project as independent contractor. He uses projects that are clear-cut, have defined deliverables, and can be done in a few weeks of part-time work. He pays people for their work whether he hires them or not. Although Freeman doesn’t say so, I suspect that his projects are things he would like to have done but that are not a top priority at the moment.

Bill Burkhead, @northeagles,  asked his Twitter followers if any ideas  in the post could be translated to schools.

At Plymouth North High School in Plymouth, MA, where Bill is assistant principal, whenever it’s feasible teacher candidates are asked to teach a class as part of the interview process. One of my first thoughts would be to look for ways to give a sense of the candidate’s teaching skills in situations where teaching a class isn’t possible. Following Freeman’s model, I’d look for activities that the school needs done but cannot presently spare staff to do. I’ve also tried to think of projects that could use technology to free both staff and candidates from having to be tied to a particular location for long blocks of time.

One possibility is to give teacher candidates DVDs of some teachers from the school and ask for feedback. The feedback might be written/oral/videotaped or some combination. A candidate with experience might be asked to provide feedback for a relatively inexperienced teacher, for example. A candidate applying for a first teaching job might be asked to provide feedback on the work of an experienced teacher.  It may be possible to involve the candidate with the administrator in discussing the class with the teacher so all parties could get a sense of whether the candidate is a good fit for that particular school setting.

Another possibility which could be done when school is not in session would be to ask candidates to find  samples of some curriculum materials they would recommend  to supplement those currently used for a particular purpose that is relevant to the job opening. Those might be lesson plans, videos, rubrics, websites, software applications, etc.  If faculty will need those materials the following year, the candidate’s work will have some utility for the school, even if the candidate isn’t hired.

A third possibility would be to have a candidate tutor a student or small group of students online via chat or some other medium that can be archived for administrative review.

A fourth possibility would be to use candidates as evaluators for student projects, providing feedback as an independent outsider.

The idea behind the projects is not only to see what the candidate can do, but to assess how well the candidate fits into the school culture. They aren’t a substitute for seeing someone in a classroom, but they might provide some insights in situations where a classroom demonstration is not possible.

Photo credit: “Teaching High School, Africa” by Mexikids
[removed broken link 04-02-2014]

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