Do you know why the hiring process is a confidential one? Because every applicant has the right to privacy throughout the interview process. Participants on an interview committee are instructed about the confidentiality of the process and expected to adhere to it, no matter who it is who’s asking. Each applicant deserves that privacy either because of it’s impact on their current employment or because of their personal reputation and because of the law that guides hiring practices.
In a small district like ours, there are situations that arise in which people think they absolutely have the right to know about a decision that’s been made. In some cases, like student discipline, it is actually illegal for me to discuss someone else’s child with you. When a parent demands to know what happened to the “other kid”, it can be frustrating when our response is, “we followed through and followed the code of conduct.” We literally cannot tell you the detail of that other child’s discipline. Makes sense, right? You don’t want us talking to other parents about your child either.
In hiring a new employee, we hire the very best candidate for the job, based on the performance of each candidate in the interview process and the reference checks. I may like a candidate very much, may have had her as a student while I was a teacher or a principal, may very much want the candidate to succeed BUT that doesn’t mean it gives the candidate an edge. All that gets someone is a first interview–a “TBI” mark on the applicant’s file. “TBI–to be interviewed”, means that for some reason, either the applicant lives in the district or has been given a strong recommendation from another district or has substitute taught successfully for us in the past, I am flagging this person so he or she gets a first interview.
After that, each candidate chosen has an initial interview in which he or she is asked questions by a committee that includes the principal, curriculum coordinator, and teacher leader. This initial interview can be any number of qualified applicants and is often 20-30 people. Of those, the strongest candidates are invited back to teach a lesson to our students in one of our classrooms. This is the critical piece of the puzzle–the one in which we analyze how the applicant interacts with students, how well she knows the curriculum, what he chooses to use for instructional strategies. How well did you plan? Are you flexible, can you adapt to whatever the students throw at you? And how much effort did you put into the lesson? Are you pulling out all of the stops, bringing us your A game? Because after all, this is a lesson to beat all lessons if you want to be considered for the final interview with me, a BOE member and the principal. I ask the committee to send us two strong candidates, either of whom they would be comfortable. At that interview we ask tough questions. We want to see how candidates handle the pressure, if they can hold onto an idea mentally, do they show passion and enthusiasm and optimism?
We make the best decision we can. At that point, I don’t care where you live, who your parents are, or how well liked you may be in the community. Those are all nice features, but those are not what seal the deal and get you the job. It’s not an easy decision and it’s not an easy phone call when I let the #2 candidate know afterward that he hasn’t gotten the job. It’s just the way the process works and we do the best that we can to make good decisions.
It’s hard on the teachers who participate on the committee, hard to stand up to the criticism if a local favorite isn’t hired, hard to be courageous and stand behind our process. And remember that it’s a confidential process so as much as you may think you have a right to know everything, it’s just like that discipline example–you don’t. At the end of the day, we want to be the very best district that we can be with the most talented, engaging, innovative, passionate and smart teachers we can find. In the hiring process, someone gets the job and someone else doesn’t.