May 6, 2022
For school leaders engaged in the hiring process, the question of how to narrow the candidate field is a crucial one. With the flood of resumes that typically answer calls for faculty and staff, knowing how to effectively screen applicants and bring in qualified, mission-driven employees is a must. Moving from resumes to application-based hiring is one way to adjust the system and create an alternative hiring practice that maintains integrity.
It’s All About Who
Because schools are about people, there’s nothing more important for school administrators than the role of hiring. The right people do more than fill a job description. They move the institution forward faster than any other strategy. If school leaders look to change culture, change pedagogy, adopt a new curriculum, or pursue innovation, the easiest way to do it is to hire people who will help manifest strategic goals.
Outstanding faculty members can excite and retain students, strengthen auxiliary programming, and impact development by establishing learning environments in which parents trust and want to invest. The right hiring practices allow a school to grow leaders from within—which helps to perpetuate and sustain its mission. Employees with keen instincts and problem-solving skills save administrators the time and energy that might otherwise be spent managing complications or conflicts. Most important, hiring the right people ensures desired student outcomes because the greatest impact on those outcomes is teacher quality.
Hiring mistakes can be costly when they generate a faculty body that lacks the skills and the attitudes that positively impact school culture. Most schools rely on resumes to screen job applicants, but resumes are a record of a person’s career with the accomplishments embellished and the failures removed. They are not an ideal way to evaluate a candidate because candidates choose what to list and how to list it, and they do so while making assumptions about what employers want to see.
At the point in the hiring process when the applicant pool is most diverse, key decisions are made with the least amount of information. Resumes make it difficult to do a side-by-side comparison of candidates because there is no equivalent standard from which to draw those comparisons. Rather, hiring committees rely on an archive of degrees and experiences that do not equate to the traits schools look for in their employees. Further, they are determining who’s going to move forward in the process when the data collection is not commensurate with the requirements.
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Five Reasons Why Applications Are Effective
Schools should rethink their hiring strategies by using applications at the first point of data collection to streamline and improve protocols for evaluating job applicants. Here’s why.
- Applications reduce bias by putting structures in place to help evaluators avoid biases they might have related to candidates' educational background, work experience, or even the style and formatting of their resumes. By creating an application that is designed to minimize bias—for instance, including a drop-down menu allowing an applicant to list a degree without indicating the university from which they received it—schools can avoid giving inequitable consideration to candidates based on data that may imply inherent privilege. Instead, focus more on questions that get to the heart of who candidates are.
- Applications give an employer more control to determine what information is collected from a candidate. They allow administrators to ask questions and gather relevant data at the initial stage of introduction by targeting hiring traits designed with the Characteristics of Professional Excellence in mind, and the school’s mission and institutional goals. When a hiring committee is clear on what traits they seek, it creates an evaluation protocol that prioritizes questions that more effectively bring those traits forward.
- Applications provide schools with a degree of legal protection because they promote equity and reduce bias. There is an intentional process in which specific criteria are measured in a standardized way, giving each application evenly matched scrutiny based on clearly defined hiring traits. Additional application review by a school’s legal counsel can provide an extra layer of protection.
- Applications save time. They allow a hiring committee to quickly compare applicants because responses to questions can be collected, evaluated, and stored using spreadsheet software that provides the added advantage of project management options. At the same time, because candidates often have the desired traits for more than one position, they can be offered an option of identifying multiple interests by “clicking” on the varied jobs for which they’d like to be considered. This provides hiring committees with an opportunity to attract and consider qualified candidates who can fulfill several roles.
- Applications allow schools to quickly identify candidates who are a mission and strategic fit because application questions more accurately identify skills, attitude, and philosophy than ill-defined resumes. Additionally, applications are a branding, orientation, and communication tool for schools. Depending on the questions asked in an application, candidates can get a feel for what matters to the school and determine whether they think their application is viable. Again, this screens out applicants and increases the likelihood that the hiring committee will be evaluating a pool of candidates who are a suitable fit for the school.
What an Application Might Look Like
The people involved with hiring need to be trained to know why the application matters, what responses they are looking for, and what the “right” answer is to the questions being asked. There are a few steps in a hiring protocol that lead to an effective application and proper evaluation.
- A school must Identify the skills and traits it wants to evaluate at the outset of the hiring process.
- A school should ask current employees to complete the application to determine whether it generates the type of responses that are being sought, and it should further seek input that leads to revisions based on feedback.
- A school should have its legal counsel review the application to ensure it’s lawful on all accounts.
- Reflect, revise, and repeat! The application is a tool that will change over time to better suit the school’s needs.
An application will help schools create an intentional, equitable, decisive hiring process that leads to employees who help strengthen schools’ missions and goals. School leaders should consider experimenting during the next hiring cycle to determine if (and how) it improves their process. This helps to inform and make subsequent decisions about whether it’s the right step on the path toward hiring success.
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