Seven Steps to Avoid Hiring Mistakes

Seven Steps to Avoid Hiring Mistakes
Seven Steps to Avoid Hiring Mistakes

Business and Operations//

November 7, 2021

Finding the right people to join your team should be simple. You have positions to fill; candidates have skills and experience that meet your hiring needs. But a lot goes into avoiding potential hiring mistakes.

Beginning with the job posting and culminating with onboarding your newest employee, the hiring process peaks with the all-important interviewing of candidates. To ensure you find the best person to join your school, you need to plan your interview process well before the first candidate steps onto campus.

Here are seven steps to take to avoid hiring mistakes—starting with the interview.

Step One: Assemble Your Interview Teams

Every school leader knows their faculty and staff are the school’s greatest assets. A nice new building is awesome, and the latest technology is great. But without the right people, any organization would falter—your school is no exception. Put your current team to good use when hiring their next colleague.

It might be impossible to use the same group of teachers and administrators to interview each candidate, but aim for equal representation among your teams. Ideally, use no more than five employees per interview team. Nothing intimidates a potential candidate more than walking into a room to face 10 potential colleagues.

Also consider employing two teams of interviewers: one composed of teachers and the second of administrators. In between the two interviews, candidates could be asked to complete an evaluation or skills assessment or teach a prepared lesson to a class.

Step Two: Prepare Your Teams

For each person on the interview team, set parameters for questions, evaluations, and results. Those meeting with candidates should be briefed ahead of time. During the briefing, clearly identify the who, what, and how of the interview process.

  • Determine what to present
  • Outline what questions to ask
  • Identify who will ask the questions
  • Decide how the interviewer should respond
  • Pinpoint guidelines for evaluating responses

A more structured interview will lead to a focus on the job-related competencies and not the candidate’s personality.

Step Three: Eliminate Biases

Interviews should not target skills that can be learned on the job; if one candidate knows your current web platform, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are more qualified than another good candidate who could learn it. Don’t confuse experience with skills.

To ensure you evaluate each candidate equally, create processes to eliminate potential bias.

  • Ask candidates to submit the same materials. If you ask for a résumé and portfolio, don’t allow one candidate to provide a dissertation or a video of a classroom lesson.
  • Greet candidates in the same way and offer the same level of consideration. If you offer one candidate a bottle of water and the opportunity to be seated and collect their thoughts before the interview begins, do so for all candidates.
  • Interview each candidate on the same platform. While it might not be possible for everyone to be interviewed in person, consider that women and people of color are often less comfortable over Zoom. Keep that in mind. Implicit bias can also come into play as candidates interviewed over video are often in their homes, allowing others a view into their personal spaces.
  • Ask the same questions in the same order. Similarly, allow the same time for responses.
  • Avoid small talk. Small talk might reveal commonalities or conflicts between the candidate and those conducting the interview. For example, if asked about a favorite sports team, a candidate might unintentionally bond with others in the room, establishing a connection unrelated to qualifications for the job.

Consider using an online application for initial screenings in place of accepting résumés. Creating an application platform allows you to ask what you want to know; whereas a résumé allows an applicant to tell you what they want you to know—just one more step to eliminate bias and avoiding hiring mistakes.

Step Four: Ask Great Questions

Take a cue from how you prepare tests for your students and lead with easy questions, building to those requiring more thoughtful responses. This allows candidates to relax and be more confident in their replies.

Avoid asking hypothetical questions that could be anticipated and met with rehearsed responses. These kinds of questions won’t provide insight as to the candidates’ true abilities to perform the job well. Avoid generalizations and vague questions.

Do ask: “Tell me about a time when you experienced conflict with a colleague and how you handled it?”—the “how” part of the question demonstrates their ability to solve problems. Don’t ask: “Tell me about yourself”—that’s the purpose of their résumé.


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Step Five: Ensure Equity

Equity is important for many reasons, but especially during the interview process. If you’re using a scoring method, make sure each person interviewing candidates fills it out completely. Establish parameters for how extemporaneous notes—if allowed at all—will be considered.

The first candidate interviewed may have been judged more critically than those who followed. Consider revisiting that person’s interview score and reevaluating it.

Step Six: Set Expectations for Your Interview Teams

While your current employees can provide invaluable feedback and insight into their potential colleagues during the interview process, they can be devastated (and vocal about their feelings) if their favored candidate does not get the job. Be sure they know their role is collecting information that will help you make the decision. And that, even if their preferred candidate is offered the job, that person might turn down the role for reasons that may not be communicated.

Step Seven: Say Thank You

School employees often give more than what’s expected of them outside the classroom, so take an initiative to make sure they feel appreciated for their contribution to the hiring process. Snacks and drinks during the process would be thoughtful, or even delivering a hand-written personal note can be an affordable way to acknowledge their contributions.

Hiring the best candidates can be challenging. Focus on planning to help streamline the process and pave the way to a successful employee hire—from faculty to staff and everyone in between.

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