Hiring a new school administrator is a big deal. This person is likely to impact thousands staff, students, and families during his or her tenure.
School districts must understand the importance of the moment and ensure the "best fit" candidate is selected.
One place to start is the interview committee.
District "A" takes their interview committees seriously. They develop a rigorous process involving many stakeholders. They believe involving more individuals in the process will create better buy in from staff. This district realizes investing time up front will result in fewer issues down the road.
District "B" gives little attention to interview committees. They don't have time to involve various stakeholders. They believe having "too many cooks in the kitchen" is a bad idea. This district does not want to jeopardize the selection process by allowing "unimportant" people in the room.
How does your district operate?
Recently we hired a new high school principal. To ensure the staff had ample opportunity for input, we created a hiring process giving every high school staff member multiple opportunities for feedback.
During an initial all-staff meeting, we asked faculty to produce key characteristics they wanted in a new principal. These "look fors" - which were aligned to state standards for school leaders - were vital as they drove the rest of the interview process.
Next, all staff members were invited to look through the resumes and cover letters for all 25 applicants. As staff members reviewed application materials, they collectively narrowed down the list of candidates to ten semi-finalists.
Semi-finalists were asked to participate in short, 30-minute screener interviews held via video conferencing. Any staff member willing to give up an evening was invited to participate.
Screener interviews were unique as they didn't feature the usual list of questions. Rather, candidates were told in advance they were to spend the first 20 minutes discussing how they possessed those faculty "look fors." The last 10 minutes were reserved for informal back and forth dialogue between committee and candidate.
Three finalists were brought in for the final round of interviews. Interviews were opened to staff, students, and community members. Not only did committee members participate in 60-minute interviews, they developed their own questions based on those original "look fors."
Not only did we end up with a great hire, more importantly we had complete buy in from everyone involved in the process. In total, nearly 100 individuals had input on the selection.
While our process is far from perfect, I can rest easy knowing all staff were engaged in the process. As opposed to some districts where staff discover who is hired in the local newspaper, our staff had four separate opportunities to impact the decision.
Don't be District "B." Put some time and energy into the hiring process. Administrator hires are pivotal as selected individuals can have a lasting impact on the community.
When all staff are given an opportunity to provide input, not only is the likelihood greater that the right candidate will be selected, the loyalty to the new leader will be much stronger.
Looking for a great book about hiring leaders? Consider reading The Little Big Things by Tom Peters.