Looking for Staff
We have come to the point in designing a school where we need to employ staff. We need a good junior teacher who will be able to run the Clubhouse and we need another subject specialist who will work with the junior kids at first. Her other job will be to develop the senior English programme for children as they graduate out of the Clubhouse.
We want to avoid bureaucrats and hippies. What do we do?
Have a Process
In this first of a series about recruitment processes, we set out the importance of having levels of filtering so that we end up with the best candidate available. We call the process The Funnel. Funnels have a big open end that narrows down to a longish tube at the business end. This is what we want. We need a wide mouth to attract as many people as possible. We need a longish tube to ensure that over mentoring time the candidates are fulfilling roles that make sense to us; that they go where we want and fulfil our job descriptions. The school will be an enlightened workplace but will not be a go your own way commune.
Preparing to Trawl
Before we go out trawling, we need to reach basic decisions. These will form the bulk of next week’s talk. We need to decide what it is we are looking for, get together the people who will be involved in the recruitment process, craft the job descriptions, person specifications and school description. All of this information will be available on our website, so we have to ensure that website is functional. We should also prepare our calendars so that once the recruitment process is set rolling it is fast and efficient. This will mean having the application form ready, the standard responses ready to send, and the whole process marked out in our calendar.
If the hiring process goes on too long, the best candidates will find jobs before we reply to them. We will end up with people who have no other options.
We have to advertise. We will deal with this in more detail in our second week. It is not simply a matter of putting an ad in the press. Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media will also direct people towards the funnel and we will write to people we know who might be able to suggest potential candidates.
I am assuming that this is strategic recruitment and not desperate last-minute place-filling. That being the case, we will ensure that our advert goes out when teachers are looking for change- between Christmas and Easter- not when the only people who are scanning the job pages are desperate. All candidates will follow the same recruitment process.
The advert will clearly state the type of school it is and direct candidates to the information on our webpage so that they can decide to make an application. There will be clear disqualifying statements and no-nonsense statements of what we are looking for, but at this stage it is not in our interest to have minute specifications that could deter people who are capable of doing the job.
When the deadline for receipt of applications has passed we will immediately have a committee to look through them. It is essential that people who are involved in this work are freed from other commitments in that time because it is not possible to make a serious decision about the future of the school by scanning applications in a coffee break. We will put the applications into three piles: no, need more information, and yes.
The criteria for rejecting applications will come from the disqualifying statements we have already put on the webpage. For example, if we insist on a teacher qualification and experience and someone makes a speculative application in their last year of teacher training, we will say no. These applicants will immediately receive our response by email.
The other candidates are provisionally ranked and invited to interview by telephone, starting with the most promising. Candidates will know the interview date, because it was posted on the web, so we will expect them to be available. This is the moment to ask for the information we need from candidates we are uncertain about, not at interview.
When we invite the candidates to interview, we use the telephone conversation to ask important questions. Since we will pay their travel expenses to interview, it is in our interest to keep the channels of communication and to let them know that any questions or doubts will be answered by the interview team. They should be able to write an email directly to the head of the interview panel.
The interview will give candidates the opportunity to visit the school, probably for the first time. Since we have been open all through the process, describing the school, the job and the prospects, we should be confident that everyone who comes to interview will accept the job if they are offered it.
The interview is the fine sieve. We should have a clear and consistent set of questions that are the same for all candidates. The questions should refer directly to the job specification and the school description. The nature of job interviews is that the candidate is trying to impress the interviewers with his knowledge and agreement with the position of the school. The interviewers need to get past anything that is superficially impressive to the nub of the issue: can you do the job as we want it done?
We will tell the successful candidate on the day of the interview that they have been successful and offer them the job. The other candidates will be offered a short de-brief to let them know the strengths of their applications. This is common courtesy and may help us in the future if our successful candidate drops out.
Even if employment does not commence for several months we will start communicating regularly with our new member of staff. It is profoundly demotivating for a new member of a team to feel abandoned once they get through the door. This is especially important for democratic free schools where new staff will often have the sensation that they do not know exactly what is expected of them.
Democratic free schools are not like other schools. It takes time to adapt to the environment and the way of working with children. At the end of the series we will dedicate a podcast exclusively to the way in which staff will be inducted into the school and mentored in their roles. There are practical and emotional reasons for thinking about this clearly and coherently as a matter of school policy.