ECE Directors: 5 Hiring Tips!

It usually feels like we are either in the process of hiring, providing coverage while we confirm we are about to have to hire (again), or documenting so we can (cross your fingers) separate from an individual and (oh, look) begin the process of hiring: AGAIN.

Let’s accept as a given this perpetual state of hiring as our industry’s norm.  How can we do an even better job with it?

We were very inspired by Fran Simon’s tweet tonight “5 Mistakes That You Have To Avoid When Hiring People”…that linked us to this article – and do read it – but here are the 5 takeaways with our 0-5 spin:

1. You focus solely on skills and ignore attitude.  One study found that 26% of new hires fail because they can’t accept feedback, 23% because they’re unable to understand and manage emotions, 17% because they lack the necessary motivation to excel, 15% because they have the wrong temperament for the job, and only 11% because they lack the necessary technical skills. Skills can be taught, but enthusiasm, interpersonal skills, and work ethic are almost impossible to pass on to others.

So, which would you pick – a toddler teacher who knows just how to redirect and reduce biting OR a toddler teacher who makes warm, cozy connections with each and every child?  What can be taught and what is just about that person’s essence?

2. You hire family and friends of current employees. This is VERY common in our industry!  But, don’t forget, the odds of snarky behavior go way up since ‘issues’ can arise both at and outside of work.

Must you? Well, ok…remember, no reporting relationships and make sure everyone can get to and from work independently, if necessary.  While, you want to support convenience and ride sharing, do not let your staffing schedule suffer.  You’ll hate it eventually, we promise!

3. You sell instead of being sold. We’ve all been there – you NEED to hire – your ratios don’t work and you are spending all your time in the classroom!  Beware – don’t beg! Good candidates already know this classroom and your center is a good fit because they’ve talked to people and done some research. Don’t oversell!

Be honest and open. A gifted preschool teacher does not, generally, make an even adequate infant teacher.  Don’t push the boundaries. Great candidates can spot a great opportunity. You want awesome teachers who want to engage with the group you are going to place them with – not people whose heart and mind is elsewhere (like 2nd grade, perhaps?  That seems to be weirdly common…)

4. You ignore your instincts. Listen to your gut – it is telling you something!  And if you don’t, it might just stop talking to you and that would be terrible. Of course, this only works if you have a formal and reasonable hiring process and structure and you really don’t want to place yourself or your center at risk, right?

Check references! Pay attention to the“receptionist/assistant director test,” where you ask how the candidate acted while waiting for his or her interview! How did they treat the receptionist/assistant director?  What did they did while they waited? What did they read?  This is just as important as what you learn in the actual interview!

5. You think you can change the spots on a leopard. In our experience, and in most all of the literature we’ve read, people really only change a tiny, little bit – if ever.  Do not hire wishing and hoping that the person you interviewed will grow into someone else.  Time is of the essence – you are dealing with VERY young children!  Internships and teacher training placements are different…but for actual teaching positions: hire the person you want and need. 

If you are in the middle of the hiring process, you already need someone in that classroom, yesterday!  So, you are not helping yourself or the children or the families if you hire someone who you can maybe mold or nurture or grow into the position.  It isn’t worth it.  Hire according to program need.  If a young/under-experienced person comes along, include them in your program as an extra and invest in them (if you think it is worth it) but do not tie a classroom or program to your well-intended whim.  Really.

So, Directors, what tips do you have for hiring AND retaining awesome teaching staff?  Such a unique industry…we’d love to hear from you!

Thank you, Directors…!

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