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It’s Time To Upgrade Our Recruiting Practices

By Stacy Stephens
It’s Time To Upgrade Our Recruiting Practices

In the many years I’ve worked in international schools, I have frequently found myself frustrated with the recruitment process, and I know I’m not alone in my experience. The whole process just seems discouragingly outdated for our current needs. 

Earlier this school year, as I was applying for new positions in various international schools, I found myself going through the standard application practice, starting with updating my resume. I found myself carefully reworking it to use the fewest words possible to describe my accomplishments, eliminating important information about my skills and experience, and even resizing the font just to keep down to the required two pages. Then I began the actual process of filling out the applications. As I applied for certain positions, frustratingly, I had to reenter most of my resume information into a school’s independent portal while still being asked to upload my resume that contained all of the same information I had just entered. All the while, I was very aware in this process that I didn't have the ability in these systems to actually show and give evidence of what I can do or what I have done. 

This process did not allow me the opportunity to put my best self forward. I knew I would be judged on this partial view of my work, scaled down to two pages. I was worried that the names on my reference sheet would hold more weight than my experiences and achievements. Nowhere along this process did I feel like I was actually being seen for all I had to offer. Rather it felt like I was molding myself into the tiny lines and check boxes made available for viewing. Affirming my concerns, one school commented that my cover letter was extremely well aligned with what they were looking for. This, I must confess however, had nothing to do with my skills or abilities. I simply put the job description in ChatGPT and typed, “write a cover letter for this job.”

As someone who has also been on the other side of recruiting and hiring, I have over the years made some questionable decisions about who to put in certain positions. I have selected the wrong person for a role, discovering too late that while they were a great communicator about education, they were not actually effective at impacting learning. I have asked the wrong questions in a reference check, never really getting the right information to inform the decision that needed to be made. I knew mistakes were being made. I also knew I needed more information. So, during the hiring process I started to develop performance tasks for candidates so that we could get an idea of the quality of their work and thinking. 

Recruiting and hiring is one of the most important things leaders do, finding the best teachers for our students, candidates that are mission-vision aligned and will fit and enhance our programs and school goals. Unfortunately, in my experience, the current recruitment practices are not positioned to support this significant obligation. What is missing in this process is evidence; evidence of what the candidates have done and of what they can do; strong examples of their work that will lead to better conversations between candidates and schools. Recruiting and hiring is an important decision for both parties, and they need all the evidence available to ensure the right decision, the right fit is made. Are candidates choosing the right school? Are schools hiring the best candidate? Our current process simply isn’t effective anymore.

It is time to talk about Evidence-Based Recruiting. As a candidate, this is the practice I want to use to prepare for my next role. I want to present an accurate representation of the best version of myself through the use of evidence that demonstrates how I perform and what I am capable of. In addition, I want to better assess potential schools based on the degree to which they looked at my professional evidence and what kinds of questions they ask. I want to be in a school that hires me because they are confident I will support their student body and engage in working toward their goals rather than just because they have a position they need to fill and I managed to squeeze enough information into those narrow boxes to seem okay. 

Schools should engage in Evidence-Based Recruiting because it provides more accurate and in-depth information on a candidate, allowing them to feel more confident about their hiring decisions. Schools will have a richer understanding of the candidates beyond what they share in a (mostly online) interview, more than a two-page highlight reel of their career and education, more than a reference composed of tick marks offering different perspectives on the applicant from a generic set of statements, and certainly more that a ChatGPT statement derived directly from the school website. defines evidence as, “the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.” Do we have enough information to make the best decisions for our students? How powerful would it be to be able to see evidence of what candidates have created and implemented to impact student learning? If that evidence were organized around professional Standards of Practice, wouldn’t that be even better?

It’s time to upgrade our recruiting practices in order to provide better matches between schools and candidates, a greater degree of alignment between where we are and where we want to go for both schools and teachers. When we can more confidently make our choices based on all the available evidence, everybody wins.

The International Educator is innovating and leading in this area. Check out our Evidence-Based Recruiting services for candidates and schools and please contact me at [email protected] if you have any questions.

Stacy Stephens is the Director of The International Educator. 

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04/05/2024 - Toby
I agree with most everything here! The only thing I’d suggest is not giving candidates a performance task. I understand the rationale behind it, but it really is not fair to take hours of a candidate’s time and talent without compensation.
03/27/2024 - Joshb
As an administrator who hires, teachers, I only ask questions that start with "Tell me a story of how..." It's fascinating that so many schools will still ask questions that are easily Googleable and/or elicit definitions or standard responses from Education 101 courses. "What does it mean to collaborate?" "What does your classroom look like?" "How do you maintain classroom behavior?" What is your philosophy on literacy?" Not only are these questions boring but they tend to have straightforward responses. I appreciate this post on evidence-based interviews. If you can answer questions about how you have done something, and routinely I will ask how you have failed in that area and what was your learning, you will outperform other candidates.
03/27/2024 - Nikki
Thank you for this post! As an art educator I would hope a hiring school would be equally interested in my contribution to the school community, my ability to work in a team that strives for sharing student art and projects that contribute to beautification of the campus. In my resume i have yet to find a way to help someone hiring me get curious about my passions to connect service learning and art rather than solely focused on my personal education and delivery of art curriculum. Traditional hiring practices and uploading systems are redundant and limited but with a greater focus on evidence-based hiring… as you say, “everyone wins.”