Effective Practices : Human Resources

Recruitment and Hiring
Human Resources Section 1

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1. Who is responsible for determining what openings exist for the coming year? How is this done?
2. Is the same approach used for staff positions?
3. Once a list of approved openings for the coming year is generated who takes responsibility for finding candidates?
4. What techniques are used to advertise openings and attract candidates?
5. What are the usual steps in the interviewing and decision making process?
6. Which group makes the final decision to hire a colleague?
7. Can you describe your reference checking process in more detail?
8. Do parents have a role in the recruitment and interviewing process?
9. Which group makes the final decision to hire a colleague?
10. Is a different process used for administrative and other non-teaching positions?
11. How is the actual hire/no hire decision made?
12. Do schools have formal programs for developing teachers internally? How do these programs work?
13. Describe the process by which offers are extended and accepted.
14. What is the most effective method in schools’ work to recruit quality candidates?

HR 1-1

Who is responsible for determining what openings exist for the coming year? How is this done?
In schools with a College of Teachers the responsibility for determining what openings exist for the coming year lies with that body. The first step in this process is to collect information from current employees on their work intentions for the coming year. Most Colleges have delegated this task to a standing committee; usually the recruitment/hiring committee will take up this work but in some schools it is handled by the coordinating committee (the College chair, administrator and faculty chair). Each colleague is asked to state in writing his or her intentions for the coming year, noting any desired changes in class schedule or workload, and noting any changes in availability. This process usually occurs in January. Some schools have a standard form created for this purpose; (link to: Re-commitment form) other schools simply ask each colleague to draft a personal letter or note.

The school responds to each colleague’s comments, usually referring these responses to either the recruitment/hiring committee or to the personnel/human resources committee for personal follow up.

In addition to polling colleagues about their hopes and plans for the coming year, the College will also make decisions regarding the expansion or contraction of program and clarify necessary changes to staffing as a result of these decisions. This combination of data from existing employees and planned changes to the program for the coming year is consolidated and a list of openings is prepared.

HR 1-2

Is the same approach used for staff positions?
Schools usually have a different approach to identifying staff openings. Staff openings can come at any time, and are handled on a case-by-case basis in most schools. As administrative work is year round, the concept of recommitting for another year of service is not usually considered in the same way as faculty positions are considered.

Questions for Further Consideration HR 1-2

  • Is there a long-range plan in place for building staff?
  • Are the plans for screening and recruiting staff in place in case a need should develop quickly? Is it clear who hires?

HR 1-3

Once a list of approved openings for the coming year is generated who takes responsibility for finding candidates?
The most popular approach is to refer the list of openings to the recruitment/hiring committee. The hiring committee is provided with a budget for advertising, travel and moving expenses to support it in its work.

In a few schools ad hoc hiring committees are created to search for candidates for each opening. These ad hoc committees are created with the express purpose of filling a particular position, and are dissolved as soon as the work has been successfully accomplished. Membership on these ad hoc committees is usually small, and consists of just two or three College members. At times these committees are supplemented with a member from the general faculty who can add professional expertise in the area of the search.

Many schools noted that, in addition to their established hiring committees, some parts of the school handle their own recruitment on an ongoing basis. Typical examples of this include mandating the kindergarten teachers to do their own recruitment of assistants and allowing the high school athletic director to find the coaches and assistants needed for the after school sports programs. In these special instances the work proceeds fairly independently. The College is kept informed and makes the official hiring decision, but there is minimal direct involvement by the College or the recruitment committee in the hiring process.

Whether handled by a standing hiring/recruitment committee or an ad hoc committee, the basic recruitment task includes the following: resumes are solicited, interviews are set, candidates are screened, and visits are arranged.

Questions for Further Consideration

  • Are there written legal guidelines for interviewing and hiring established by the Board for Colleges and Hiring committees? (link: Employment procedures)
  • Are the mandated committees made aware of these?

HR 1-4

What techniques are used to advertise openings and attract candidates?
The schools surveyed all reported very similar approaches to advertising available positions. These include:

  • Advertising in local newspapers
  • Sending announcement letters to other Waldorf schools in North America
  • Sending announcement letters to all teacher training institutes in North America and abroad
  • Visiting teacher training centers in North America, and occasionally those in Europe or elsewhere
  • Web site postings on both the school’s web site and those sites hosted by others (see: Web Job Boards)
  • Announcements to the school community via the weekly bulletin or other mailings

It was noted by several schools that networking by colleagues is an important and productive part of the search process. Faculty members are told of all openings and encouraged to use their contacts to find possible candidates. Some schools have asked each faculty member to list, out of their personal experience, the names of two possible candidates the school could consider for a particular position. This approach is helpful in that it allows the search committee to expand its thinking as it considers various possibilities.

Schools that advertise in local papers noted that this is typically only done for hourly positions where Waldorf training is not an expectation for the job. Teaching positions are generally advertised in local papers only if all attempts to find a Waldorf trained teacher have failed.

Some schools that are fairly close to teacher training centers indicated that they have consciously cultivated the relationship with these institutes, and look for opportunities to allow teacher trainees to visit the school and also offer opportunities to conduct a practicum. Building relationships in this way is a long-term recruitment strategy that supports the movement and has supplied new teachers to such schools over time.

Some schools noted that one of the advantages of having a standing recruitment committee is the ability to have resumes collected in one central location, and to build relationships with teaching candidates over time. It frequently occurs that a contact made in one year bears fruit a few years later when the candidate’s life circumstances have dictated a change. Ad hoc committees that are formed and then disbanded lose this ability to nurture and build contacts over an extended period of time.

Schools have learned to make effective use of web sites in their recruitment efforts. Many schools have a section of the school web site dedicated to employment opportunities at the school. Other schools have found it worthwhile to make contacts with other organizations that have web sites and newsletters, and to place notices of openings with them. Examples of this would include postings with the American Association of Teachers of German, music schools and local colleges and universities.

HR 1-5

What are the usual steps in the interviewing and decision making process?
The following description of the recruitment and interviewing process shared by one school provides quite a clear picture of the conscious work that goes into making the recruitment process a successful one:

“The school is vigorous in following up promptly on all leads, and pursuing each possibility all the way to the end. When a candidate is found, the first step is to request both a resume and a letter of application. Once the resume and letter are in hand the committee reviews the documents and determines if the applicant meets the general expectations for the position. If so then a telephone conversation or two will be initiated. These calls are generally made by just one member of the search committee, who reports the results of the conversation back to the larger group.

“If there is an interest in continuing, the committee will check references. If the candidate comes from within Waldorf circles the committee will often check references beyond those provided by the candidate.

“Next a school visit is arranged. If at all possible the candidate is first invited to come and visit the school for a day without doing any teaching. Candidates are encouraged to meet as many faculty members as possible, sharing their own story with each one and hearing from current faculty members their perspectives on life in the community, and how each sees various issues in the school. The candidate quickly identifies people to whom they are able to connect and want to get to know better. Often destiny finds its way through this process. A second visit is scheduled sometime soon thereafter, and the teacher will teach in several grades. This process is sometimes done in a single visit rather than two, especially if the distance traveled is great, but two visits are definitely preferable to one.

At the time of the sample teaching an interview is also conducted with the candidate. (See: Pre-Employment Interview Questions) All full time faculty members are invited to attend, and typically about half attend. The school has found that it is important to invite everyone, even if they can’t all attend. During the interview the faculty members are conscious of several things:

  • How does the person carry himself?
  • Can we imagine him as a professional in our location?
  • How aware is the candidate of his own weaknesses?
  • How strong are his communication skills?

Candidates are asked to share their biography in a specific amount of time. It is important to see if the candidate has the ability to bring forth this story in a coherent way and within the time constraints established. The candidate is also asked about his relationship with anthroposophy.

The candidate also has an opportunity to meet with the administrator during this part of the visit. The administrator will review the salary and benefits the candidate could expect if an offer is extended, and review various aspects of the employment agreement.” (See: Elements of an Employment Offer Letter)

Most schools noted that they have funds designated in their budget to support the travel expenses related to bringing candidates to visit the school. They also noted how essential it is to have a school visit as part of the recruitment process, as this really allows both the school and the candidate to see if there is a fit.

HR 1-6

Can you describe the reference checking process in more detail?
Oftentimes schools try to carry out the reference checking based on who has a personal contact with the person giving the reference. For newly graduated applicants, an attempt is made to speak with the teacher at the school where the applicant did his practicum, in addition to one or two teachers at the teacher-training institute. When checking personal references schools might ask how the candidate would work in moments of adversity, and how he handles feedback and criticism. (link: Reference checking) Schools noted that red flags go up if there is anything even slightly negative in these personal references. A school cannot afford to make mistakes in the area of hiring, as their faculties enjoy a high level of collegiality and the respect of parents as professionals, and a poor hiring decision can have negative effects on both of these factors.

Schools routinely ask the candidate for permission to check references and previous employers. If a candidate declines this request the interview process often stops at that point. Many schools contain this release as a part of their employment application (See: Employment Application).

Many states require that a criminal record check (see: Criminal record check) be done on all new hires before they can begin work at the school, and schools make a positive criminal record check a condition of an offer of employment. Even in states where this check is not required a large number of schools have added this step to their hiring process. In addition some schools have added a credit check requirement for some positions such as administrator, business manager, or school store employee. This check is one step that may help ensure that the assets of the school will be properly protected.

HR 1-7

Do parents have a role in the recruitment and interviewing process?
This is an area where there are quite strong feelings on both sides of the question. Most schools interviewed feel that parents have no role in the recruitment or interviewing process. Exceptions are only made in those cases where a parent has expertise as a human resource professional and is participating as a technical advisor to the recruitment committee. Even here parent professionals are removed from the process if there is any possibility of a conflict of interest as occurs if the parent has a child in the class.

A very few schools have made the decision to arrange parent teas for kindergarten and class teacher candidates. Parents are schooled about their role prior to the meeting and are asked for their feedback in a pre-designated fashion. This feedback is considered when a decision is made, but parents are rarely part of the formal interview or decision-making process.

HR 1-8

Which group makes the final decision to hire a colleague?
In those schools with a standing recruitment committee, this group is often asked to make a recommendation to the full College. In other cases the recruitment committee does just that-recruit-but its responsibility ends once a candidate has been presented to the College for consideration.

One school described its process this way:

The faculty at large is invited to visit the sample lessons and participates in the discussions of the candidate. Non-College members don’t participate in the actual coming to consensus (don’t raise their hands), but their perspectives are critical to the decision.

The decision making process begins with a mindful conversation, (see: Mindful Conversation) which is then followed by discussion. A decision (yes, no or we need more time) is made within 2 weeks of the visit. The candidate is always asked during his visit for his time frame for needing a decision.” (See: Alternate Decision-making Process)

HR 1-9

Is a different process used for administrative and other non-teaching positions?
Most schools tend to have separate groups do the recruiting and hiring of administrative personnel. Typically there is a high degree of Board involvement in these decisions, largely due to the familiarity Board members have with the kind of technical skills necessary to carry out these positions. However, it is clearly recognized that both the Board and College must support these candidates and an opportunity is given to both bodies to provide input and even block a hiring decision if necessary.

In other cases an administrative oversight committee recruits and hires all administrative personnel except those considered to be the most senior, typically the administrator and the development officer.

Questions for Further Consideration

  • Is the hiring procedure for administrative personnel defined and documented in your school now, before there is a need?

HR 1-10

How is the actual hire/no hire decision made?
One school shared the following description of its decision making process:

A hiring decision is made based on a match with the job description and the specific situation in the school and the department right now. The school also looks for a match with the school community and the circle of colleagues. Sample teaching, and the candidate’s impressions of the school are also considered. References are checked as well.

A mindful conversation and the impressions it created is an important part of the process. (See: Mindful Conversation) This conversation is both a concrete and an intuitive experience. The school may also consider how the candidate responded to the search process. (See: Alternate Decision-making Process)

HR 1-11

Do schools have formal programs for developing teachers internally? How do these programs work?
Although few schools have what they describe as a formal internal training program, most of them reported that this is a very important source for quality candidates. The following quotes from various schools illustrate the measures the schools use to develop internal candidates, and some of the successes and pitfalls they encounter in this work.

  • This is an area that can be very difficult. People sign up for the teacher training and assume they will be hired when the training is completed.

    In one case the current 2nd grade teacher was first a parent in the community, then a kindergarten assistant, a grades assistant and then a substitute. Eventually she made the decision and received the teacher training. The transition to teacher was difficult as she was already known as an assistant, and it was hard for people to see her clearly in her new role as a teacher.

    The school can also have a problem related to internal candidates as a result of campaigning, either for or against considering the candidate for a position.

    In another case a person was encouraged repeatedly to get the training, and finally did. She was hired and got extra support in her first year, made a successful transition, grew in stature and experience and is now the College chair. The school has also had several people who began as kindergarten assistants at the school and eventually became kindergarten teachers. This is good, but there is a danger if all of the teachers grow up internally then there can be a loss of fresh ideas and perspectives that can come from including teachers trained elsewhere.

    The school is just starting its own foundation year program. This may allow for more conscious development of future teachers. About 50 people have signed up for the first series of classes!

    Although there is not a formal internal teacher development program, several colleagues speak personally with members of the community about their path of training and about how their training is coming into the work in the classroom. There is a need for these trainees to feel recognized by the school as being on a path of development.

  • The school does not have a formal program of developing candidates from within. However, every year one or two positions are filled from within the community. These can be full or part time, and in both administration and teaching. The turnover is high since the positions are often temporary. In other cases the individual is unable to make the commitment to training expected of all full time salaried colleagues, or the capacity to be a teacher is lacking. The school has been hit by a lot of life situations that have caused turnover in these positions, but there have been some long-term successes as well.

    A note: The school requires teacher training for all teachers, and strongly encourages this for administrators. Training will probably be required for all administrators soon.

    Three years ago the school created a foundation studies program for people interested in teaching in the high school. Several of these people then completed the teacher training. Since that time all have left the school, but one continues to teach at another Waldorf school. Others are looking for work and will probably be hired elsewhere.

    All in all the school has had a mixed result with internal candidates.

  • One long time member of the administrative staff made the decision to become a class teacher, and was encouraged by the school to make this change. Some financial support was provided to help make the training possible.

    Frequently members of the office staff are drawn from the parent community. This is a good source of candidates with the right technical skills and a sincere interest in the school and Waldorf education.

    There is not a formal development program for members of the community. However, a teacher-training institute has an extension program on the school’s campus, and interested community members are encouraged to pursue training there.

  • The school has hired several people from within the community. The new development director served previously as the volunteer chair of the development committee. Her active participation in the work of the school provided a wonderful training, but this is not quite the result of proactive development work on the school’s part. A more proactive example comes in the case of a parent who was interested in becoming a woodwork teacher. He applied for the position along with another candidate with more experience. The school hired the more experienced candidate, but understood that this individual might not be able to make a long-term commitment to the school. As a result the parent was hired as an assistant in the woodwork class, although in usual cases the class might not have required an assistant. The assistant was told that he was being hired to gain experience, and that if he took classes and worked on classroom management that he would be considered if another opening occurred in the future. The assistant actively took up the request to study, and later became the teacher when an opening occurred.

Questions for Further Consideration

  • Does your school provide and promote opportunities for parents to experience the classroom setting, Waldorf Education principles and/or anthroposophy?

HR 1-12

Describe the process by which offers are extended and accepted.
In most schools the candidate visits with the administrator during the course of the interview process, and a clear description is given of the salary and benefits the candidate would receive if an offer were to be extended and accepted. When a decision is made to extend an offer this is usually done verbally followed by a written offer letter. The candidate is asked to sign and return one copy of the offer letter for the school’s records, ensuring that all parties clearly understand the terms of the offer. Some schools have added a requirement that a verbal offer can’t be extended until the formal offer letter has been drafted. This allows the person making the offer to use the exact language in the letter, again minimizing the opportunity for misunderstanding in this sensitive area.

Questions for Further Consideration

  • Are your schools’ salary policies clearly defined?
  • Is the person making the offer clearly empowered to offer a specific amount?
  • How will you handle notifying other candidates? What is the timeline?
  • How will the timeline for the successful candidates’ acceptance affect second or third tier candidates?

HR 1-13

What is most effective in schools’ work to recruit quality candidates?
When a personal connection exists to a possible candidate, it is very helpful to have the faculty or staff member who has the connection make the first call to a candidate.

It is very beneficial to invite an applicant to visit your school with the sole purpose of meeting the members of the faculty and seeing the school up close. This visiting day provides multiple opportunities for inquiry into the visitor’s application. During the visiting day appointments are scheduled with all the full time teachers. This means that all College members will have had a personal conversation with the candidate. Such contact allows the possibility of gaining insight into strengths, weaknesses and attitudes about teaching and working with children. In these conversations faculty members may also gain some insight as to how the applicant might work as a member of a team, how open they are to self-development, communication style and other areas of collegial interest. Something magical happens in these personal conversations that can’t happen when the same issue arises in a formal interview process.

Observing the candidate during model teaching is very important. The school looks at the content that is brought, and determines if it is appropriate and if it meets the needs of the students.

It is also important to look at the candidate’s attitude to model teaching, and his or her ability to meet what comes in the classroom in the moment. The teacher’s ability to anticipate and plan ahead is observed. Does the candidate anticipate that pencils and crayons will be needed, and find out in advance if they are available in the room? A failure to ask these questions shows a lack of experience and may hint at an inability to teach effectively.

During the interview it is not just what the candidate says but also how he says it. When asked to give a five-minute biography does the candidate go on for 20 minutes? The school also asks what the candidate’s impressions are of the school, the children and the colleagues he has met.

It has been a big benefit to the school to have a strong connection to the local teacher training programs. There are two in the immediate area, and several teachers at the school also teach in the training programs. This allows the school’s teachers to know the students well, and to create personal relationships early on with those that are a match for the school.

Another plus comes from using the faculty as a resource when recruiting and hiring. Faculty members are always notified of openings, and are often helpful in finding candidates and in checking references.

Questions for Further Consideration

  • Is there a local (especially non-Waldorf) teacher education program in your area? Do you have a relationship with the faculty there? Does your school offer opportunities for the Faculty and students of that institution to visit, read and otherwise learn about your school and Waldorf Education? If not, who will take this up?

    • Do you have benefits that will be attractive to candidates?
    • Health insurance? For families?
    • Retirement program (link: Retirement programs)
    • Tuition Remission?
    • Flexible Benefit Plan? (link: Flexible Benefit Plan)
  • Are your community’s expectations of new colleagues clear in the following areas?

    • Anthroposophy?
    • Expectations for training?
    • Professional Development?
    • Social working and communication?

HR 1-14

What are the underlying philosophies, policies and practices that make your work in the area of recruitment and hiring particularly effective?
The following notes highlight key thoughts from the successful schools sampled:

“The school has been very much helped by creating an ideal picture of the program and the candidate. This is particularly helpful in eliminating candidates that don’t really fit the picture and reduces the temptation to settle for less.”

“Don’t hire untrained people.”

“The four keys are the mindful conversation, the observation of practice teaching, the results of the interview, and information from reference checks. The school always calls and checks references and strongly encourages other schools to do the same.

The school rarely hires teachers that have not completed the Waldorf teacher training. In the rare case that this happens it is important to make it clear that continued employment is predicated on continued training.

The school insists on seeing the candidate practice teach. This requires making funds available to support the candidate’s travel, but there is no way to make a good hiring decision without seeing how the teacher is able to interact with the students.”

“Candidates should receive a copy of the faculty handbook during their visit. Prior to the visit, providing a copy of the school brochure and annual report is also helpful.”

“Make sure the candidate understands what the school is expecting of him if he receives the job. Written expectations are critical”

“Good conversations and a well-organized visit are necessary to ensure that there is a good fit between the candidate and the school. It is vital to greet our candidates well, have a clear itinerary for their visits, help them find their way around the campus, introduce them to others, and ensure their meals and housing are top notch. Make them feel welcome.”

“Clear communication to candidates about timelines is essential. Regular check-ins throughout the hiring process, even when there is nothing to report, will keep candidates engaged.”

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