Recruiting the right teaching staff

This is a very brief post – for me in any case (I think the WordPress Reader might even rate it as a 2-minute read, which has not happened yet. 😛 ). So, I was doing nothing useful clearing out my inbox, when I came across this task that we had to do in the Moodle MOOC I took in September 2013 and wrote about in more detail here.

The aim was to demonstrate how forum discussions work in smaller groups, or something of the kind. I think we had to try and get a discussion going with the other group members by explaining how a topic we (felt we) knew something about works. I ended up posting tips on hiring teachers, as at that time I still primarily saw myself as a traditional (or offline) teacher and school owner. No one ever responded – well, it was a MOOC. We had, I think, 10 people in the group and only one besides me came up with an opening post. It was something to do with cloud computing, I remember. I feel I’m about to digress again, and I do want this to be a brief post!

So here we go, I’m sharing the tips below and am not going to edit a thing. The title of this post is the title of the original discussion thread. Oh, and right, I thought I’d share these here after all this time because one of the topics I said I wanted to write about in my first ever post was – what do language schools look for in a teacher?

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image: studiotdes | CC BY

What I would like to do in this discussion is share my tips for recruiting new members of teaching staff in a small language school. I can hardly claim to be an expert on the topic, but as I’ve been running a school for the last 7 years, I have had to hire new teachers quite a few times. Sometimes we were looking for full-time employees and sometimes for contractors, but generally I have found that the same principles apply if you want your business to run smoothly.

These are my five key guidelines in looking for new staff:

  1. Make sure that you advertise the vacancy at least a few days in advance, if at all possible. Ideally you want to be in a position where you have a few teachers to choose from, not to be forced to hire the first person who shows up because you need them to start teaching the very next day.
  2. Try to set aside at least 30 minutes for the interview. This is often hard in a small school where owners answer phones and send off invoices as well as teach, but it is crucial that you get the opportunity to talk to the candidate in a relaxed setting (you want to spend some time really listening to them).
  3. If you have a choice between lack of experience and a positive attitude on the one hand, and vast experience and a superior attitude on the other, I would advise you to go with the first combination. The new teacher will have a mentor and will gain experience. The one with the superior attitude will, unfortunately, not lose the attitude (at least not in my experience), which is not likely to make her/him a good team player.
  4. Try not to ask the candidate questions about their CV. Asking them things like, “So, I see you worked for X for 2 years..what did you do next?”, is not likely to give you any information that you don’t already have. Instead, ask them specific questions – how they would start a class at the beginning of a semester, how they would deal with a mixed-ability group, or what their favorite speaking activities are.
  5. It’s worth finding out how the candidate feels about CPD. If they don’t express any interest in training of any kind, I would suggest that you interview at least one more candidate. I don’t expect my teachers to spend all their time at work and work-related activities, but if they are uninterested in enhancing their teaching skills, I have doubts as to whether they will contribute much to the team.

Do you think these tips could apply to any small business to some degree? Which one would be most important to you if you were hiring? Are there any tips which you find out of place or disagree with?

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5 thoughts on “Recruiting the right teaching staff

    1. That’s a really good one! Also reminds me of something the lady we bought the school from used to say – no gossip about students (and mentioning them by name) on public transport because you never know who might hear you. But that would be tricky to spot at the interview. 🙂 Thanks very much for the comment, Marc.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi Vedrana

    First of all, I like the idea of a post through re-reading something from the ‘archives’ (my way to call those rarely-opened folders that keep accumulating on my computer course after course).
    Secondly, wanted to add my thought on an interview. I like the tips you wrote and I think you were writing about a ‘face-to-face’ interview with the teacher-candidates. I myself conducted quite a few Skype interviews, so there was a lot of ‘hit and miss’ involved, and I always tried to have an ‘extra’ unplanned time to simply chat, or ‘get connected’ on a personal level with the person. What for? Various reasons: helping the interviewee to relax, listening to my own ‘initial impressions’ about the person, etc. I wonder if this is needed for a small business in any culture. I imagine if a school is/was small, people needed to work closely with each other (and perhaps students were expecting a certain communication ‘style’ from the teachers).
    Finally, wanted to thank you for the thought-provoking (and memory-generating) post. Looking forward to reading more!
    Zhenya

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment, Zhenya, and I’m happy to see you here again! 🙂 A post based on something from the archive is a bit like finding an old picture – I enjoy it too. You’re right, I had f2f interviews in mind. In fact, I can’t remember ever interviewing a teacher on Skype or in any other way than f2f. Sometimes we would get CVs from teachers who weren’t living in Croatia at the time, but this never coincided with needing a new full-time teacher – ours was a small school – and candidates were unlikely to move to Zagreb for a course or two. At least I used to think so. Did (do) you interview teacher trainers (who are usually harder to find than teachers) – is that why you skype(d)? In any case, I think you make an important point – I would definitely say connecting with the interviewee would be a very good idea in any small business. Bearing in mind Marc’s point about oversharing, of course. Do you find that some questions work better than others to get the interviewee to relax/open up?

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      1. Hi again

        Thank you for the replies and questions. Skyping was a necessity b/c we invited international teachers to come to Ukraine for extended period of time (an academic year, for example) so just visiting us for an interview was not an option for many. It was/is usually harder to attract people to come to this part of the world: not touristy, lower salaries, etc. In any case, ‘connecting’ on a personal level was needed b/c it was a bid decision for teachers. I usually sent about 10 questions before the interview (open ones, like what are you major strengths as a teacher, why did you apply to Ukraine, etc.) and asked them to choose one to answer (or which question was pleasant to answer, etc.) CV in that case was a helpful reference for examples, etc. Not sure I ever knew how to do it ‘perfectly’ 🙂

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