With the uncertainty of the pandemic for months to come, it is apparent that schools will find themselves on a perpetual hiring cycle to keep positions in classrooms and other programs filled, including both regular and substitute positions.

What should a principal look for in a new hire? What should new hires expect from a school in this “new normal?” Here are some questions a school leader should consider when making hiring decisions for their school.

Does this candidate believe in the school’s mission, vision, values, and goals?

From as early as the job posting itself, the school should make it very clear what its mission, vision, values, and goals are, and how a potential new hire is expected to uphold and contribute to the school’s philosophy.

For example, if a school believes in “learning for all,” then it should be apparent that the new hire shares this vision. A principal should ask questions in an interview that challenge this notion and see how the interviewee responds. For example, this question could be asked to check for agreement with this philosophy: “In your classroom, do you hold all students to the same expectations for rigor? What do you do for a student who is struggling to meet those expectations?”

Sometimes, principals should be blunt. “We believe that all students in this school can learn, and we expect our teachers to do whatever it takes to help us achieve this vision. Failure is not an option.”

Is this candidate willing to work in a collaborative team environment?

Schools need people who are effective collaborators. Nowadays, very few big curriculum, instruction, and assessment decisions are left to teachers to make on their own. Most are made by collaborative teams of teachers, working as a grade level or a content area.

New teachers should be prepared to share and collaborate with their team on just about everything they do. Through their collaboration as a team, teachers will calibrate their understanding of mastery of the knowledge and skills they are fostering in their students. In this AllThingsPLC article, Jasmine Kullar offers suggested interview questions that can be asked of hiring candidates to help an interview team understand whether or not the candidate will be effective on a collaborative team.

Is this candidate well-versed and willing to be flexible when it comes to their pedagogy?

If the pandemic has taught us anything as educators, it is that flexibility and versatility with pedagogy is paramount. Teachers need to be able to draw from an expanded set of pedagogy tools, both for in person and digital learning. They must be willing to be self-reflective about their instructional practices, paying close attention to how they support learners, and make adjustments as necessary.

Lastly, teachers need to be willing to try new instructional tricks, even if they are outside of their comfort zone or area of expertise. In this recent MultiBriefs article, I unpack what effective instruction looks like in the hybrid format, and these tips can help principals develop appropriate questions on pedagogy for new teacher hiring candidates during the interview process.

How does the candidate support students who are struggling, as well as those who master the material quickly?

With the pandemic, more and more schools are finding that students are moving at different paces and need more individualized support at different times. This is especially apparent in schools that are offering both a remote and a hybrid learning option for students in the same class.

Effective educators must have a system to monitor the pace and progress of each student as they are challenged at their appropriate level. If teachers are engaged in this work as a team, the team can take responsibility for the management of such a system. In effective systems, students are the primary drivers for success when they effectively monitor and self-assess their own pace and progress.

In the hiring process, an interview team should question a candidate on their comfort level with such a model, on their organizational skills to monitor such a model, and on their thoughts on how they would track student pace and progress. How a new hire answers questions in this area will tell an interview team a great deal about the candidate’s readiness to work in such a format.

In a recent District Administration article, author Chris Burt explores this topic in more detail in the context of a substitute teacher. Burt interviewed Thomas Taylor, deputy superintendent of Chesterfield County Schools in Virginia. Taylor acknowledged that attracting and retaining a quality substitute pool is critical.

Taylor’s district focuses on career development for substitutes, providing them with various job opportunities, training, and even the opportunity for full time benefits in some cases. These strategies work to help substitutes feel more invested and engaged in the schools they are working in, and ultimately more willing to take risks and contribute in new ways for the schools.

Hiring is always such a critical function of any organization as bringing in the best, most qualified employees to support the work of the organization is essential. Making the wrong decision on a new hire can cost a school in so many ways. Even in a pandemic, school principals can’t afford to cut corners or make mistakes with hiring.