Hiring the Right People Is Crucial for Your School Culture

Rob BreyerBlog, Lead Better

TL;DR:

  • It is important to hire the right people who are great people, aligned with your vision, and support you.
  • Consider whether they will buy into your vision and fit with your current staff. Ask deeper questions to find out!

As an elementary school principal, I believe reflection on the work we do is key to our success. My entire staff knows that I love quotes and I use them to reflect on my own life and career! Every morning when I get to school, I look forward to checking my email and taking a moment to enjoy some words of wisdom from Simon Sinek, and recently this quote resonated with me.

“Life is beautiful not because of the things we see or do. Life is beautiful because of the people we meet.” – Simon Sinek

I instantly began to think about my life and how it correlated to this quote. Immediately I thought to myself that I could easily add more to this quote. For instance, life is beautiful because of the people we meet, and the people we choose to surround ourselves with. I am blessed with an amazing family, friends, and coworkers. These people support me, lift me up when I am down, help pull me through when I am struggling, and they are there whenever I need them. They make my life…well…”beautiful”!

My focus when hiring is simple. I want to surround myself with people who share my vision, will embrace our culture, and make an immediate and positive impact on student learning. Click To Tweet

Surround yourself with great people.

As I reflected on this quote as a principal, I began to think deeper about staffing and how important it is to surround ourselves with great people. It is not enough to just hire a teacher, teacher assistant, custodian, or front office personnel. I needed to surround myself with people who share my vision, support my dreams, and help pick up where my own shortcomings prevent our school from excelling. In all honesty, none of us are perfect, and every one of us has areas where we could use some support. That is why it is imperative that we take the time to be selective! We must ensure that we are hiring the right people for our schools.

See staff as family.

As a beginning principal, I walked into a new school fortunately surrounded by remarkable people who shared a vision similar to my own. Instantly, I was drawn to the idea of school staff as family. I have maintained this idea as it is an integral part of our school culture. Like any family, we have disagreements. Sometimes we do not see eye to eye. But ultimately, we stand side by side and support each other in order to make our vision a reality.

Unfortunately, teachers leave for retirement, new opportunities, or for other personal reasons resulting in a teaching vacancy. Filing these openings can be a daunting task. But, as I previously mentioned, it is one of the most important obligations we have as school leaders, especially if we are focused on surrounding ourselves with the right people.

Hiring the right people: Will this new person buy into our vision?

Do they believe that we must create lessons that engage our students? Can they understand why it is important to get children excited about learning? Are they the type of person who believes that we can help every child excel? How will this candidate positively impact my school? When I plan questions for the interview process, I am planning with these thoughts in mind. I want to know in the interview what the candidates believe. More importantly, I want to know if they will be a proper fit for our school.

Hiring the right people: Will they work well with our existing staff?

I think it is important for administrators to have an interview team made up of a few teachers, a teacher assistant, office personnel, and a parent. We use our School Improvement Team (SIT) members to conduct all interviews. Each person on my interview team brings a different lens to the table. They all have a different set of expectations for each candidate we interview. I want to ensure that every new employee will be a good fit for my existing team. My team must be confident that they will be able to work well with the new hires. To start off with, make sure that you cover the basics when hiring new staff. I know someone who was researching about the background check in Colorado and it turns out you can check for more than just criminal history. You double-check they received the qualifications listed on their resume. It surprising how often people lie about qualifications to get themselves a job!

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Hiring the right people: Dig deeper when doing references!

I want to know as much as possible before hiring a person for a job at my school. Aside from the obvious clearance from police that means they’re safe to be working with children, I want to know about what makes up their very core. If your hiring process is like mine, you have a list of required reference questions that must be answered. There is nothing wrong with asking deeper questions along with these questions. I heard Todd Whitaker talk at a North Carolina Principals and Assistant Principals Association Instructional Symposium about asking better questions when checking references and it has stuck with me.

“My least favorite question is Would you hire this candidate again if you had an open position? Of course, they will say yes since they had agreed to do the reference. I want to know more specifically, out of all your staff, would this candidate be in your top 3 rehires? What separates this candidate from everyone else in your school? It tells me a little more about the culture of a candidate’s previous school. Plus, I know what values their reference person considered to be important.”

This gives me a deeper insight into how this potential employee has performed in the past. It has now become a part of every reference call I make.

My focus when hiring is simple. I want to surround myself with people who share my vision, will embrace our culture, and make an immediate and positive impact on student learning. If you want to change, improve, or enhance your school culture, begin by focusing on your hiring process and ensuring you are surrounding yourself with the “right” people.


About Robert Breyer

Robert Breyer is the “proud” principal of Cameron Elementary School in Cameron, NC. He also makes time to coach aspiring leaders who are looking to make the transition from teacher to administration. He is the host of The Guiding Principals Podcast, where he encourages visionary school leaders to share the stories of their own leadership journey, and celebrates their successes along the way. Connect with Robert on his website at www.beyondthedeskleadership.com or via Twitter @rbleads.