Afterschool and summer program directors are often in a pinch and settle for the first person that can fit scheduling needs that suddenly appear out of nowhere. But you don’t have to settle, let me say that again, you don’t have to settle. Hiring smart the first time will prevent headaches

save you time and money, and help increase the quality of your program in the long term. But how can you tell? Often the person being interviewed comes in with a “nice” resume or “loves working with kids”, they seem qualified enough to get you through. There are people out there looking to bring their passion and talents to your program. How can you tell these diamonds in the rough from the rest of the pack?

According to Dr. Pierre Mornell (1998), author of 45 Effective Ways for Hiring Smart, there are a number of techniques to sort through the fog of hiring before the interview even takes place. Here are just a few: conduct a mini-interview with the person when contacting them, a lot can be determined from “answers on the fly”; give some critical thinking to what you want the position to be, is there anything you can change with the opportunity of a vacancy; have them meet you at the site instead of at the office, see how they interact with other staff and children that will inevitably ask them questions. There are others but using these three pre-interview strategies can often help sort out people that may be able to make a difference in your organization.

Likewise, during the interview itself there are a number of techniques that can help you net the high quality staff and at the same time not make the mistake of hiring someone who doesn’t really want to be there. Some tips include: look for the passion, are they talking about working with children with excitement and imagination; don’t follow the usual order of questions that they expect, you are the expert in this topic area, be creative and ask scenario related questions; assign the finalists a mini-project to bring back during the second interview. Anyone can go on your website and find out information about your program, it is the passion, the creativity, and the innovation that separates a “sitter” from someone who will be interactive and engaging to the children.

Finally, when it comes time to make the hiring decision, who do you pick? It goes without saying that checking references on your finalists is the first step to hiring smart. Be sure they are credible and not family members or close friends such as aunts, uncles, grandparents, or even parents. Also, get a second opinion. It helps if you involve some staff in the interview process, not only are you building their leadership capacity, but keep in mind these are the people that may be directly working with this person. Have them develop questions to ask prior to the second interview.

Hiring is not easy, it takes time, persistence, and a commitment to quality. It is always easier to hire the first person that has an application, but it may be the fifth, eighth, or even the tenth that will bring that passion to your program and make a difference not only in the quality, but in the lives of the children you serve.

Reference: 45 Effective Ways for Hiring Smart, Dr. Pierre Mornell (1998).