Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hiring Child Care Employees

We've spent a couple of weeks talking about screening and interviewing potential employees for your child care program.  This week we discuss the actual hiring decision.

Once you have completed an interview and documented the applicant's responses, and before the next interview, be sure to set aside a few minutes in which the interviewers can discuss their reactions to the applicant's interview.  Did one of you hear or see something that the other didn't notice?  Do you have the same reaction to the applicant's responses?  Did one of you see a red flag or something that particularly impressed you about this particular applicant?  Make sure you have this discussion, and take notes on it, before you begin the next interview and those thoughts are lost.

As you have lengthier breaks between applicants, take the time to start completing your applicant tracking program.  We have a Staff Hiring Matrix where we keep track of each applicant, when they applied, how they heard about the position, and how they fared in each step of our hiring process.  We write brief notes regarding their qualifications for the position, how they look in the Pre-Interview, and how we feel about them as a potential employee after the Interview.  This allows us to easily weed out unqualified individuals and to identify our best candidates.

We ALWAYS call at least 3 references (non family members) for each of the applicants that we are considering hiring.  While many employers have now adopted the policy of confirming employment only, I am always amazed at how many people will still talk with me about an applicant's history.  We have discovered some very valuable information during this process.  The most common discrepancies we find through references are previous dates of employment or job responsibilities that don't match up with what the applicant has reported.

When you have all of your information gathered and are ready to make your hiring decision, be careful to not fall into the trap of hiring nothing but other versions of yourself.  While we are generally most comfortable with someone who is similar to us, that is not usually the best staffing plan for a program.  As great as our ideas may be, we are more effective when we have someone who can look at things from a different point of view.  We don't get that by hiring a lot of versions of ourselves.  Stretch out.  Don't hire someone because you feel a connection with them or because you feel really comfortable with them; hire them because they have solid credentials, great answers to your interview questions, and really know how to do the job for which you are hiring.  Don't discount your gut feelings, but don't discount your process either.

Next week, we'll talk about extending an employment offer and saying "no thank you" to other applicants.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Child Care Interviewing

Last week we talked about pre-interviewing; screening potential applicants, setting up the interview, and getting the Employment Application completed.  This week, we tackle the interview itself.

We always try to have two of our staff members conducting interviews.  The same two interviewers should interview all applicants for a particular position.  Two interviewers provides a more balanced perspective and gives you two people taking notes during the interview instead of just one person trying to do everything.

Before the interview, you both should have been able to review the Pre-Interview Questions and note any areas that you will need clarified.  Once the applicant has completed the Employment Application, take a few minutes to review it as well, and again note any areas that you may have questions about.  You want to know as much as you can about the applicant before the interview begins so that you don't have to waste interview time learning the basics.

Having your Interview Questions prepared in advance, and sticking to those questions, will help you in two ways.  It will ensure that you ask the same questions of each candidate.  It will also help you to avoid the questions you cannot legally ask; religion, marital status, age, etc.  Asking open-ended questions will provide you with much more information and give the applicant the opportunity to share other information with you that they feel you should know in making your decision.  Asking specific questions like "Tell me about a time that you..." will encourage candidates to tell you about what they did in a situation rather than just how they feel about it.  For example, I don't want to hear that a Center Director candidate believes that parents' concerns should be heard, that's too easy; I want to know when that candidate was in a difficult position with a parent and specifically how they handled it.

During the interview, document the applicant's responses as completely as you can, including making notes of any notable non-verbal responses. Once you have interviewed half a dozen people, it will be difficult to remember who said what if you don't have good notes.

At the conclusion of the interview, go back and ask about any responses that need more clarification or questions that you had from the Application or Pre-Interview Questions.

Next week we'll talk about the hiring decision.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Child Care--Before the Interview

Need to hire new staff?  How do you make sure that you get the right person?  It takes planning and work to hire well, but it will be time well-spent.  Taking a little longer to make sure you hire correctly is much less time-consuming (and so much easier) than fixing the problems when you hire the wrong person.

A telephonic pre-interview can help you determine if a potential candidate has the basic qualities you need for a particular position.  I have always been amazed that no matter how clearly I word the requirements for a position I'm advertising, I have applicants call or email me that do not meet those requirements.  If they have the required education/experience and the telephonic pre-interview goes well, you can go on and set up an interview and record the time and date on the Pre-Interview Form.  Ideally, the applicant will email a resume and transcripts to you for evaluation prior to the interview; if not, they can bring them along.

The applicant should be instructed to arrive at least 15 minutes early for the interview, to allow time to complete the application.  Your Employment Application must gather all of the information you need to capture from the applicant to be able to make your decision and must also inform the applicant of the basic requirements of employment (example--minimum age, transportation/driver's license, background checks, etc.).  Allow yourself at least 5 minutes prior to the interview to review the application and understand a bit about the person you are preparing to interview.

Next week we will address the actual interview--stay tuned!

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Late Pick-Up in Child Care

Most people that enter the child care field do so, in part, because they enjoy being around children.  But, as much as we enjoy the presence of children, we also appreciate being able to leave our jobs at the end of the day and return to our own homes, families, etc.  Children who are left in our care after our program's ending time can be frustrating to staff and scary to the children.

Upon enrollment in your program, each parent needs to be informed, in writing of your policy for late pick-ups.  At the very least, the parent must call if they are detained and cannot arrive at the Center prior to your closing time.  This will give your staff a heads-up and allow them to help ease the child's fears about when Mom or Dad will be arriving.  From there, you need to decide what sort of late fees you are going to collect and when those fees will be collected?  Will they be collected immediately, added to the parent's fee, or paid the following day before the child will be accepted into care?  

The parent needs to understand what late fees you will charge.  And, not to be unkind, but the fees have to be high enough to be an incentive for the parent to not want to pay them.  If you don't charge enough, at least one researcher has shown that all that is accomplished is giving parents permission to be late and just throw a few more dollars your way.  

The last issue, and the one that needs to be most clear with both parents and staff, is what to do when the parent does not show up to pick up their child and you cannot reach a parent or emergency contact person.  Which staff members will stay with the child?  How long will they continue trying to reach someone who is authorized to pick up the child?  Your staff cannot stay with the child all night.  At what point do you contact the police for assistance in locating the parent and perhaps taking emergency custody of the child?  This policy has to be very, very clear so that your staff knows exactly what to do and the parent knows that police will be involved if necessary.  

This is not a policy that you want to assume parents read in your handbook.  Parents must be given this information both verbally and in writing, before the policy is needed.
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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Child Care and America's Future

"Our nation now faces tough choices to renew the economy, but fiscal prudence cannot be served at the expense of under-investing in the well-being and future of our children – and thereby preventing unnecessary remedial expenditures" (p. 9). 

Wow!  The new report from the Committee for Economic Development (CED) spells out the critical need for early education about as clearly as possible and takes the country to task for sacrificing the future for the sake of the present.  Their findings, conclusions, and recommendations are compelling from a business/economic development point of view (which easily translates to a social point of view as well): 
  • "If a community’s talent pool is weak, economic development stagnates and business suffers" (p. 7).
  •  "Right now 20 percent of the American labor force is functionally illiterate or innumerate" (p. 7). 
  • "...the best returns on human capital investment occur during the early years of life. The benefits to our communities far outweigh the immediate costs" (p. 9). 
  • "Globalization and new technology have reduced the chances of earning a living wage without advanced skills or education, at the same time that the proportion of Americans who meet that standard is shrinking" (p. 10).
As a military "brat", I'm still shaking my head about this statistic: "Research released by the Department of Defense (DOD) graded the fitness of American youth as poor; less than 25 percent of 17 to 24 year-olds in the United States would be eligible for military service, mostly due to health issues, such as obesity, but also because of the lack of a high school diploma, or a criminal record" (p. 10).  We can have the most advanced military equipment in the world, but if we don't have the personnel to operate it, our national security is in serious trouble.

Mindy and I have banged the drum for corporate child care for many years, focusing on issues of employee recruitment and retention, productivity, attendance, loyalty, etc.  Even when we could show a positive return on investment, it was a really tough sell.  It's great to now see business leaders speaking so forcefully about social/community impacts of quality child care and the need for business to step up.  "Business leaders and policymakers should consider investment in young children one of the most effective strategies to secure the future economic strength of their communities and the nation" (p. 7).  Well done! 

Committee for Economic Development. Unfinished Business: Continued Investment in Child Care and Early Education is Critical to Business and America’s Future. (2012) Web. 1 October 2012 <http://ced.org/component/blog/entry/1/811>.

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