Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Hiring in Child Care—Getting Started on the Right Track

By now, you’ve invested a lot of time and effort to bring the right new employee into your program.  Now we just need to make sure this new person gets started on the right foot.  

Often, when we hire a new employee, we need that person to get started for us immediately so that we can meet ratios.  But, the ideal start would be to keep that person out of ratio for a while so that you can make sure they start on the right track.  If that’s not possible, at least set aside some time on the first several days so that you can work directly with your new employee.  

Having an orientation plan in place will help you make sure that each new employee receives the same information at the beginning of their employment and that you don’t accidentally forget to cover anything.  Further, it shows your new employee that you and the organization care enough about their success to set aside time to make sure they get started correctly. (We also have both the manager and the new employee initial each item covered in the orientation so that we know that the information was covered and that, later, we don’t hear “I didn’t know that”.)

Your New Employee Orientation should cover basics like where the person can keep personal items during the work day as well as more complicated subjects like:

  • The organizational structure of the program—who do you approach with what kind of issues?
  • What does their specific position entail?
  • What will success in their employment look like?
  • How do we keep children safe and healthy?
  • How do we plan appropriate experiences for the children?
  • How do we work with parents?
  • What are our pay and leave policies?
  • And, of course, completing all of the necessary paperwork.

Proper orientation helps you make sure your new employee understands their role in your program and how to be successful in that role.  It also shows that person that you care about their success enough to invest time into making sure they get a good start.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hiring in Child Care--Offering the Job

We’ve been talking about hiring a new employee for your program.  By this point, you’ve made your decision.  Now you just need to determine if the applicant sees you as their employer of choice and if you can come to an agreement about their employment.  And, after you do that, to notify the applicants that were not selected.

One of the most important parts of this stage is to make sure that you make an employment offer without implying any sort of contract with the individual.  Although you have taken a lot of time to hire the correct person for your team, you also need to leave yourself a way out, just in case.  We typically contact the applicant telephonically and offer the position verbally.  If they accept, we then email or fax a formal offer letter to be signed and returned by a specific date.    

Only after we have that signed offer letter do we send rejection letters to the other applicants.  We have one letter for those who were not granted interviews and another for those who interviewed with us.  For those who interviewed with us, we notify them that we will keep their application on file for consideration for future openings.

In two weeks, we will talk about integrating your new employee into your team.  (In the meantime, happy Easter/Pascha!)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hiring in Child Care--The Decision

Over the past couple of weeks, we have talked about conducting pre-interviews to screen applicants and interviewing those applicants.  This week, we’re talking about making that decision of who to hire. 

With the interview completed and the applicant’s responses documented, the decision-makers need to take a few minutes to discuss the interview.  What did they like or dislike about the applicant’s responses?  Were there any red flags or anything that was particularly impressive?  Again, document these insights so that you’ll be able to remember them later. 

When time allows, start completing some sort of Staff Hiring Matrix that allows you to track each applicant’s qualifications and your impressions of the interview.  This matrix will allow a simple way of objectively comparing each of the candidates and identifying those who are among the top applicants.

Once you identify your top applicants, you can start calling references.  We always call at least 3 references, either business or personal references for each applicant we are considering.  While our own policy, and the policy of many businesses, is to provide nothing but confirmation of a former employee’s employment history, we still find many people who will give us much more information about an applicant.  Primarily, at this point, you are trying to confirm that the job titles, dates, and responsibilities that the applicant reported are accurate.  However, any other insights that someone might be willing to share about that individual provides you with just a bit more information about how that person might fit into your program. 

With all of the information gathered, you are ready to make your final decision.  Again, you can refer to the Staff Hiring Matrix to compare the top applicants.  One word of caution during this step is to recognize a general tendency to hire individuals that are similar to ourselves.  While being surrounded by a bunch of people that are like us may be most comfortable, this is typically not the best staffing plan.  Make a conscious effort to stretch yourself.  Don't hire someone because you feel a connection with them; hire them because they have good credentials, great answers to your interview questions, and really know how to do the job. 
Next week, we'll talk about extending an offer of employment and turning down the applicants that you did not select.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hiring in Child Care--The Interview

We talked last week about conducting Pre-Interviews to screen applicants and determine which ones to grant interviews.  We ask our applicants to arrive 15 minutes prior to the interview so that they have time to complete our Employment Application.  While they are completing the application, we review the Pre-Interview Questions, the resume and transcripts.  Once the application is completed, we allow ourselves 5 more minutes to review the application before beginning the interview.  During this review time, we make note of any additional questions that we want to ask the applicant regarding any of the information they have provided.

When interviewing, we try to have two people conducting the interview and, ideally, the same two interviewing each of the candidates.  This provides a couple of benefits.  We have two different perspectives on each candidate.  One person might notice something that the other doesn’t.  Two interviewers also provides better note-taking; sometimes it’s just really hard for one person to ask the questions, get a feel for the candidate, and take notes at the same time.

Preparing our Interview Questions in advance allows us to ensure that we ask the same questions of each candidate and don’t ask questions that are not legal to ask.  Consistency in interview questions is very important if there is ever a complaint regarding our hiring process.  With our interview questions, we strive, just like when working with children, to ask open-ended questions.  I’m reasonably sure that if you’ve made it through my pre-interview process, you believe that a child’s education should be developmentally appropriate.  What I want to know from you is what that looks like.  Don’t just tell me that you can soothe an upset parent; tell me about a time that you did it.  But, if my questions don’t elicit those responses from you, that’s my fault, not yours.

We schedule our interviews so that we have time left at the end to allow the applicant to ask questions, then walk the applicant through a couple of classrooms and get a feel for our program.  We need to make sure not only that we are comfortable with the applicant, but that they are comfortable with our program as well.  This has to be a good fit for both parties.

Next week we’ll talk about the actual hiring decision.