Recruiting & Hiring Staff
The first step to building an effective team of staff for a learning center is a rigorous recruitment and screening process. One school of thought says that getting the word out to the right pool of candidates—attracting candidates through channels that will yield the best applicants—is the key to successful hiring. Another school says that a thorough, demanding screening process is the best way to produce great hires. Both approaches are important to a successful hiring process.
Before you spread the word about the positions you want to fill, you need to carefully define the roles and responsibilities of those positions. A detailed job description will help prospective candidates understand the skills, experience and characteristics the position requires See our sample job descriptions for a Youth Development Director and for a Technology Learning Center Director.
People who know your organization and what you are trying to achieve and who understand the types of positions for which you are hiring are the most reliable sources for excellent staff candidates. Stated another way, talk to people who do well the job that you are trying to hire someone to do. Some of them might be interested in a new employment opportunity. They may also know other people in the type of position you want to fill. They will know of good outlets—such as organizations and individuals, electronic mailing lists, Web sites and print publications—for distributing position announcements that will reach the candidates you want to hire.
The next source of candidates consists of people and organizations that have associations with the type of people you want to hire. This group includes funders, information providers, advocacy groups, consultants and direct service organizations.
Distributing position announcements
Before distributing position announcements to recruitment sources, make sure that the announcements contain an email address for responses (one that is accessed regularly) as well as a Web site address, if your organization has one. A surprising number of organizations distribute announcements for Internet-related positions and do not contain an email address to which candidates can reply. Experienced candidates will not apply to such organizations; an organization's use of email and the Web is an indicator of whether it is "walking the talk" of what it is trying to do with youth and technology. Similarly, candidates who cannot email a resume or send Web-based information upon request may not have the appropriate skills and experience for the position.
Use both traditional and electronic media to distribute your position announcement. If you have a newsletter or other publications, hard-copy or electronic, announce your opening in your own materials. Consider advertising in the local newspaper. Ask others to post your announcement in their newsletters. The Internet is probably one of the most likely places to locate candidates with technical skills and knowledge. Electronic mailing lists will usually carry job announcements for free. Some Web sites ask for a fee to post an announcement for a certain length of time.
Don't forget to contact your local universities, community colleges and professional technology organizations. Many major towns and cities have professional organizations for people who work in the information and communication technology fields. There are groups for webmasters, network administrators, web content producers, etc. Many of these organizations have member-only job boards and electronic mailing lists and would be willing to share your announcement with their members.
Some organizations require candidates to undergo two or more rounds of interviews. Unless the candidate is someone known and recommended through a trusted source, conducting the first interview over the telephone is a good idea. A preliminary telephone conversation will allow you to gauge candidates' understanding of the position and their level of interest; it also provides an opportunity for initial questions and answers. You most likely will be able to weed out several candidates based on the telephone interviews, thereby saving time and staff resources.
Think carefully about which people on your staff should be present to meet with the candidates who merit a face-to-face interview. In addition to supervisors, it is usually prudent to include at least one staff member who would be working with that candidate at a peer level (e.g., if you are hiring someone for an instructional position, then include in the interview at least one current instructor). Peer staff bring an important perspective to interviews because they understand the work that the position entails. It is also important that they support the decision to hire the candidate because they will need to work closely with that person.
To focus your questions, to ensure that critical questions are not missed, and to organize the information for evaluating the candidate, prepare an interview evaluation chart to use in the final interviews. You also might consider having candidates at the final stages of consideration complete a self-assessment. The self-assessment will help you determine each candidate's strengths as well as areas requiring support and development; this information is helpful both in making the hiring decision and in ensuring the candidate's success in his or her new position.