January, February, and March. In an independent school, these may be the most important months of the year as they constitute the height of hiring season. (Truth be told, it’s hiring season that has kept me from writing over the last few weeks!)
I know quite a few colleagues who do not enjoy the hiring process, but that is not my attitude. I enjoy the challenge, intrigue, and opportunity present in each hiring situation. Yes, it is a lot of work, but most things of important *ARE* a lot of work (see: teaching!). Hiring well seems to be a combination of detective, counselor, sales person, critical consumer, and institutional referee. Looking through resumes, conducting phone interviews, hosting candidates on campus, watching them teach, meeting with them, soliciting feedback from colleagues and students, and then and conducting with reference checks test every aspect of my skills set, while also allowing me to interact with numerous constituencies on campus.
While too much hiring in any given year is problematic, I think that healthy schools have annual turnover in the 8-10% range (as long as it’s not always from the same demographic), allowing for the introduction of new talent, perspectives, and experiences into the adult community. Each hire represents a strategic choice by the institution. Candidates represent potential faculty members in whom the school sees as excellent educators in the classroom, in the dorm, as an advisor, as a colleague, and in a coaching or mentoring capacity.
As someone who spends a lot of time with our candidates once they are on campus, I have also grown to appreciate how the hiring process helps me think critically about my school. I value open and honest conversation during the hiring process as I want both parties to know and understand the landscape. Candidates should ask hard questions and schools should provide good answers…and vice versa. Given that I’m often asking and answering such questions, I have the opportunity to think a lot about institutional values, strengths, and opportunities. For me, that is a very rewarding and satisfying piece of work.
So here is to the gentle closing of another hiring season. While there is work to be done, it’s work I enjoy, work that challenges me, and work that is done with an eye towards the future of the institution.