K-12 IT Management: Making the Hiring Decision

Ricky Gervais demonstrates how not to make an offer in the above clip from the British version of The Office.

This is the ninth in a series of posts on IT management for K-12 schools.

Your interview team has seen several candidates, you have gathered feedback from them, and you’re ready for the next step: making an offer. Here are the important considerations:

  1. You don’t have to make an offer. Is there anyone in the group who you really want to hire? It’s better to NOT hire someone you are not sure about and continue the search. Not matter the time of year or how desperate you may feel don’t make an offer you are not sure about. Trust your informed intuition, a.k.a. gut feeling. If the person doesn’t feel right for position, don’t make the offer.
  2. Bad hires cost a lot of money and emotional capital. Making a bad hiring decision is expensive financially and emotionally. Estimates of the financial costs of bad hiring decisions to organizations range from 30% of the new person’s salary to 5 times that salary.
  3. It’s your decision. As the hiring manager, it is your decision, but some people in the organization my possess veto power, such as the principal, superintendent, or head of school. They can say “no” but they should not be able to say “yes” over your objections. If they do this more than once, look for another job for yourself.
  4. Avoid analysis paralysis. Don’t let fear of making a mistake put you into analysis paralysis. Be chronically understaffed when you have unfilled positions puts your entire department at risk from overwork and under-performance. And if you are somehow able to maintain high quality standards while being understaffed for an extended period of time, some may conclude that you don’t need the headcount and take it away from you.
  5. Make a verbal offer. Call the candidate on the phone or meet with them to make a verbal offer. Convey your enthusiasm and eagerness for them to join your team. Some managers like to use a language common amongst sales agents called “the presumptive close,” but I find such language to be off-putting, pushy, and disrespectful. I prefer to listen carefully to the candidate’s response.
  6. Be prepared to wait, but not long. Many candidates will ask for some time to make a decision. This is reasonable. You have (presumably) taken time to reach your decision and so the candidate must be allowed some time, at least 24 hours, to reach a decision as well.  You will be eager for the candidate to commit and even minor delays may lead you to start re-thinking your decision. Be patient, but firm. Give the candidate a deadline and stick to it.
  7. Negotiate. Be ready to negotiate with the candidate. If negotiations is not your strong suit, find someone in your organization who can help you without undermining your authority. Don’t play the game that so many people identify as the car salesman tactic of needing to always “run this past my manager.” Know ahead of time the maximum salary you can offer and other negotiable benefits. Money is not the only thing you can negotiate about. Remember, you are hiring techies and educators. Access to the latest technology and the ability to to join professional associations and attend conferences may be worth more than cash to many candidates.
  8. Make a written offer. After verbal negotiations have concluded and you have a vernal acceptance from the candidate, it’s time to get a formal offer letter and, if required by your school, a contract to them. The offer materials should be generated by your HR department with your input. These are legal documents, and you need to make sure that everything is in order. In many schools, only authorized personnel can enter into contracts, so don’t be surprised if someone else needs to sign the offer letter. I suggest sending the offer by a means that will guarantee a quickly delivery and signature of receipt. Instruct the candidate to schedule a conference call with you and HR to review the materials to make sure that everything you have negotiated with them is accounted for. (Remember, you may have other finalists who are “hanging in the wind” that you have not officially rejected. If you have a strong #2 candidate, you don’t want the #1 candidate to take too long in officially accepting the offer.”
  9. Notify rejected candidates. When, and only when, you have a written acceptance in hand, notify the rejected candidates. I have sometimes  found this to be an awkward phase. You have probably invested time and energy into cultivating a group of finalists and they, in turn, have an investment in your school and perhaps even an expectation of an offer. You want these people to remain positive about your school despite the news that you are about to deliver to them. Here are some other thoughts about this phase in the process:
    • Candidates may press who as to why they were not chosen. Tread carefully here as you do not want to say anything verbally or in writing that could come back to haunt you should there be a dispute about any sort of discriminatory behavior on your part of anyone in the school.
    • Mention something positive, if you can, about their resume or interview that you especially liked. Everyone likes to hear something positive even within the context of disappointing  news.
    • Do not promise to keep their credentials on file if, in fact, your school does not have a system for doing so.
    • If you believe that the candidate was a good fit for the organization if not for this particular job (see previous post on organizational fit) let them know that and encourage them to remain in contact with the school.

I’d really like to hear from readers about other ideas in this area. Comments?

Other posts in this series:
Space: The First Frontier
Writing Job Descriptions
Using Technology to Manage Hiring
Where to Post Jobs
What to Say in Job Postings
Screening Resumes and Letters of Application
Phone Screening Applicants
Behavioral Interview Questions
Who’s on the Interview Team? 

1 Password 4: A Review

While the threat of malware targeting computers and mobile devices and spending on security measures to counter them accelerates, one aspect of computer security, the use of weak and overused passwords, remains as firmly entrenched as ever. In a 2010 post  (Passéwords) I criticized the lack of decent alternatives to passwords. Four months later, I the password manager, LastPass, a program I continued to use until about six months ago when I switched to Agile Solution’s 1Password.

My switch to 1Password not the result of dissatisfaction with LastPass but the result of my needing to support a family member who needed a password manager in a really friendly UI, which in my view gave the edge to 1Password. I did not want to support two password managers, and thus the switch. Here’s my experience with 1Password to date.

  • 1Password has a means for importing passwords from a variety of sources but alas, LastPass is not among them. You can, however, export LastPass as a CSV file and import these files into 1Password, but my results work not encouraging and I simply ended up creating new entries. Perhaps this was not such a bad thing as I used the opportunity to delete accounts of sites I no longer frequented and to change the passwords of those that I do.
  • The stand-alone 1Password application (Macintosh) has worked flawlessly: it has never crashed or lost any data. You can add web sites, generate secure passwords, create profiles for your commonly used data in forms (name, address, and so on), create secure notes and add credit card information (don’t use these myself), catalog software licenses and other data, and tag entries.
  • 1Password offers a built-in means to store all of your passwords in a Dropbox account (also iCloud; Google Drive and SkyDrive under development) allowing you to sync passwords across multiple computers and supported mobile devices.
  • Browser extension are available cross-platform for Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and IE. This makes using 1Password enormously helpful with websites. It gives you the same benefits as the fill-blown app: enter user-names and passwords, add new sites, generate unique and secure passwords, and fill-in forms.
  • iOS support (and presumably Android, I don’t hava device to confirm this) for 1Password is not available as a browser plug-in. Instead, you open the 1Password app, navigate to your saved site, and launch the site from within the application, using it’s built-in browser. I find this less than optimal, but perhaps I simply need to learn new habits of browsing. Should you want to open the same 1Password page in another browser you will need to use copy and paste.
  • Though they are frequently asked about it, Agile’s 1Password does not offer multi-factor  authentication. It seems to boil down to a rather nerdish disagreement about whether or not multi-factor is inherently more secure and worth the trade0ffs for user convenience. For those who may be interested in looking in the weeds, there’s a particularly good exchange about the pros and cons of multi-factor authentication in this blog posting on Agile’s Web site.
  • Disappointingly, 1Password can’t interact directly with either Macintosh or Windows system to manage local application passwords, such as those for iTunes or secure documents. 1Password can store any sort of password but can automatically enter passwords only for web sites. Bummer.

Given the inherent poor security of practices of most users I highly recommend that they use a password manager. Schools with 1-1 programs of any sort should include the use of password managers in all of their professional development programs and student boot-camps. If your school is multi-platform, including iOS and Android Devices, 1Password is a great choice. Site license are available, but discount pricing modest. If you’re on a budget, like most schools are, LastPass or similar programs that offer free (but less flexible) options may be the way to go. I am hesitant to recommend a product that does not have a paid version as paying customers can and do demand the highest quality from developers, especially in the area of security.

It would be great if Apple was to build-in this kind of functionality into iOS and Mac OS, but don’t hold your breath. Apple is a consumer company and provides lip-service only to enterprise customers.

There are several open-source password management programs, including KeePass, Clipperz, and Password Gorilla, but I have not used them. Experimentation with open-source security is something I’m a bit leery about trying on my own, but readers may be more adventurous or better qualified to give this a go.

Using a password manager? Please pass along your experiences!

2-1 is new 1-1

Back in 2011( previous post: Apple 2, Education) I ventured that the adoption of iPads by schools represented a new phase in Apple’s plans for the education market:

If schools think that having an iPad program will be sufficient to meet any 1-1 goals they may hold for themselves, they are sadly mistaken. Instead, they represent the vanguard of a new 2-1 movement, in which students will have two devices: a touch-screen device that has wonderful e-reading capabilities, Internet connectivity, and a wide array of tools, AND a laptop computer.

The widespread adoption of iPads in schools that have never had a laptop or BYOD program of any type suggests that I may be wrong, but I stand by my prediction. While a huge amount of development has gone into creating iPad applications for schools, there are a number of immutable facts about the iPad that make it an incomplete solution:

  1. the iPad is, and will continue to be, a highly personal device. It is not meant for long-term sharing with others.
  2. the iPad is a consumer device, and education is a secondary market for Apple. Discounts on Apple products are small for all except the largest players in the education market, and Apple’s continual re-organization and downsizing of their education division suggests that the situation is not going to improve.
  3. the result of this is that iPad using educators are continually discussing “work-arounds;” strategies for managing devices that are not designed for enterprise control, and purchasing and deploying applications through an e-commerce system that focuses on individual and not corporate accounts.
  4. form factor. Anyone who is serious about word processing on an iPad adds an external keyboard to it. Need a larger screen? Additional expense for dual monitors. iPad is great for reading and applications that benefit from touch interface, but it’s terrible at jobs that require different means of input or more screen size.
  5. walled garden. Apple’s ecosystem of iOS applications is much more constrained than that of Macintosh. Applications must be purchased through iTunes, where they are first subjected to Apple’s terms and conditions. Don’t like that? Jailbreak your iPad and void your warranty.

I know few adult iPad users that do not also have a computer. Why is that? Because computers can do things that iPads can’t do and sometimes, they can do the same things that iPads can do only better. But why then do they have an iPad at all? Because the iPad can do some things better than a computer. In short, to have a more complete set of tools you need more than one device.

iPads have a place in all of K-12 education, and can serve as a great introductory device for elementary school students and as a complementary tool for middle and high school students. But schools who plan on an iPad (or any other tablet) as a sole device for all of K-12 are mistaken. Few adults in a school use it as their only device and we should not expect students to either.

The same reasoning that led schools to decide that they wanted to go 1-1 with an iPad program (accessibility, communication, problem solving, collaboration, and so forth) hold true for laptops. So forward-looking administrators should set expectations within their school communities that the new model is 2-1, perhaps even 3-1 if you count smartphones. 1-1 is the start, not the destination.

It’s Time to Nationalize Private Schools

colbert_the_word_share_the_wealthHere’s some things most Americans can agree on:

  1. America’s public schools are in crisis. The status quo is unacceptable. We need a new approach.
  2. The divide between the rich and the poor, even the rich and the middle class is alarming and is unsustainable. Again, the status quo is unacceptable. (Except perhaps for the plutocrats who are the 1%.)

And so it is that I offer a simple solution that work on both fronts. To take a page from the leftist playbook of South American dictators and strike a blow for better education and the excess of privilege. For the elites of this country to stop their hand-wringing and angst about the state of public education while sending their own progeny for private education. For educators across America to clasp hands in solidarity in the name of all children of this nation and strike a blow for educational quality and equality that has not been heard since the clanging of one room school house bells echoed across the prairies of the Midwest, since the schoolmarms in our great towns and cities rescued children from the streets and factories to earn and learn a better future.

It’s time to nationalize the public schools.

Think of it! An immediate infusion of billions of dollars of facilities (most in far better shape than many public schools), faculty and administrators who (according to private school recruiting materials) are reputed to be the best in the nation, the brightest and best students (otherwise they wouldn’t be in private schools), and avenues to billions of dollars from parents who want only the best for their kids.

Conservatives, who have been hostile towards the U.S. Department of Education and seeking the privitization of schools will need to be brought along with such out-of-the box thinking. But surely even they can understand that hard times call for hard decisions. And who wants to be branded as anti-education?

Liberals might chafe at the sudden infusion of large numbers of non-unionized teachers into our schools. But doesn’t the fact that both ends of the political spectrum will find something that they don’t like about this proposal suggest that we’re on to something? That we’re in the sweet spot of political moderation that America so desperately yearns for?

Stay with me here, if only for a thought experiment. What exactly is the “value add” of private schools in general, and elite private schools in particular, whose students enroll from already privileged backgrounds of home with pre-school programs, countless books at home, nannies,  international travel, and summer and after school tutors? Are these children “at risk”?

In medicine and in law, the toughest cases are handled by the best doctors. Why can’t we do the same in education? Take our best teachers in our best facilities and have them work with children who are education’s “toughest cases?” Let these children be in classrooms of fifteen or fewer students, with faculty who all possess Masters or Doctors degrees, in places of learning that lack for little, where the food is nutritious, the parent education abundant, the building safe, clean, and kempt. Let those children who are least at risk, whose parents are most engaged, go forth as examples of scholarly pursuit and excellence who make no excuses for their success in and out of the classroom.

I guy can dream, can’t he?

 

 

K-12 IT Management: Who’s on the Interview Team?

This is the ninth in a series of posts on IT management for K-12 schools.

Having compiled a list of behavioral and situational interview questions you wish to ask candidates, you’re ready to think about who should be part of the interview team that meets with the candidates. You will also want to think through the entire logistics of the candidate’s on-campus experience from initial greeting at your reception desk to their departure, meeting rooms, refreshments, breaks, and support materials and equipment.

Group Interviews
By group interviews I am referring to one candidate with multiple interviewers not multiple candidates in the same room at the same time. Interviewing multiple candidates simultaneously within the same room is not a practice I great experience with nor is it one I would recommend for education where a more personal touch is required.

There are several reasons to conduct group interviews for at least a portion of the candidate’s on-campus experience:

  • it is more time efficient, especially in schools where it is often difficulty to align teaching schedules of interviewers
  • group interviews provide the candidate with an opportunity to see the informal dynamics that operate within a team of colleagues, giving them a sense of the school’s culture
  • group interviews allow for several people to hear and interpret the same verbal and non-verbal messages from the candidate, and these multiple interpretations may result in a richer appreciation of the candidate’s remarks
  • group interviews also provide interviewers from multiple disciplines and departments to come together both before and after the interview to discuss the job opening and talk about what would make a successful candidate from their particular point of view
As with any group or team activity, it is necessary that roles be defined before meeting with a candidate, including:
  • who is leading and introducing the meeting; this person is also responsible for seeing that logistics are followed (see below)
  • which question(s) will be asked by which people
  • who will be taking notes or otherwise recording the meeting
  • who is the timekeeper and what is the time-frame that will allow the most important questions to be posed and how much time should be devoted to the the candidate’s questions for the team
  • interviewers should avoid monopolizing the conversation and allow the applicant to talk and to fully respond to the open-ended questions; the more the applicant talks, the more information the employer will obtain about the candidate

One to One Meetings
Group meetings are recommended when no one person in the group has veto power over the person being hired. Anyone who has that amount of sway in the decision making process should have a one-to-one meeting with the candidate. In addition to the hiring manager, the principal, superintendent, head of school, or some other administrative authority may hold veto power on hiring. Sometimes these authorities may just want to meet the candidate and relinquish decision-making authority to the hiring manager or will intervene only if there seems to be a lack of consensus among the interview team about a candidate.

As with group meetings, one-to-one meetings need to also be planned and the interviewer provided with questions to ask the candidates. Do not assume that your boss or any other senior administrator is a skilled interviewer. As the hiring manager you may determine that the appropriate role of a senior administrator is not so much to interview the candidate as it is to sell the candidate on the school. More about that later.

In your one-on-one meeting with the candidate you must be at the top of your game: cordial but focused, open to the candidate’s questions but determined to get clear answers to your own. You must have your “crap detector” on high alert, probing for real skills that may or may not underlie rhetoric. At the same time, you are assessing for if and how the candidate will enrich your department. In the long run it pays great dividend to find the right person and not accept someone who you think may work out. As Joel Spolskys writes in Smart and Gets Things Done, “Don’t lower your standards no matter how hard it seems to find those great candidates.”

Between one-on-one and group meetings, you should shoot for anywhere from six to ten people to have seen a candidate, including return visits, before making a decision.

Interview Logistics
How the day unfolds for candidates is a reflection of you, the hiring manager. You want the day to go off like clockwork to reflect the professionalism of your organization and to save the time of you, your staff, and the candidate. As I have said before, “how it is comin’ in is how it is bein’ in.” So make sure the details are covered:

  • One week prior to the interview make sure that all of the interviewers have the candidates’ credentials on hand and pester them to read them.
  • If necessary, hold a pre-meeting with interviewers to introduce them to the questions they are to ask, review “illegal” questions that may not be asked, and to clarify the meeting schedule and roles. If you have an experienced group, this can be accomplished via email or through your talent management software system (see previous post, Using Technology to Manage Hiring).
  • Be sure to reserve rooms, double-check interviewers schedules, arrange for refreshments in the room(s), allow for bathroom breaks, and alert the reception desk to be prepared for the candidate.
  • If the candidate will be presenting while on campus, make sure that they have the materials (white boards, projectors, etc.) that they will need and have backup systems available. If guest internet access is necessary, make sure that is up and working before the meeting.
  • Clarify what is supposed to happen after each one-on-one or group interview. I generally ask that interviewers not spend too much time talking with one another before sending me their impressions; impressions which can be on an interview rubric you have created and distributed or more informal. How do you want the feedback to come to you? I recommend using email or your talent management software, keeping in mind that any records could potentially be subpoenaed.

Selling the School
I mentioned above that one purpose of an interview is to “sell the school.” By this I mean that you want all candidates, even those who you can tell within a few minutes were a mistake to bring in, to leave the school with a positive impression that will enable them to be good will ambassadors on your behalf.

There is an important difference between selling the school and trying to convince a particular candidate to join your school. With the former you are conveying a general sense of the organization, its mission, and its fit within the educational community. You are candid about the school’s strengths and its challenges. In the latter case, you go beyond these messages to enumerate the reasons why your position and the candidate are well suited to one another. You are helping them see how their particular set of skills would contribute to the overall organization and how the organization will help the candidate fulfill their professional and personal goals. It’s a courtship.

Demonstrations of Proficiency
 In a future post I will describe how schools can use demonstrations of proficiency as part of the interview process, including formal presentations, problem sets, and tests of candidates to assist in hiring decisions. 

Other posts in this series

Space: The First Frontier
Writing Job Descriptions
Using Technology to Manage Hiring
Where to Post Jobs
What to Say in Job Postings
Screening Resumes and Letters of Application
Phone Screening Applicants
Behavioral Interview Questions

K-12 IT Management: Behavioral Interview Questions

This is the eighth in a series of posts on IT management for K-12 schools. Before we get to the logistics of how to approach the on-campus (in person or virtual) interview of job candidates it is important to consider the questions that are to be asked, who is going to ask them, and follow-up questions to candidates’ responses. In my career I have been interviewed dozens of times, and been in interviews with candidates hundreds of time, and it has been my experience that on both sides of the table you can tell when interviewers are prepared and who are simply flying by the seat of their pants. The latter are likely to start with questions such as these:

  • Refresh my memory on the highlights of your career experience.
  • Tell me a little bit about yourself.
  • What makes you think that you’d be a good fit for this job?
  • What is your greatest strength? Your greatest weakness?
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • Are you a team player?
  • What do you like most about [fill in the blank].

One of these question at the start of the interview is fine as an icebreaker, but if these are the only types of questions that are asked throughout the entire interview, you will have wasted the time of everyone in the room.

Behavioral and Situational Questions
A much better approach to interviewing is to ask questions that require the candidates to state what they have done in a particular circumstance in their past (behavioral questions) or to ask what they would do if confronted with a particular circumstance in the future (situational questions). Behavioral questions “are past-oriented in that they ask respondents to relate what they did in past jobs or life situations that are relevant to the particular job relevant knowledge, skills, and abilities required for success. The idea is that past behavior is the best predictor of future performance in similar situations. By asking questions about how job applicants have handled situations in the past that are similar to those they will face on the job, employers can gauge how they might perform in future situations.”1 Behavioral questions may work better with more experienced candidates whereas situational questions may work better for entry-level applicants with less job or life experience to draw upon. Behavioral questions usually start something like this:

  • Give me an example of…
  • Tell me about a time that…
  • Describe a situation in which…
  • Have you been in a circumstance when…
  • What did you do when…

Each behavioral question is designed to elicit a description of past behaviors on the part of the candidates. Some candidates may not be used to behavioral questions, and therefore I suggest that you (a) give them time to think about an example, (b) be comfortable with silence, and (c) be ready with follow-up questions to probe their responses for clarification, questions such as:

  • Walk me through your decision-making process.
  • What was your reaction?
  • How did it all work out?
  • What alternatives did you consider?
  • As you think back on this, what are your major take-aways?

Keep the candidates on point. If they start to answer in generalities redirect them to the question, letting them know that you are asking for a specific situation and not generalizations.

Situational questions are much like behavioral questions, simply set in the future.

  • What would you do if…
  • Let me give you a situation and you tell me how you would go about solving it…
  • Here’s a hypothetical problem. Let’s say that…

Be ready with situational follow-up queries to probe the candidates’ thinking, such as:

  • How did you come to this decision?
  • What alternatives are there if your response doesn’t work out?
  • How is your response better for the end user? The school?
  • Are you comfortable with your response as a precedent for similar situations in the future?

Sample Questions by Position
Below are some possible questions for use with several typical positions you would find in a school IT department: Director of Technology, Network Manager, Webmaster, Academic Technology Coordinator, and Help Desk. Questions are behavioral unless otherwise indicated. Some specific follow-ups are suggested, but you can also use any of the general follow-up questions listed above. You may find that some questions are appropriate for several positions.

Director of Technology

  1. Prioritization. Give me an example of a time in which you needed to choose between two or more important priorities in making budget decisions wherein the organization could only fund one of them. Follow-ups: With who did you consult?  What “tipped the scale” for you in making your decision? How did the decision affect the organization?
  2. Employee performance. Tell me about a time when you had to work with someone you were managing who was not performing to standard? Follow-ups: How did the situation work out?  Describe your experience with performance plans. Describe your experience in terminating or laying-off employees. 
  3. Negotiations. Tell me about a time when you needed to negotiate something. It could be costs for equipment or software, salaries, or even a conflict between two people. Follow-ups: Would you describe the outcome as having a “winner” and a “loser?” Did the outcome affect any subsequent relations with the persons involved? What was your emotional state during the negotiations?
  4. Communications. Managers often have to communicate with different groups within an organization. Aside from the people they manage, K-12 IT managers must relate with faculty, staff, other administrators, parents, vendors, board members, and so on. Describe a situation in which you had to deliver the same basic message, but to different audiences. How did  you tailor your remarks for each group? Follow-ups: How did you use different media to make your point? Did you prepare differently for each audience? How do you mix different communication forms (oral, written, multimedia) to get your message across?
  5. Organizational structure. There are a number of different organizational structures in which the K-12 IT function can operate, for example within business operations, faculty, the library, the principal’s or superintendent’s office. Describe the setup from one of your past positions and the pros and cons associated with it. Follow-ups: Where do you see IT best fitting in school organizations of the future? How might cloud computing and software as service (SAS) models affect the reporting relationship of IT departments within 21st century schools? 
  6. Professional development. Professional development for faculty is usually the subject of intense interest and frequent in-service programs in schools. What have you done to address technology professional development of non-teaching staff: those in back-office positions such as accounting, human resources, fundraising, maintenance, transportation, and so on? Follow-ups: What was the outcome? Did the PD of staff and that of faculty have any common elements? What special needs did non-teaching staff have?
  7. Budgeting. Describe the system you have used to forecast and manage budgets. Follow-ups: From whom do you seek advice and input in creating a budget? How do you approach salaries? Describe the equipment replacement cycle that you have used. How far out do you forecast expenses? What have you done when actual expenses were going to exceed your budget?
  8. Hiring. What was the most successful hiring effort that you have led? Follow-ups: How did this process differ from others? What were you able to take from that to apply to other hiring situations? Where does hiring rank in the multiple priorities that confront managers?
  9. Strategic planning. Describe a time when you had to develop and present plans that anticipated new technologies not yet in use in your workplace. How did you go about researching them and creating a case for early experimentation and/or pilot programs? Follow-ups: What were the budget implications for the new technology? How did you convince others that something may be worth investigating? What happened as a result of your trial?
  10. Thought leadership. Who are the thought leaders in Information and Instructional Technology that you listen to and follow? Follow-ups: Describe your use of social media to discuss IT and educational technology and leadership issues with other professionals. What conferences do you like to attend? What makes them worth the time and expense?

Network Manager

  1. Troubleshooting. Describe a time when you experienced the failure of a mission-critical system in your networking or server environment. What were the steps you took in troubleshooting the issue, consulting with colleagues and/or vendors, communicating with system users, and restoring systems to their proper functioning? Follow-Ups: What did you learn from this problem? What steps did you take to minimize the chances of it recurring?
  2. Documentation. Describe a time when someone else had to rely on your documentation to address a technical issue? What happened? Follow-ups: Was the documentation on paper or online? Were they able to resolve the issue from the documentation alone or did they call or email you for clarification? What systems do you like to use to create your documentation?  What technical systems do you believe are critical to be well documented? Was there a time when lack of documentation adversely affected your department’s operations? What was the result and follow-up?
  3. Systems integration. Describe a situation in which you had to rely on different systems communicating with one another through a common protocol or had to create your own mechanism for data exchange. Follow-ups: What directory standards have you used? Why did you choose that one? How have you used open-source software in your postion?
  4. Back-ups. Most system administrators are familiar with backup procedures and recognize their importance within an enterprise. End users are often less fastidious about backing up their data. Describe the approach you have taken in the past in working with end users to assure that their data is properly backed-up. Follow-ups: What policies, procedures, software or hardware solutions did you employ? What was the outcome when you had to restore end-user data? Describe a situation in which data was irretrievably lost.
  5. Security. Describe the elements that comprise a network, server, and end-user computer/device security system to maintain system integrity and information confidentiality including physical security, hardware, software, and human factors. Follow-ups: Talk about a security breach, large or small, that you had a role in resolving. What was the situation? How did it happen? What steps were taken to mitigate the damage? 
  6. Ease of use. Describe a time when you had to balance the need for security and ease-of-use for your end-users. What was the issue and how was it resolved? Follow-ups: How do you work with employees and students to enlist them in your efforts to maintain a secure computing environment? Should employees have administrator access to their computers? What about students?
  7. Cloud-based services. (situational) How do you see the mix of site-based services and cloud-based services changing over the next five years? Follow-ups: What are the pros and cons of site-based versus cloud-based services for the IT professional? For end-users? How might cloud-based services impact networking needs in a school?
  8. Trade-offs. A commonly cited conundrum in information technology is that when it comes to installing new systems you can: get it fast, get it cheap, or get it really high quality. Describe a time when you were involved in choosing a new technology system. Did you find this old adage to be true? What were the trade-offs, if any, that you had to make? Follow-ups: Is it ever possible to satisfy all three? Most schools have limited funding, does this mean that high quality will always be difficult to achieve?
  9. Software releases. Describe the approach to installing, testing, and releasing major network patches and upgrades. Follow-ups: Talk about a time when you had to regress to an earlier version. What happened? What are your pre-release testing procedures? What criteria do you use in determining that an upgrade is worth the time and effort to roll out?
  10. Schools vs. businesses. (situational) Describe what is (or might be) different and what is the same between IT in a business setting and IT in a school setting. Follow-ups: How do the missions of schools and businesses differ? Are “best practices” situation dependent or universal?

Webmaster

  1. Websites and web applications. Describe the websites and web applications that you have worked with, including any interoperability. Follow-ups: Which systems were hosted in-house and which systems were cloud-based? How did the systems communicate with one another? Who was responsible for the “big picture” of all of these various systems?
  2. Content and content management. Describe your role in creating and managing the content of your web site(s). Follow-ups: What content management system did you use? What were the pluses and minuses of this system? Who else was responsible for content? How did you deal with multiple content authors?
  3. Social media. Describe your role in working with work-related social media. Follow-ups: What was your role in creating and pushing content to social media outlets? Describe how you responded to social media messages. Give an example of how you deal with any social media “attacks” or negative messaging about your organization.
  4. Design. Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision about web site design. What were the issues and trade-offs, and how did you determine what to do? Follow-ups: Who else was consulted in making the decision? How did the design work out? What changes were made as a result of end-user feedback?
  5. Metrics. Describe how you gather feedback about the site using site metrics. What metrics do you consider to be the most important? Follow-ups: How have you made changes to a web site based on metrics? Which metrics, if any, are irrelevant in a school setting?
  6. Maintenance. Talk about how you maintain a website to assure that the content remains fresh and accurate. Follow-ups: What tools do you use to check for dead links? How do you create pages that self-expire on a given date? 
  7. Multimedia. Describe how you have incorporate multi-media into web sites, including the types of media and means used to present it to users. Follow-ups: What alternatives did you consider for video content and what did you choose to use? How did this work out? Did you promote your organization’s multimedia content on other web or social media sites? 
  8. Usability. How did you go about determining the usability of your web site? Follow-ups: Describe any usability studies you conducted. Tell me about the experiences that web site visitors with limited vision or other physical impairments had with your web site. What web standards guides your work?
  9. Security. Tell me about a time when you had to work with internal or external resources to address security concerns associated with your work. What was the issue, and how do you go about resolving it? Follow-ups: What are the security considerations for software or practices such as Java plugins, Adobe Flash, passwords, single sign-on (SSO), and https. What do you consider to be the greatest threat to web security? What steps did you take the ensure the privacy of end-user data?
  10. Reliability. Describe how you measure reliability of your web site and services. Follow-ups: What automated systems did you use to alert you to possible problems? How did you work with other IT staff to make sure that Internet connectivity and internal web site servers were up to industry standards? What level of service agreements did you insist upon for external vendors?

Academic Technology Coordinator

  1. Technology integration. Describe a successful technology integration project that you are especially proud of. Follow-ups: What was the “secret sauce” that made this project turn out so well? What lessons did you take away from this regarding other technology integration projects? Describe a time when a project did not go so well.
  2. Leadership and vision. (situational) Imagine that you are ten years into the future in a technology-rich American school. How would this school look different from a typical classroom of today? Follow-ups: What led you to this particular vision? What pre-conditions would be necessary for this vision to come to pass? What could be done today to start on the path towards this vision?
  3. Educational applications. Provide an example from your past when you were able to recommend a focused educational application or web site that was superior to general desktop tools that contributed significantly to teaching and learning. Follow-ups: Describe how you have used educational gaming, science probeware, GPS mapping, or robotics in teaching and learning.  
  4. STEM. Describe a cross-curricular, multi-disciplinary STEM project that you initiated or assisted with. Follow-ups: What was your exact role? How did the curriculum planning process work? What were the take-aways? Did the project spur interest in similar efforts?
  5. Assessment. Tell me about a time when you helped a teacher use technology as part student assessment, something beyond the simple use of grade book software. Follow-ups: Was this individual or group assessment? Was the technology component assessed separately from the project content? What was your role in designing the assessment rubric?
  6. Student co-curricular activities. Provide an example of a student club or co-curricular activity you were involved with that went particularly well. Follow-ups: What was the extend of your involvement? What other adults were involved? What could have gone wrong but didn’t? How did you maintain student engagement?
  7. Standards. Tell me about a time when you used standards such as ISTE NETS, P21, or other technology standards in designing professional development activities for educators. Follow-ups: Which standards did you use? What led you to make this choice? Who else was involved in making this decision? What was the outcome?
  8. Change. Describe a situation in which you were able to change a negative opinion of educational technology to a more positive one. Follow-ups: How do you determine what might be the right approach to use with a teacher? Tell me about a situation where you have failed to influence someone in the desired direction. How do you approach working with change-resitant users?
  9. Acceptable use. Handheld portable devices are increasingly being used in schools in both official and unofficial capacities, creating IT and classroom management challenges. Describe a time when you had to deal with inappropriate use of a portable device by one or more students. Follow-ups: How do you approach the subject of “acceptable use” policies? How might the definition of acceptable use be changing? What role should students and parents play in determining acceptable use?
  10. Online learning. Describe an outstanding online experience you have had, either as a student or as a leader. Follow-ups: What are the hallmarks of a great online experience? What makes an online experience fail? At what age should students make use of online instruction? What is the role of online learning in K-12 schools?

Help Desk

  1. Diagnose and solve technical issues. Tell me about a time when you were presented with a technical glitch (hardware or software) that was difficult to diagnose. What did you do when normal diagnostic procedures failed to yield the expected result? Follow-ups: With whom did you consult? How did you keep the user(s) informed of progress on resolving the issue? What was the outcome? How did you document the problem?
  2. Hardware repair. Describe your experience in making simple hardware repairs. What components have you replaced or fixed in laptops, computers, printers, copiers, or other devices? Follow-ups: How did you acquire these skills? What tools do you use to diagnose hardware failure? What resources do you rely upon that guide you in making repairs?
  3. Inventory. Tell me about your experiences in receiving, tagging, inventorying, and tracking new equipment in an organization. Follow-ups: Describe a time when equipment appeared to be missing. What was the outcome? How did you use bar-codes in your inventory process? How were assets tracked in your organization?
  4. Disk images. Describe a time when you found an error in a disk image. Follow-ups: How do you perform quality assurance on disk images? Describe the step-by-step process you use in creating a new disk image. What disk image and management tools have you used? How do you deal with different drivers and operating systems?
  5. Preventive maintenance. Describe a time when preventive maintenance processes you had in place warned you of an imminent hardware failure before it could become a serious problem. Follow-ups: What systems do you like to use for preventive maintenance? What do you recommend to end-users to enlist their assistance in preventive maintenance? When a computer comes for repair or other problems, what other work do you routinely perform before putting it back into service?
  6. AV support. Tell me about a time when you were providing technical support for an event and there was an equipment failure of some sort. What happened and how did you address it? Follow-ups: How do create contingency plans in case of equipment or connectivity failures? How do you check that all AV systems for a presentation are in place and functioning correctly? How do you prepare for outside presenters who bring their own equipment and/or content for use?
  7. Help desk software. Tell me about your practices with help desk software systems. What were its primary functions and how did you make us of it? Talk about a specific feature that made your job considerably easier (or harder). Follow-ups: How did end-users interact with the system? How did the system interact inventory, preventive maintenance, disk imaging, or other help desk tasks? Did you manage the help desk queue or were tasks assigned to you by someone else?
  8. Computer labs, carts, and loaners. Provide an example of how you worked with a teacher to support a group of students in a computer lab or in a classroom using a laptop cart. Follow-ups: How did you deal with problems the students may encountered that required your intervention? What systems did you have in place to make sure that the lab was ready for students to use? Where did students store their files, and what were the pros and cons of that system? What systems did you have in place to make sure that labs would not serve as entry-points for computer malware?
  9. Consumable supplies. Describe how you manage consumable supplies (such as paper, toner, batteries). Follow-ups: What systems do you use to alert you that certain consumables may need replacement soon? How do you track use of consumable supplies to help control costs? What procedures do you follow to make sure that e-waste is properly disposed of?
  10. Work and storage areas. It departments can often have an unkempt, even messy look to them. Describe how you have organized your work area so that tools, current projects and repairs, trouble tickets, and the like are maintained in an orderly fashion that allows you and others in your department quick and easy access to needed tools, equipment, and supplies without compromising physical security. Follow-ups: Describe the system you used for organizing spare parts and tools. Describe how you set-up staging areas for new equipment. Describe your practice for maintaining secure storage areas.

Soft Skills

The behavioral questions provided above are in large measure designed to elicit responses for sets of job responsibilities. Equally important, and perhaps arguable as important in a school setting, are “soft skills,” what Wikipedia defines as ”relating to a person’s ‘EQ’ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people. Soft skills complement hard skills (part of a person’s IQ), which are the occupational requirements of a job and many other activities.”

Listed below, courtesy of my brilliant daughter and organizational management expert, are examples of soft skills questions that can and should be part of interviews for any position within your school.

  • We’ve all had occasions when something that was our responsibility escaped our attention at work. Give me an example of when this happened to you and how you handled it.
  • Give me an example of when you took initiative to improve a process or situation.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to adjust quickly to a significant change in priorities. How did the change affect you? What did you do?
  • Not all organizational changes are clearly explained and/or communicated. What have you done when you found out about an unexpected change or were confused by a change?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to change your plans to help a peer at work. How did it affect you? What did you do?
  • Sometimes we need to make changes when the way we’ve been doing things is no longer effective. Tell me about a time when you had to change your approach or method of work. What did you do? What were the results?
  • Tell me about a time you had to climb a steep learning curve. How did you approach the new learning?
  • Tell me about a time when you felt overwhelmed by a situation at work. How did you respond?
  • Walk me through a situation in which you asked a lot of questions of several people to get the information you needed to make an effective decision. How did you know what to ask?
  • Describe a situation in which you needed to analyze and interpret a situation in order to make a recommendation.
  • Sometimes we have to make decisions very quickly. Tell me about a time when you made a decision TOO quickly – what happened? 
  • Give me an example of an idea you had to improve your organization’s processes. How did you come up with the idea? What happened?
  • What strategies have you used to encourage others to challenge established assumptions?
  • Tell me about the greatest lengths you’ve gone to in order to satisfy a user.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a user who made unreasonable demands. What did you do?
  • Tell me about a situation in which you had to understand the exact nature of user needs or problems. Walk me through the situation and what you said to draw out the information you needed.
  • Tell me about a particular user and how you went about establishing a relationship of trust and respect.
  • What have you done to understand a user’s point of view about a problem? Please give me an example.
  • Tell me about the most memorable presentation you made in the last year. 
  • Tell me about how you have adjusted your presentations to different audiences. Give me a specific example.
  • We’ve all made presentations in which something went wrong – tell me about a memorable time when something went wrong.
  • Describe a time when you had to provide support for an end-user who was using a computer or device that you were less familiar with. Follow-ups: How did you approach the problem and what was its resolution?
  • Describe a time when you had a major disagreement with a subordinate, co-worker, or your supervisor. What steps did you take to resolve the issue and what was the outcome.
  • Describe a time when you have worked (or volunteered) with a mission-driven organization, such as a non-profit, volunteer organization, school, place of religious worship, etc. What brought you to that place? How important was the organization’s mission to your job or volunteer satisfaction?
  • Describe the best boss you have ever had. What were the characteristics that made that person stand out?

Other posts in this series:

Space: The First Frontier
Writing Job Descriptions
Using Technology to Manage Hiring
Where to Post Jobs
What to Say in Job Postings
Screening Resumes and Letters of Application
Phone Screening Applicants

K-12 IT Management: Phone Screening Applicants

This is the seventh in a series of posts on Human Resources for Information Technology Managers.

Having sorted through resumes and letters of application for your technology department opening you may find yourself wanting to phone screen candidates to whittle down the numbers a bit more before conducting on-campus interviews. Online interviews, by phone or videoconference, can be very time-efficient. As with the sorting and scoring that occurred in the previous step, the hiring manager can delegate this step to a trusted colleague or perform it personally. Under most circumstances I recommend that hiring managers make such calls.

Logistics
While I recommend that hiring manager conduct the calls, there’s no reason why they need schedule them. Anyone knows who has tried to coordinate the appointment calendars of several people knows that this can prove to be time-consuming. I recommend that the scheduler not use email for this step, but instead call the candidates to make the appointments. Be prepared to offer several different days and times based on the hiring manager’s schedule. Be reasonably accommodating to candidates’ needs, especially if they need to exercise discretion with their current employer or reside in a time zone different from your own.

Allow for ten to fifteen minutes before the scheduled call to test connections and make sure that hiring managers and anyone else on the call are settled into a quiet space before actually starting the interview. You will also want to allow for 20-30 minutes following the call for hiring managers to make notes and, if there were others on the call, discuss the interview.

Video or Phone?
My personal preference is video calls as they can convey so much more information than voice alone can. One can pick-up on non-verbal cues and clues that are more opaque in voice only communication, especially the so-called soft-skills of communication styles, friendliness, openness, professionalism, optimism, humor and so on.

However, video will also reveal characteristics of the candidates such as race, ethnicity, handicapping conditions, age and other “protected class” attributes that could trigger bias in some interviewers. Such bias is unethical and illegal. Be sure to treat the candidates as if they are in the room with you, making sure that neither you nor anyone else involved with the call engages in any discriminatory non-verbal behavior or off-screen messaging.

Having declared my predilection for video, lat me also say that a good phone connection is vastly superior to an interview with poor video performance. Teleconferencing company Polycom has a practical guide for good video conferencing should you want to review checklist prior to the call.

Recording the Interview
You may wish to record the interview. Screen capture software makes this very easy for video and audio conference calls made through a computer. A recording also makes it easier for you to review what was said to make sure you have an accurate recollection for your notes and to share the interview with others involved in the interview process.

However, recordings of this kind are subject to certain federal and state laws which may not be easy to sort out. Your school’s attorney may need to provide guidance. One place to start for advice on recording phone calls is the Citizen Media Law Project which cites relevant federal and state statutes.

Phone Screen Rubric
In my previous post I wrote of the need to use rubric for screening resumes and letters of application. You will want to use a different rubric for the phone screen, one that clarifies any significant questions you may have and which looks at the previously mentioned “soft skills” that can’t be easily assessed by simply reading the candidates’ materials.

Listening and Selling
This is also your opportunity to listen carefully to the candidates’ questions and to “sell” your school and why it is such a great place to work. Have the major points of your pitch outlined before the meeting, preferably engineered to what you believe may be the specific interests of the candidate.

Salary and Benefits
My feeling salary and benefits should be discussed in person with candidates. If it comes up during the phone screen, speak in vague terms and only if candidates initiate the question.

Discuss Next Steps
Candidates who are phone screened know that they have already passed one hurdle. It is appropriate to tell them where you are in the hiring process and a general timeline for making decisions about next steps. Hiring managers will usually know within a day of the phone screen if they are interested in going to the next step, which might be additional phone interviews or even moving to on-campus interviews. My advice is to not drag out this step, but let the candidate know as soon as you have made a go/no go determination. It’s up to you if you deliver the news via email or a phone call. If you have the time, a phone call is more respectful even if it may feel awkward.

Others in the IT Management series:
Space: The First Frontier
Writing Job Descriptions
Using Technology to Manage Hiring 
Where to Post Jobs
What to Say in Job Postings
Screening Resumes and Letters of Application

 

K-12 IT Management: Screening Resumes & Letters of Application

This is the sixth in a series of posts on Human Resources for Information Technology Managers.

Having strategically posted and advertised your department’s job opening you now face the challenge of dealing with applicant phone calls, emails, snail mail (sorry USPS), and in-person document drop-offs.

Many managers and HR representatives complain about the deluge of applications they receive, and if you are not adequately prepared someone in your organization–perhaps you–will end up with a lot of paper on their desk and emails in their inbox to sort through. Here are some steps to help you save your sanity and find great candidates…

  • Use your talent manager software. See my previous post, Using Technology to Manage Hiring, or at the very least…
  • Set-up an auto-response or email template. You want to acknowledge that you have received a candidate’s resume and letter of application, and give them a general time-frame for your next contact. This may prevent additional calls to the school or email messages, and it is simply the polite and professional thing to do.
  • Sort people in rather than out. This is a mind-trick I’ve employed when trying to make a quick sort through incoming messages. When I get an immediate and positive feeling about a candidate they are move to my “in” pile or file folder.
  • Reject generic resumes and those with typographical errors. This is an employers market. If the applicant refers to your school IT department with a phrase such as “help you optimize your organization’s growth and achieve its mission” then they are not really interested in your job, just any jobOut the airlock!
  • Get help. There’s nothing saying that the IT manager needs to look at each and every resume that comes in. If you have a trusted associate or an assistant, a colleague in HR let them do the initial sort for you. Not done this before? Simply sit together with that person and go through a dozen together, with the hiring manager looking at each resume and vocalizing their thinking as they review it, followed by a declaration of “in” or “out.” Make your thinking transparent to the assistant so he/she knows how you approach such things.
  • Use a rubric. Create a rubric or evaluation form, tied to the job description, that can rate each candidate against the required skill set and experience. You can use a scale such as
    • exceeds job requirements
    • meets job requirements
    • lacks job requirements, or one with more or different criteria. You could assign point and an overall score, remembering that such ratings are highly subjective and can provide only a rough means for helping to sort in or out.
  • Re-read “ins” from back to front. Most resumes are written in reverse chronological order. For those applicants in you are giving a second look you can get a better sense of their job history by reading it in chronological order. You will want to look for significant and unexplained career gaps, (more common in our present economy,) and multiple jobs held for relatively short durations. You should hope to see a career with increasing levels of responsibility, achievements and awards.
  • Google “ins.”  You are hiring for a technology position and you should be able to find evidence of an active and appropriate online life. Check Linked-In, Facebook and use other search engines such as Bing to see what a candidate’s online persona is like. Inappropriate photos and rants? They’re no longer “in.”
  • Contact definite “outs.” Using a personalized but formulaic email, contact those candidates who are definitely not good fits as soon as possible to thank them for their interest and  let them know that it is not a fit. Ignore candidates who write back and ask why they were not selected, at least right now, as time is limited and you have to focus on hiring. Letting candidates who don’t have a snowball’s chance in Hades of getting a job at your school wonder what is going on is a bit sadistic and unprofessional. Leave them with a positive impression of your school. They may represent a future employee (albeit most likely in a far different role), parent of a student, or perhaps even a donor.

In my practice I usually only read the letters of application of those I have chosen for a closer look. Letters give you another peek into the applicant, one in which they are freed from the constraints of the resume format and can let their creativity, fit, and interest show a bit more. Most of the advice for resume screening applies to letters as well. Letters, however, do not have to be as formulaic as resumes and therefore may give you more insight into the applicant’s creativity, job fit, and level of interest.

Others in the IT Management series:
Space: The First Frontier
Writing Job Descriptions
Using Technology to Manage Hiring 
Where to Post Jobs
What to Say in Job Postings
Phone Screening Applicants

 

K-12 IT Management: What to Say in a Job Post

This is the fifth in a series of posts on Human Resources for Information Technology Managers.

Having identified where you want to post your job opening, you are now faced with what to write in it.

In my experience, most job openings seem to be written by formula, and a dull one at that:

[Insert school here] seeks a (choose adjective(s) here: dynamic, innovative, experienced, creative, etc.] for the position of [insert boring job title here]. [Insert School here] is a [insert adjective(s) here: leading, rigorous, challenging, etc.]  located in [insert chamber of commerce description here, e.g., dynamic, peaceful, affordable, beautiful.] blah, blah, blah.

At this point, the text usually starts to list qualifications, requirements, and job duties which no one person could possibly perform and also lead anything resembling a normal life. You might as well tack on “walks on water and then turns it into wine, heals the sick, gives sight to the blind, and is willing to die a horrible death.”

Despite these unearthly expectations, people still apply for these jobs because (1) it’s a terrible job market and (2) they stop reading after the first couple of items.

But let me be clear: Job  postings are not always about the applicants. Sometimes its about the candidates who see your posting but don’t take action.

Steve Jobs reputedly hired John Scully away from Pepsi by asking him “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” While many people may argue that Scully’s tenure at Apple was a really bad hiring decision, Jobs question was nonetheless one heck of recruiting ploy. The query altered Scully’s mental framework. Knowing how to frame a question, or how to frame a job posting, can make the difference between finding good candidates and great candidates; between the solid and the spectacular.

Consider using different text depending on where you are posting the position. For example, on your school’s web site you may reasonably expect that candidates are interested in K-12 education in your geographical area. You can reasonably infer to use text that is more in keeping with other job postings and overall marketing message of the institution as a whole.

On job boards, especially those frequented by geeks, perhaps you’d like to be a bit more experimental and bold.

You could try issuing a challenge:

  • Think you’re re really smarter than a third grader? Prove it!
  • Did high school suck for you? Make it better.
  • Would you rather fix the computer for some marketing nerd who could care less about you or thirty kids who think you’re the goddess of computerdom?
Or you might try appealing to a candidate’s sense of public purpose and mission:
  • Anyone can make money. Only a few can make lives.
  • American education is broken. Fix it.
  • Would you rather build your resume or build the future?
And the a dash of humor might even be worth a shot:
  • Work for the coolest school this side of Starfleet Academy.
  • Geniuses wanted. The merely brilliant need not apply.
  • Dilbert wishes he had gone to school here.
Another “out-there” idea: A video job posting. Put your posting on Vimeo or You-Tube, following a scripted description of the opening. Don’t have time to make one for a specific job? Consider making one just about working at your school, being sure to involve multiple people (faculty, staff, students) talking about why your school is a great place to be, revealing a bit more about your culture and facilities. Schools aren’t Google, but you can get a sense of what Google’s culture is like from this video:

Getting a Bit More Specific
When you create a job posting, whether somewhat formulaic,”edgy” or something in-between, there are certain elements that it should always contain. In no particular order, be sure to:
  • describe why someone should be interested in your school. What distinguishes you from other schools? How is this particular job going to be better than a similar one in another school? (Tip: substitute a competitor school’s name for your own and see if it still holds true. If so, you have not distinguished yourself.)
  • get a second opinion. Run your posting by a trusted colleague, especially someone from another school, and ask them how they would respond if they saw it online.
  • describe how to take action. Be very clear about the steps candidates should follow to apply including any or all of the following: letter of application and what it should include, a resume or longer curriculum vitae, an online portfolio, and to complete any online application that your school uses.1 Don’t include phone numbers if you don’t want calls. Don’t include personal email addresses but rather one that can be auto-forwarded to whoever is handling your hiring process. Do include physical addresses so applicants can Google your location and get a birds-eye view of it.
  • use an industry-standard job title. Assume that some candidates might find your job by using standard search query terms. Even if your posting is on the creative end of the spectrum, try to include more common terminology to allow for search engines and searching humans to discover the information.
  • keep it short. The posting is not the same as a job description nor is it a reiteration of annual performance objectives. It should be relatively short, 2-3 paragraphs in length. See “walks on water” above.
  • format for the web. Depending on your posting site, you may be able to embed graphics and hyperlinks in the posting. If you can, make strategic use of these to draw attention to your posting and make it convenient for applicants to take action.
What have you found to be useful in creating job postings? Feel free to comment below.
  1. The reason you ask for candidates to complete an application is that it often concludes with a statement indicating that the information in it is true and factual. If you later discover that the candidate lied on the application, that can be grounds for dismissal whereas misrepresentation on a resume may not.