I hate it. Of all the various drudgeries that make up the department chair job, filling open positions is absolutely the worst. The pain begins with the reading of the resumes and the inevitable separation of said summaries of lives into the “suitable” and “unsuitable” piles. The position I have open in my department is only a part-time job and 53 resumes landed on my desk, or my virtual desk, rather, since resume submission has gone digital now. At first the pain is minimal – eliminate candidates who are not properly certified by the state. Second elimination round takes care of people applying from out of state or out of the country. Then the separation of possibles begins. First layer: experience vs. no experience. No experience usually means a just-graduated new teacher or a second-career person who has a teaching certificate because they passed the relevant test but haven’t been in a classroom beyond some substituting. At first blush, this whole pile should have been in the trashcan from the start, but members of this pile have a golden attribute – they’re cheap. They come in at the bottom of the payscale, so they are interesting to the administration.

Of the “experienced” pile, the first thing to check is job history. In this state, the magic number for tenure (which means little anymore beyond they have to provide a valid reason for canning your ass if you’re fired) is three continuous years of service. For those first three years, firing is as simple as saying sayonara. So, this pile gets perused for people who were never kept beyond that magic third employment year. Sometimes there are valid reasons – they moved, there were layoffs due to budget cuts and last-hired-first-fired applies, etc. Sometimes the reasons are also valid in that they were canned because they’re bad at their job. It takes a check of the references of figure out which and calling references sucks.

References are a weird thing. Pretty much every job in the universe asks you to provide letters of reference and, without fail, they are fine. A more careful reading can weed out the truly fine ones and the ones that are fine because the writer doesn’t want to wind up catching flack for saying what they really feel in written form. The real story may or may not come out on the phone. Some people are glad to be honest, others are still worried about some potential lawsuit and will tapdance and beat-around-the-bush so much I want to ask them if we should meet in a dark alley at midnight with signs and counter-signs to establish identities. Sometimes reference calling comes after the interview, sometimes before to decide if I even want to call a person in to talk. Regardless, it is an evil thing.

With a candidate pool narrowed down, it’s time for the actual interviews. Ugh. In truth, I have an idea if I would be willing to hire someone withing the first 30 seconds I speak with them. The right people have that “spark.” It’s the same spark that truly bright students have over the kids with the same grades who get them by working hard. But, if the candidate doesn’t have that magic spark, I still have to give them a proper interview, which will take 30 minutes – 1 hour of my time and I have to be the one to contact them later to say sorry, but thanks for playing.

Now, when I like someone for a job, the story doesn’t end. Now, the principal has to take his own whack at them and god only knows what he’s going to think. Could agree with me, could disagree. I just wait for the verdict and roll with the punches one way or another. I’ve interviewed three people for this position and one has already been given the no-vote. The other two will be interrogated at the admin level probably next week. If neither passes muster, it’s back to the drawing board to pull a new layer of best-of-the-rest and see what happens. But hey, it’s my job. The worst part of the job, but an important part. Fingers crossed that this round of misery ends soon. Toes crossed, too…

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