Monday, May 9, 2011

New President Interview -- Part 7

Search Committees and New Hires

Part Seven of an imaginary interview with the newly appointed president of the College. Note this is just for your information and amusement. Any connection to a real college president is strictly coincidental.

Q> Many years ago you wrote an article about the hiring of teachers in which you suggested lines of questions that went counter to conventional practice. Would you please revisit this topic and give some advice on how you would handle the interview process?

A>  When I was in the Boy Scouts as a teenager, my father was on the Board of Review. When a Scout passed all the requirements for a new rank, he went before the Board. The Board’s task was to question the scout to make sure he was worthy of the new rank. The Board was not interested in how well someone could do the tasks such as fist aide or tying knot, they wanted to know if the Scout had the thinking skills needed to be part of the team and a member of the troop. Sometimes this was a learning experience and the scout did not pass the first session. One example of a question was, if someone is bleeding what color handkerchief does one use to stop the blood. If the Scout answered, “I don’t know I’ll have to go look it up.” That boy was sent home to look up the answer and failed to get his rank. If the answer was, “The red one.” The Board would question why and probe to find out why red. If they were satisfied the boy passed. If the boy answered, “The first one I found.” The boy passed because that indicated he was thinking about preventing further injury and possibly saving a life. Skills to work under pressure are very important.

My father was trying to teach us that there are important life skills that one can not learn by reading a book or sitting in a lecture. If I have two candidates with equal academic preparation, I want to find the one who is best match. I want a team player, but not a “yes-man.” I want someone who can share the College’s goal and add to the diversity of thought, culture and wisdom already on campus. I want someone who will set an example of the best we want to teach the students in and out of the classroom. I want someone who knows his or her subject, but also knows when to ask for help.

After the search committee chooses the best candidates based on their examination of the resumes and the paper documents,  then we can work on determining whom to call for personal interviews. I want to know if I can depend on this person on a daily basis and in a time of urgency.

While I don’t want to dictate the exact words of the questions I would ask would cover these topics:
1>  Who are your mentors now? Tell me about a teacher, supervisor, colleague, etc. who helped shape who you are today. Who has a role in guiding your thinking and actions now?

I’m not looking for the name of a person, but the type of person and their role. I am looking for a candidate who knows when to ask for help and when to seek advice from an expert. While there are multiple right answers, someone who answers in an arrogant or haughty way would not make a good team player or good teacher for our College.

2>  How would you handle the unexpected? How would you handle emergencies?

I’m looking for someone who plans for contingencies and knows what do when the situation is urgent. Answers could include, “it depends on the emergency.” In that case give an example and ask what they would do.

3>  How do you overcome or compensate for your limitations? Since I want people who can recognize they can’t do everything, they should learn to compensate. For example someone who can’t spell well should learn to ask someone to proof-read any document, assignment, etc. “I don’t… very well. “ is not an excuse.

4>  How do you plan to keep learning and maintain current knowledge in your field? In other words what is your learning plan? Everyone in the College needs a learning plan. Depending on the answer, the search committee may educate the candidate to the need for continuous learning and improvement or say this person is not for our College.

5>  Ask questions related to diversity, variant opinions, and multiple right answers. Candidates should be comfortable in a diverse population. Diversity takes many forms. It is not just about the diversity of the backgrounds, cultures, and origins of the students and faculty. Academic pursuit of excellence is about the search for truth. We need to agree about the goals, but there could be many paths, options and opportunities.

6>  At the community college level we are not as concerned with publications as a research university, but we are looking to see how the candidate’s work has improved over time. Has the person matured personally and academically? Does the person see both the big picture and small picture of their academic discipline? Does the candidate know how their subject fits into a full curriculum?

Has the candidate’s work matured, advanced beyond elementary questions, and focused on issues of wisdom and consequence?  Hopefully these questions will help find the best new faculty who can follow the College's goals and teach with excellence and distinction.

Please send more questions for the new president.
---- to be continued   
Wilbur Wright College

No comments: