Hiring Insights from a Principal

Andrew Robbin
Andrew Robbin

Hiring staff is one of the most important responsibilities of a principal. To be able to select the classroom teacher that will guide students’ learning and personal development is a monumental task that requires careful consideration. Being the principal of a primary-aged school, this process has been successful for me. Here are my hiring insights.

Reviewing Applications

People do a variety of things to set their candidacy apart at the start of the application process. With the use of online applications such as Front Line Education, the mass paper packages are no longer overwhelming my mailbox. The key drivers that I look for in an applicant’s paperwork are:

  • An accurate and specific cover letter.
  • A resume highlighting the educational background and relevant work experiences for the candidate. If either the cover letter or resume go to a second page, it can sometimes be an attempt to mask lack of relevant experience or inconsistent work history.
  • A strong letter of recommendation from the supervisor or principal. A colleague’s or professor’s letter will always be glowing and do not set a candidate apart, but they can confirm the supervisor’s comments. In most situations, references should be recent.

Through this vetting process, I narrow down over 150 applicants to about 30.


The 30 or so candidates are invited to a 15-minute screening interview for a more specific conversation focusing in on literacy and classroom community with a member of the leadership team and me.

After the screening interview, I narrow the field to under 10 candidates. Teachers are invited to join the committee with the task of narrowing this pool to two or three finalists. This round is a 45-minute interview with a variety of questions covering a range of topics. In addition, the candidate has to analyze a piece of student work that would be relevant to the job.

The finalists selected by the committee are invited to teach a lesson. When school is in session, we go to an existing classroom. In the summer, I’m able to have students come in to school. Frequently, district office administration is part of this step. I will check references prior to the lesson so that if needed, we can offer a job right after the lesson.


It’s easy to offer the job. While it takes time, I do call every applicant that I interviewed that did not get the job. If asked, I will share feedback to the candidates to support them in their next interview or how to improve their practice. Typically, I give generic advice the first time but offer the opportunity for them to call me at another time as it may be too emotional for the candidate at that time. Very often, I am able to use the candidates in the screening interview to fill any non-certified opening, which is a time-saver, and adds to a quality staff.

While the interview process takes time, it is a needed practice to getting the right teacher. It’s inspiring to see why people teach, and including staff allows them to take ownership of the process and assist the newest hire.

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