Hay ho, it's the way to go

16th April 2004 at 01:00
John Howson finds potential but no shortcuts in a structured guide to staff selection

THE SCHOOL RECRUITMENT HANDBOOK: A guide to attracting, selecting and keeping outstanding teachers. By Russell Hobby, Sharon Crabtree and Jennifer Ibbetson Routledge Falmer pound;39.99

The authors of this A4 spiral-bound handbook have significant theoretical and practical knowledge of the recruitment and selection of staff in schools. But the book owes much, as they acknowledge, to the methods devised by The Hay Group, where they now work.

The book is divided into three parts. These cover the basic principles of recruitment using the Hay methodology, a step-by-step guide to recruitment process, with Hay's Critical Incident interviewing at the centre of the process, and finally a series of practical learning exercises to help readers internalise their understanding of the process.

The book aims to help schools recruit effective teachers, but it could also be used to review effectiveness of existing colleagues. At its heart is a process for collecting information in a structured manner and reviewing the data gained against a set of criteria, in this case the seven skills and 16 characteristics identified as essential for effective teachers.

Critical Incident Interviewing attempts to replace the typical interview, based on questions driven by the interviewer, with a more open, probing technique that guides candidates to, in the words of the authors, "produce the right level of detail within a story of their own choosing". In doing so, it separates the process of information-gathering from that of analysis, whereas the typical recruitment interview too often fuses both together.

This is nothing new. The Secondary Heads Association's assessment centre, established more than a decade ago and originally based at Oxford Brookes University, used similar principles of evidence-gathering, leading to comparisons with pre-defined competencies to help develop and recruit successful leaders in schools.

The danger with the Hay process, as with the SHA's, is that busy recruiters will try to pick the bits that seem relevant without studying the whole process. I would urge readers not to attempt such a shortcut. This book, although not as attractively set out as it could have been, provides a structured approach to recruitment. Anyone who works through the whole experience can't fail to become better at it.

The book is probably best used with an experienced trainer as part of a professional development programme for heads, middle managers or even governing bodies. My criticisms are that there could be more coverage of the legal background to recruitment, and that matters such as how to design effective advertisements and recruitment packs do not seem to receive as much attention as the interpersonal issues. While these issues are important, if you fail to attract the right candidates at the start of the process, the rest is a waste of time, effort and money.

John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys and visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University

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