No favourites, and not a shopping list in sight

2nd June 2006 at 01:00
My heart goes out to Dawn Savage (Talkback, May 12) on missing out on a job to an internal applicant. I too was recently involved in the recruitment of a senior management post, but from the other side of the table. I envy Dawn's selection panel. On the table each member of our panel had:

* the list of questions to be put to each applicant with spaces to accurately record their answers

* the list of "model answers" to compare (as instructed by human resources)

* an assessment sheet for the presentation

* an assessment sheet for the interview

* an overall score sheet.

Sadly, no one had any room for a shopping list.

We also had an internal applicant. That person was included in the shortlist for interview on the same basis as the others: the application accurately met the criteria for selection. We did acknowledge that, should that applicant ultimately be successful, the other applicants could be tempted to cry "favouritism". That was why, throughout the process, we had to make sure that no bias was present. In completing the assessments, I was conscious of a tendency to be harsher in marks on the internal applicant to compensate for any perceived advantage that person might have.

At the end of the process, each member of the selection panel totalled their scores for each applicant and passed them to the chair. Since most of the governors knew none of the applicants, any possible bias from those who knew the internal candidate was negated. After an objective process - as confirmed by the representative from the local authority's human resources department - the best candidate was selected. It was the internal applicant.

As a community governor with no links to academia but many years'

experience in industry, I would offer this advice to Dawn. At a senior management level, candidates should be prepared for a selection process to cover several days. Newly graduated applicants for the most junior roles in industry attend two or even three-day assessments. The days of getting by on an interview and personality are long gone.

The selection process is the responsibility of the governors, not the headteacher. It is, therefore, conducted in accordance with the principles of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, not Ofsted. Where the process includes a presentation to a set topic, concentrate on the topic and not on subjects currently "in vogue". If the governors want to test your knowledge of current topics they will do so at some point in the process. Finally, look on your experience as a learning opportunity. Now you know what to expect, you'll be better prepared for your next senior management application.

Jess Lee

Jess Lee is a community governor in the South East. She writes under a pseudonym

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