Like the effects of any bad habit, poor hiring processes can cost your school or college down the line.  You’ve hired the “best candidate” but in a couple of years you notice that team dynamics are not working that well. You may start losing one or two excellent members of staff. Or, perhaps there is an inexplicable exit of students heading to the school up the road.


MAKE NO MISTAKE, your selection of every leader, administrator and teaching professional is a million-dollar decision!  There is no upfront cost, but you will either reap the rewards of an excellent process, or pay the price of a sloppy hiring process, down the line.  


As the saying goes, if you think it’s expensive to hire the right person, try hiring the wrong one!  


Hiring is challenging. There is no exact science to predicting with certainty whether a candidate is going to add value in the long-run.  There are many complex reasons for this that we cannot always control, like strategy, team dynamics and personality, among others.  However, you don’t want a sloppy recruitment process to be the root cause of poor hiring decisions.


Here are 5 commonly made recruitment mistakes with potentially very expensive price tags:



The research is clear: interviews are a terrible predictor of job success.  Yet, it’s the primary tool we use to ascertain whether someone is the right candidate for the job.  It’s like getting married after only one date: you have no realistic insight into who you are going to share your days with, potentially forever.  Deciding after only one or two interviews is risky business. Assuming your country’s legal framework allows for it, here are a few suggestions to diversify your process. Formal interviews allow you to target questions in a structured panel format. Informal “coffee” interviews provide a window into the real person. Competency assessments verify key skills. Leadership assessments give you a sense of the culture fit of the leader or teacher you are hiring. Simulations can check for thinking skills and decision-making, while broad reference checking triangulates data. Ultimately, your best bet is to approach recruitment in a multi-dimensional way.

We will soon be launching some fabulous tools that will improve your hiring process.



Nobody wants to spend unnecessary time obtaining references for people you aren’t sure you want to hire.  However, it’s a common mistake to leave the references to the last moment when you are down to your favorite candidate.  You may even decide to skip this step because you’re sold on an outstanding interview. It’s potentially costly, as you may only discover some crucial problems when you’re far down the line. Doing references in the middle of your selection process is a good idea.  Not only does this prevent any last-minute surprises, but you can glean important information to probe certain areas. We also recommend obtaining a variety of references from a candidate’s working relationships, especially those in leadership roles. This gives you a rounded picture of the person.



It is an arduous task coordinating the calendars of interview panels.  It slows down recruitment processes and can leave HR professionals throwing up their arms in exasperation.  On the other hand, reducing interviews to one or two managers can significantly increase your hiring risk.  We tend to hire people in our own image, which can be costly for culture and a depth  of organizational skills.  Try to make sure that your interview panel consists of 4 or 5 staff members in different roles and with perhaps diverse interests.  You will harness unexpected insights from the other eyes and ears in the room. Just make sure that your decision-making process is clear to the panel upfront, as ultimately one person has to make the final decision.  



Avoid the cliched interview template, which includes questions like, “what are your weaknesses?” Candidates have prepared for those and at best, you’ll get a well-rehearsed and perfectly safe response. Carefully plan your questions to target issues that you want to address for that person in that role.  For example, if your school needs to embark on a new ICT strategy, make sure that you have read your candidate’s experience, and have researched the important questions to solicit specific competence from them.  Asking generalized questions can result in sweeping statements based on theoretical knowledge rather than specific experience  implementing a leading ICT strategy.



It’s inevitable that there are occasions when it’s a rush to find the right candidate to meet the start date.  However, this should not be the rule.  A senior level position can take 6 to 12 months to fill, while a teaching professional job can take up to 3 to 4 months. If you are constantly rushing hiring decisions, you are at a much higher risk of making a costly mistake. It may be time to re-evaluate your process.  Spend time looking at your policies, processes and contract termination periods to streamline them. Hiring the best people is the best predictor of your school or college’s future success, and time is essential to getting that right.  

It’s Academic ( specializes in the recruitment of educational leaders, administrators and senior teaching professionals.  We also offer best practice advice to schools and colleges on how to improve their recruitment practices.  You can visit us on for more information.