Published Online: February 26, 1997


Applicant Gives Thumbs Up to Streamlined Process

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Springfield, Va.

Liz Chang could have chosen to teach anywhere, but she picked Fairfax County, Va.

As she prepared to graduate from the University of Virginia with a master's degree in special education, the dynamic young teacher was in high demand last year.

Ironically, though, she was turned off when she first heard about the new automated candidate-screening process in the Fairfax County district. It all sounded a little too impersonal, Ms. Chang recalled recently, and besides, she didn't think she wanted to be in such a big system.

That all changed after she got a chance to experience the application process in other districts and had to fill out "ten thousand" applications, none of which fit into her computer's printer. "Then you start thinking, 'Fairfax is looking better and better,'" she said. Keeping the process simple, she added, helps ensure that good candidates won't be driven away because of too much paperwork.

A burdensome application process did, in fact, turn many of her classmates away from applying to other districts. Ms. Chang herself scrapped plans to apply to some other places because of the "ridiculous" questions applicants were required to answer in essay form.

Later, after she sent her resume to Fairfax County and got called back for a phone interview, her fears about the impersonality of the district's hiring process were laid to rest. The Fairfax interview was different from the interview in any other district, she said, because she spoke with a real teacher who asked real-life questions.

"I walked out of every [other] interview feeling like, they don't know anything about what I know, they don't know anything about what I'd be like in the classroom," Ms. Chang said. "A lot of times during the interview, it was clear that the interviewer had never been in the classroom."

Quick Response

But the clincher was the speed of Fairfax County's response time. The district received her resume Feb. 20, she got a call back in less than a week, and she was interviewed by telephone Feb. 29.

Ms. Chang is now a teacher for emotionally disturbed 7th graders at the Burke Center in Burke.

She expressed amazement when an administrator told her that under the old hiring system, it would have taken 61 days for the district to respond to her application.

"The teachers that you want the most, everyone wants them, too," Ms. Chang said. "Sixty-one days? Forget it--I was going to have a job by February. Sixty-one days is going to count a system out," she said.

Some other districts apparently haven't figured that out yet. For Ms. Chang, the offers and calls kept coming in all the way through last August. "Some people must have just been on a different schedule," she said.

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