Recruiter Q&A: Looking for Qualifed Candidates

February 21, 2008 3 min read

Harvey Deutsch, who has 17 years of experience as a teacher and 11 as a principal, is now a recruiter for Seattle Public Schools. We asked him how his district is addressing hiring in high-demand fields, and what traits he looks for in candidates.

Which fields of education have a high demand for new teachers? Why is demand so strong in these fields?

We have the greatest demand for special education teachers, followed by math and science teachers. I would say there are probably less people going into those fields as they enter college and teacher certification programs. I also think in some instances people with strong math and science programs can go into other fields with higher salaries. We’re not having as much difficulty finding ELL (English Language Learner) teachers as possibly other parts of the country because a lot of our teachers became ELL trained a few years ago, anticipating the greater need.

How are you recruiting to fill your high-demand positions?

Like in all school districts, we attend job fairs. We are giving contingency contracts in special education, math, and science. This means we are guaranteeing applicants a job early on. In our situation, they still have to go through a site process to find a teaching location but they at least know they have a job. Sometimes that helps.

We are also advertising on teacher job sites. Our postings attract general interest to our district. Then candidates contact me and I follow up with them.

What qualities are you looking for in teacher candidates?

Obviously we’re looking for someone with proper endorsements and the proper certificate so we can make sure they meet Washington state requirements and are highly qualified as defined by No Child Left Behind.

In Seattle, we are looking for teachers who have experience teaching in urban environments. We’re also looking for people with experience working with a diverse student population. And probably one of the most important things is a commitment and dedication to teaching all students.

We find that applicants that have done their student teaching or preliminary training in districts that are similar to ours are better candidates for our school system. For example, a student that has possibly done an internship in a rural community might not be the best candidate to teach in an urban setting like Seattle. Then again, they might. There are always exceptions.

What advice can you offer professionals in other careers interested in becoming teachers?

I talk to a lot of people thinking of career changes and what I tell them is that they have to have a love for learning and a love for working with students from diverse backgrounds.

If this is something they are reallycommitted to, then they have to go into a teacher certification program and then do student teaching.

Do candidates already residing in the area have an advantage over those needing to relocate?

I think the only reason applicants living in the area might have an advantage is they would already have a Washington state teaching certificate and possibly be more readily available for in-person interviews. An out-of state-applicant who has already done their homework and has applied for a Washington state certificate and is willing to come in for an interview has no problems. I think our schools look to see if that candidate is going to be a good fit for their school, rather than where they came from.

What can a teacher candidate expect during an interview?

For our interviews, Seattle is a little unique. We are site-based, which means that applicants apply directly to each school they’re interested in. Then our schools have interview teams that paper-screen, interview, and then choose the candidate they feel is best for the position. The school then gives that person’s name to our human resources department. We check credentials to make sure they are highly qualified and have the proper endorsements and then we do the official hiring.

So in our system it’s really good for the applicant to know the school they’re applying to so they can answer the questions that are asked in a meaningful way that shows they are the best candidate for a particular school. We’ve been doing it this way for more than five years. Most districts hire centrally. We do not.

Can you offer any tips for increasing one’s chances of having a successful interview?

All written work needs to be in excellent shape. The applicant needs to proofread and make sure they are doing the best written work they can. Grammatical errors don’t get by when you have educators looking at the paperwork. In the interview process, you need to be able to sell yourself. You need to show the interview panel that you can do the job of making every student achieve.

—Matthew Lintner

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