10 awesome interview questions

Published on Tuesday, 30 July 2019
Last updated on Thursday, 01 October 2020

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Staff retention, recruitment, and training are ongoing in many early childhood services. Larger centres may benefit from a centralised human resources service to support managers in the recruitment process, but for the smaller centres this important and time-consuming task often falls to the time poor centre director.

Interviews are a significant component in the recruitment process, however for centre directors trained in early childhood education, not in hiring, interviews can be stressful, hard to prepare, and time consuming.

The good thing about interviewing is the more you do it, the better you become. You'll become faster and more efficient at identifying candidates who will fit with the culture of your service and you will figure out how to ask questions which effectively extract the most important information.

For centre managers new to the recruitment merry go round, here are 10 questions from HiMama, that will help you showcase your centre's personality and learn more about your potential colleague.

1. Tell me more about yourself.

This is a great icebreaker question that enables you to dig a little deeper and learn more about the person you are interviewing. When asking this question, be sure to notice not just what they are saying but how they're presenting their story. If they're going through their work experience, think about whether it aligns with their resume. If there are certain aspects of their resume that you have questions about, like a sizeable gap of time between jobs, this is a great opportunity to uncover why.

2. Why are you leaving your current position?

This is a key question to ask to give you an idea of why they are leaving their existing position and where they stand in their previous role. Were they leaving because they were looking for growth opportunity but didn't find it? Was it a matter of toxic culture? Or, is it linked to a life change that they are going through like moving to a new city? Knowing where someone is coming from will give you an indicator of what they are looking for in a role and whether there is a good fit for them within your team. Take notes here too so that you can cross-check some details when calling up their references!

3. What is your teaching philosophy?

This question will give you insight into how the person you are interviewing will work on the floor. Are they partial to a particular pedagogy or are they open to blending different styles? Teaching philosophies reflect how an educator will plan lessons, communicate with parents and so on. This question also offers managers scope to describe the educational philosophy of the centre; whether training is available and what the expectations are. Setting clear expectations from the get go is important so that everyone is on the same page.

4. Tommy bit Katie. How would you handle the situation?

While asking questions that cover the bigger picture is important, getting a sense of how a person thinks on their feet is key when employing early childhood educators. Being on the floor is not an easy task and understanding their thought process at pinch points is a great indicator of how they will approach stressful situations. Don't be afraid to ask questions that might seem uncomfortable and this is a great way to build information on the candidates experience levels.

5. What was your favourite part about your last job?

This question is to uncover the candidate’s strengths as people usually love the things at which they excel. Is the interviewee someone who is naturally a planner? Do they love getting dirty with the kiddos? Are they more of an administrator? Getting to know what kind of work the candidate enjoys is helpful to understand how they might fit into your team dynamic. You might even uncover a skill that is not stated on the resume like connecting with the community through social media. Getting to know a person’s broader skill set and how it fits into your service's goals could reveal a role that you didn't think of in the hiring process!

6. What was your least favourite part about your last job?

This is a question that invites vulnerability. Learning about the positives and the negatives of their previous role will help you understand the person that you're interviewing. This is also an opportunity to be honest about where your team and service is. Do you need someone who has leadership qualities and can step up to the plate to take on more responsibility? Or, do you need someone to support your existing leadership team and be able to work well within a structured environment? Perhaps you need someone who is creative and can contribute to developing your curriculum? Asking about their least favourite part of the job can shine some light on the fit of the person and the role you are hiring for.

7. Where would you like to be in 3 years? How would this role support you in getting there?

Learning about a candidate's long-term goals is a great exercise to see if they are thinking about professional growth. The point of this question isn't to get a black and white answer, but to get a sense of their ambition and vision for themselves. Some candidates might not have the answer for this and that's fine! This question might be the spark that gets them thinking about their long-term goals and professional development. In asking this, you can reflect on the opportunities that you are providing for growth within your service and how much you are setting aside to invest in training. This is a question that delivers value on both sides!

8. How important is your relationship with your colleagues to you?

This question will help you get a sense of how the person thinks about their relationships. Are they more of an independent worker or do they love being part of a tight knit community? Relationships are the bedrock of early childhood education and care and building a positive culture is dependent on how well educators work together as a team. How they respond to the question will give you a sense of whether they will fit in with your team. Ideally, you’d want someone who has the same thinking as your team members.

9. What do you do for fun?

This might be a bit of a curveball question for a work interview but having some personal insight will set the tone for a workplace that cares. Taking some time from the interview to get to know the person will really make a statement about the kind of centre that you are running. Sometimes, all it takes to find some common ground is simply asking genuine questions and getting to know them better.

10. Do you have any questions for me?

Now that you've asked all the questions, create some space for the candidate to ask you questions about you and your service, team, and educational philosophy. Take this opportunity to clarify any questions they might have. After some good conversation and getting to know them, this is a great opportunity to reinforce why your centre is a good place in which to work. In going through this process, it's helpful to reflect on your core values and how you're representing them. Are there areas that require more clarity? Questions that candidates bring will usually shine some light on areas of improvement.

Remember, you don't have to ask all these questions in an interview, but they are handy to have on stand-by. The important thing to keep in mind when recruiting is that finding the best fit is a two-way street and taking the time to make a careful and considered decision is likely to result in a more suitable candidate and a lower attrition rate.

Good luck!

Thanks to Carmen Choi at HiMama for these great ideas.

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