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Professional Opinion

Can interviews be used as a professional development?

Constructive feedback can be an effective tool for both districts and potential employees
Brandon Palmer, a national board certified teacher, conducts research on principal selection.
Brandon Palmer, a national board certified teacher, conducts research on principal selection.

The continuous cycle of improvement is a paradigm often used in education to explain activities that result in personal growth through reflection. So the interview process—when enhanced by constructive feedback sessions—can also be used to provide professional development to prospective teachers and administrators.

A significant opportunity is missed when school districts don’t give candidates constructive feedback. The proficiency required to perform well in an interview may translate to a number of education contexts where presentation skills are as important as the information being conveyed.

Districts can use constructive feedback sessions to provide candidates with a truly personal PD opportunity. Meeting one-on-one allows school districts to provide candidates an evaluation of their performance with specific feedback that the candidate then can use to develop a plan for professional growth.

For example, candidates can be made aware that, during an interview, they didn’t articulate sufficient knowledge on new learning standards or other key education topics. Likewise, general interview mechanics—such as eye-contact and body language—also can be addressed as they are a critical aspect of communication.

Feedback is often the missing ingredient in the interview process. When candidates are left unaware of why they weren’t selected, they have little to reflect and improve upon.

Building effective leaders

Constructive feedback sessions have been a standard practice for several years at Lancaster School District in California, says Lexy Conte, assistant superintendent for human resources.

“It is our job in human resources to build effective leaders regardless of their position,” he says. “It is strategic and responsible from a human resource standpoint to give constructive feedback to unsuccessful candidates to provide them with an opportunity to reflect, grow and improve.”

Feedback is critical because “it helps candidates be more effective not only in their current position but also in future positions,” Conte says. Candidates who were “courageous enough” to participate in candid feedback sessions showed tremendous improvement in subsequent interviews in the district, he adds.

Fostering feedback

Districts seeking to implement feedback sessions should consider the following points:

  • Districts should designate at least one interview panel member to take detailed notes to evaluate candidates’ general interview mechanics as well as the quality of their responses.
  • Candidates should be invited to participate in a feedback session at the same time they are notified they were not selected.
  • Candidates who attend follow-up sessions may be more likely to incorporate the feedback into a plan for professional growth.
  • Feedback sessions should last no longer than about 30 minutes to maximize time. They should be conducted in a discussion-style format to allow the candidate to ask questions and clarify as needed.

The goal is for the candidate to leave the feedback session knowing exactly what areas need improvement. Sessions should also focus on the strengths that candidates can continue to develop.

What happens after the feedback session is up to individual candidates. They can take the information and develop a plan for professional growth or they can ignore the feedback. The district has provided the candidate with an opportunity for professional development and growth.

Communicating effectively about educational matters in a variety of contexts is critical to being an effective leader—and it’s a skill that can be improved through PD. Interviews, when accompanied with constructive feedback sessions, become an opportunity to build capacity among educators.

Brandon Palmer, a national board certified teacher, conducts research on principal selection through the doctoral program in Educational Leadership at the Center for Research and Publication at California State University, Fresno.