As any successful child care center owner or director will tell you, having the right people as caregivers is what makes or breaks your business. You can never be too careful when hiring the best child care workers and teachers. When you find a good one, you have to be even more careful not to let them slip away.
This is true whether you are a preschool, daycare center, or other child care service. Your staff is the foundation of your business. It is not only the people that will be providing the care to the children but they will also likely be interacting with parents as well. It is understandable why it can be a challenge to find, hire, and keep the teachers needed to grow your business. We’ll go over a few steps that can ensure you get on the right track.
Finding the best child care workers & ECE teachers
You cannot hire good child care workers unless you know where to look for qualified educators. It can seem difficult but by breaking down who, what, and where to find the best workers to interview and hire. We’ll go through each of these considerations.
“WHO” are you looking for? – review different job titles
When searching for child care staff, one important thing to remember is that there are multiple job titles that child care workers use to identify themselves. These are usually divided into a few areas:
- Type of care or facility: Preschool / Child Care / Daycare / or Early Childhood Education (as a broader term)
- Experience: Lead / Assistant / Aide / Floating
- Grade Level: Toddler / Pre-K / School Age / School Readiness / Infant
- Tile of the position: Director / Manager / Teacher / Educator / Worker
- Job Type: full-time/part-time/temporary
While not all of these are always used, it can help to refine the type of position and candidate you are looking for. Some common job postings include:
- Child Care Worker
- Early Childhood Educator
- Preschool Assistant Teacher
- Infant / Toddler Teacher
- Lead Pre-K/School Readiness Teacher
- Daycare Teacher
Many of these titles and descriptors will help find the right type of candidates for the specific role you are trying to fill. In many cases the title helps filter the education and experience level of those that apply. You want to check past employment, previous involvement with children/child care, and any other certifications or unique qualifications that set them apart.
“WHAT” qualifications are you looking for? – write a compelling job description
To attract the best top-tier teachers you need to write a job description that separates your business from the competition. This includes a summary of the position requirements, day-to-day responsibilities, required/desired qualifications and skills. But the key component is a short, conversational, summary of your business. This is a chance to let your personality and passion come through. Are you fun to work with? Does the culture and environment make the job more enjoyable? Is your Purpose or Mission something that people would want to be part of? Do you have a great background story or vision that would excite a potential candidate?
“WHERE” should you post the position? – job sites are now the norm
Newspaper job ads are expensive and typically ineffective. It is best to stick to online job searching sites such as CareerBuilder, Care.com, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, or even industry specific websites like childcarecareers.net. While Linkedin is largely populated by technology and marketing companies it is also now the standard resume website for all younger generations in virtually every industry. Likewise, many people look on social networks to find out more about you and your center. Parents and families will also check these sites. So make sure to create a page on Facebook and Linkedin and when you have a job opening, post it on those pages. What you’ll find is that people who follow you will also refer the position to others. If you have a website (and you should with how easy and cheap they are today), it will also be helpful to include an “Employment Opportunity” section on your care center’s website.
Hiring early childhood educators that are the right fit
After finding several candidates based on their basic qualifications you’ll want to make sure they are the right fit for your center. When hiring early childhood educators, you can never be too careful with the interview process. Background checks and in-depth interviews will give you insight into their past, present, and future. Here is a list of interview questions you should ask to help evaluate new teachers.
The Past – background checks and qualifications
In order to protect students’ safety, ensure the quality of education you are providing, and preserve and grow your center’s reputation, you should conduct federal and state background checks on your applicants. Background checks of potential caregivers are not only important, they’re state required. Requirements vary from state to state, so it is valuable to do some research and be sure not to miss any elements you may need. Check to see what requirements your state has on Child Care Aware’s State Resource Map.
On top of any state requirements, commonly requested background checks include sex offender searches, criminal background checks, Office of Foreign Assets Control searches, education and employment history, and social security trace searches. Paying for an outside source to conduct background checks allows for a more thorough and accurate evaluation of the teacher or child care worker. You should also check references to just make sure the candidate is a good cultural fit. Do not try to save a few dollars or minutes and skip this process even if you have a good gut feeling about a candidate during the interview. The potential damage from hiring the wrong candidate not only can hurt your business but or even put you in legal risk but it can also cost you time and energy in replacing that person later.
The Present – personality and characteristics
Getting to know a potential new teacher or worker both professionally and personally is the key to hiring the people who will be the best for your center. While everyone is different, there are certain qualities that set apart good child care workers from great ones. Having an understanding of child development and early childhood education enables teachers to better understand the fundamental needs of children and allows workers to be more empathetic toward a child’s needs.
A staff member should also show characteristics of being loving, warm, mature, and positive. Children are impressionable, so your workers should set good examples. While warmth and love are very important, the ability to act firmly and fairly is equally significant. Take time to get to know what a worker is truly like, and whether they will fit in well with your staff, children, and, most importantly, you. Even someone that is great on paper might not work well with other teachers or might not have the personality to communicate with parents effectively.
The Future – interview scenario questions
It’s impossible to guarantee that a candidate will be as impressive in a classroom setting as they were in an interview. With that in mind, an effective strategy for getting to know how they will perform in the future is to ask scenario-driven questions during the interview. These questions should present real problems that a future caregiver may need to resolve. A candidate’s answers to these questions should provide insight into his or her ability to problem solve in general and apply your care centers policies and expectations.
Scenario questions should include disciplinary situations, teaching methodology, lesson planning, parent communication, conflict resolution, and social engagement such as alienation or bullying.
Here are a couple of examples:
- If two children are having a disagreement, how can you resolve the problem while leaving both children satisfied? What if you’re unable to satisfy both children with your method?
- Explain an activity you have either instructed or would like to instruct that is both physically and mentally stimulating for young children.
- You have noticed a student of yours has taken an interest in dramatic play. This child’s parents, however, do not think their son should be interested in drama, and would rather you encourage him to play sports. How would you react and what actions would you take?
- You suspect one of your students of bullying another student about his new glasses. How do you approach this situation?
Keeping the best teachers happy
Even after you have completed a thorough search, interview, and background check of your new candidates, keeping teachers happy and fulfilled requires just as much time and effort. Remember that the cost of replacement is often higher than the cost of retaining. Aside from obvious time and money it takes to find, interview, and hire a replacement, there are always unforeseen costs that can impact parents, center reputation, other staff members and the children. If your staff is not happy at your center, they may look for other employment opportunities, and you’ll have to start your search all over again. To help reduce this risk you can develop clear and thorough policies and expectations in order to bridge any communication gaps that commonly occur between owners and staff as well as between staff and parents.
Child care employee policies
Before a new teacher begins working you go over a set of policies for all staff members. This not only sets expectations but doesn’t leave anything to interpretation. The more important a policy is to you, the more you should stress this to your employees. While not all policies must remain rigid, explaining them to your employees will help avoid future conflict. Ideally, you’ll be able to solidify these policies in a Child Care Employee Handbook that contains guidelines, procedures, and can be a reference for the future.
Clear expectations will allow for proper praise and discipline for staff, enabling you to be fair and firm. Staff policies should include essential details such as preventative actions, expectations and consequences, communication expectations, payday details, vacation and sick days, and emergency policies. These are only a few examples, and each centers policy should be catered to your specific needs. Here’s an example of a strong thorough policy outline.
Child care parent and child policies
While teachers should be aware of policies and expectations, they should also be well versed in the parent and child policies which will help them communicate the rules in a fair, consistent, and effective manner. While there seems to be an unspoken rule that the parent is always right, it is important to trust your staff and to clearly share with them what children and parents can and cannot do. This may include pick-up and drop-off rules, how to handle altercations between children or parents, and what to do in cases of emergency, sickness, or signs of abuse. The development of these policies and educating your staff on them helps reduce the chance of mishaps and will protect both you and your staff from undeserving accusations.
Check ins and performance reviews
The goal in finding and hiring qualified caregivers is to keep them happy and productive team members of your school. We all forget things over time so annual “refreshers” of the policies not only reduces confusion as long-time employees may remember things differently than new employees. It also ensures that everyone on the staff knows that these rules and guidelines are important to establishing and maintaining a well-functioning and successful center. If these refreshers are not held it is common for staff members to dismiss their importance and in some cases outright ignore them, thereby seeding a potentially disruptive culture.
Additionally, you should also perform new background checks and renew CPR certifications every year or when appropriate. Informally, you should have meetings to collect constructive criticism or ideas your staff may have. Sometimes the requests are small and easy to fix. By the time one of your teachers is already looking for or applying to a new job, it is usually already too late.
In addition to the informal meetings, you should hold formal performance reviews every year. This is the job of any good manager or supervisor in any business but it also allows you to keep a good pulse on how your staff is feeling. High-performers will usually only continue to overachieve if they feel their hard work is recognized and appreciated. Sometimes this means promotions, raises, bonuses, gift card, or a simple “well done”. These performance reviews also allow you to address problems you are seeing in a formal setting. In many ways the formality of these mandatory reviews ensures that people don’t feel singled out because everyone has to go through it. Your feedback in how people can improve and grow in their career is important as teachers are less likely to feel stagnant in their career. You can also get a sense of whether they are about to leave of they have stress or issues outside of the workplace. All of this helps keep teachers and child care workers happy, which increases the chance of retaining the best teachers and growing the business.
Child Care Workers Needed
Finding and hiring great teachers is already hard enough but if you can establish a great working environment, clear policies that everyone understands, and a system that checks in with the staff for feedback and reviews, you are more likely to keep your school or center thriving for years to come. It takes time. It takes consistency. It can seem like a hassle when you are busy. But do it anyway and don’t take shortcuts. That is the recipe for sustained success.