Landing the Job: A Survey of New Teachers

Article excerpt

Background and Rationale

They have invested significant time and financial resources towards their career goal of becoming a teacher. They may have had to repeatedly defended their career choice as friends and relatives question why they selected a relatively low-paying, low status occupation. They also know the job market is crowded in most teaching fields and there will be many candidates for each position. So what can newly certified teachers do to prepare for their first job search? Can they learn anything from their peers who recently succeeded at landing their first teaching position?

The process of hiring new teachers has been studied from a number of different perspectives. From the employer's perspective there is concern over what factors to consider and how to compare candidates. Bredeson (1985) analyzed research about the hiring process and constructed a decision making model. The model illustrates how employers perceive and integrate information from various sources and make hiring decisions. Kopetskie (1983) examined the process from a more practical point of view, proposing the use of a Candidate Comparison Instrument with designated categories such as philosophy of education and extracurricular activities. If the administrator sticks with this structure, applicants can be more objectively compared.

A key element of the hiring process, the job interview, has also been a topic of inquiry. O'Hair (1989) proposed a model of five factors: demographics, communication, psychological, atmosphere and enthusiasm, which influenced interview outcomes, and suggested means for preparing prospective teachers for interviews. Travers (1989) tells the interviewer that a thorough interview, covering interpersonal skills, instructional effectiveness, fit with the school needs and professional development, can be conducted in less than an hour.

Special issues relating to candidates' success or failure in securing a teaching position have also been studied. An applicant's age, number of letters of reference, and G.P.A. were factors which Young and McMurry (1986) found contributed to employer bias when reviewing fictitious resumes. Perry (1981) lamented that the "best" teachers were not necessarily the ones hired, as employers placed a heavy emphasis on test score data.

Braun and others (1990) found the perceptions of successful teacher applicants and school administrators, regarding aspects of the job seeking process, were quite similar. Both groups viewed the interview as the most important element. Written recommendations from those who had observed the candidate's teaching were perceived as the most important part of the credential file and honesty of responses was identified as most important during an interview. They urge further study of the recruitment and selection process.

The purpose of this study was to learn more about the hiring process for new teachers from the perspective of those who recently were successful in securing teaching positions. What takes place during the all important interview? What is the usual time frame for the whole job hunting process? Did knowing someone or other "connections" play a part in the outcome? This view focused on what worked - so that this information might then be useful to prospective job seekers.

Design of Study

To gain more insight into factors related to [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED] successfully finding a first teaching position, a survey questionnaire was sent to 55 recent graduates of a teacher education program for whom information was available that they had, indeed, been hired as a teacher. This information was obtained through the placement office and department faculty. The questionnaire, along with a cover letter and stamped return envelope, was sent at the completion of their first year of teaching. This time lapse allowed the teachers to reflect, perhaps more objectively, on the hiring process.

The four-page questionnaire, which could be completed anonymously, included 15 multiple choice questions about the job seeking process for the position they accepted, as well as information about other interviews or offers. …