As part of your administrative responsibilities, you may be involved in three important tasks related to hiring home visitors:
- Developing a thorough and accurate job description
- Identifying appropriate outlets for recruitment
- Developing or implementing an interview process that evaluates the candidate’s capacity to do the work
Writing the Job Description
What should the home visitor job description include? The Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) and Head Start Act provide a good base for the kind of knowledge, experiences, and skills that home visitors should have. The job description should also include responsibilities related to the home-based program option elements, such as conducting home visits of at least 90 minutes with each child/family; conducting regular group socializations; introducing, arranging, and/or providing Head Start comprehensive services; conducting screening and ongoing assessment; and maintaining records. (See the Home Visitor’s Online Handbook, Requirements of the Home-Based Option, for a complete list.)
You may want to identify dispositions and skills that enable home visitors to form authentic relationships with parents/families, such as the ability to demonstrate empathic, respectful, nonjudgmental relationships and to respond to challenging situations. Home visitors should also be familiar with the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of children and families enrolled in the program. This allows home visitors to more effectively address the strengths and needs of families and to provide more meaningful support and guidance. Whenever possible, home visitors should speak the language(s) of children and families with whom they will be working.
In addition to the home visitor qualifications required by the HSPPS and the Head Start Act, the job description should identify the specific educational, professional, and personal experience necessary to achieve your program’s goals. For example, if your program works with teenage parents, home visitors should be knowledgeable about teen development and the dynamics of multigenerational families.
To attract relationship-ready staff, make sure the announcement emphasizes the relationship characteristics you seek in an applicant as well as the relationship characteristics in your program. Use words such as empathic, supportive, commitment to others, and relate well.
Here are two examples that compare less relational and more relational announcements. Compare them with your announcements to decide whether adjustments should be made.
- Home visitor sought for Early Head Start program – BA in social sciences and Home Visiting CDA required; two years of professional experience with parenting programs or home visiting preferred. Bilingual preferred. A criminal background check required. Dynamic, organized individuals with good writing skills should fax résumé to 888-888-8888.
- Empathic home visitor needed to connect with/support parents of infants and toddlers. Be part of a supportive team and forward-thinking organization. Must relate well to colleagues and families. Relevant education, experience considered. Bilingual preferred. A criminal background check required. Individuals with strong commitment to others should email résumé to Joan Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have human resources (HR) staff in your program, they may have primary responsibility for recruiting qualified home visitors. However, you might work with them to facilitate the process. It is likely that your program posts job announcements internally and externally. You might share home visitor vacancies with professional colleagues outside of your organization. Where you place home visitor job announcements will depend on the resources in your community.
Consider these locations for job announcements:
- Locations where families eligible for Head Start and Early Head Start may gather
- Community agencies and organizations, especially those with whom you have partnerships and those that work with diverse populations
- Community colleges, colleges, and universities with health, early childhood, and/or social work programs
- Local child care resource and referral agencies
- Local services and businesses that have bulletin boards for posting information (e.g., food stores and markets, drug stores, community centers, places of worship).
- Classified ads in newspapers
- Your organization’s website
- Social media (e.g., your organization’s Facebook page, LinkedIn)
- Online job/career sites such as the Office of Head Start Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center Job Center and the National Association for the Education of Young Children Career Center.
The staff selection process should be as thorough and thoughtful as possible. Many organizations form a hiring team or committee for this process. The team should consist of individuals who are familiar with the position and the organization and able to evaluate the “fit” between the job and the candidate. Early Head Start and Head Start programs typically include parents, others with the same position (home visitors), and the hiring supervisor on the selection committee. Involving staff and parents in the interview process provides feedback about the candidate from different perspectives. However, limit the number of people on the interview team. Too many people can be intimidating to potential candidates.
The interview can include different formats such as questions, role-plays, watching and encouraging comments on a video of a home visit or socialization, and having the applicant interact with children and families. The strategies you choose will likely depend on factors such as time and availability of interview team members. It may make sense to complete the interview in parts. For example, you might conduct verbal interviews with a larger initial group of applicants and then conduct interviews “in action” (e.g., the applicant interacts directly with children and families) only with your top candidates.
Here are some suggestions for ensuring an effective interview process:
- Decide in advance what questions to ask and which interview team members will ask them. Ask all candidates the same core questions. Be prepared to take notes during the interview; this will help team members compare candidates and decide whom to invite for a second interview (if this is part of your process) or whom to offer the position to (pending positive reference checks and other HR requirements).
- Ask questions that focus on a candidate’s relationship-based skills. For example, ask about a relationship with a child or a prior supervisor or colleague. Pay attention to nonverbal communication such as eye contact and body language.
- Ask candidates to respond to hypothetical situations that present particularly challenging issues (e.g., working with parents who maltreat their children or who are hostile toward the home visitor; working with families with children who have developmental delays; going into neighborhoods where there is violence, extreme poverty, or both). By asking candidates questions about how they would respond in specific situations, you may gain knowledge about their problem-solving skills, judgments about families, and capacity to empathize with difficult family situations.
- Let candidates ask you questions! Not only does this give them a chance to determine whether this challenging job is a good fit, it may also give you some insight into their expectations. Having current home visitors available to answer questions along with the supervisor could also help you understand more about the candidate.
- Often, informal discussions offer more insight into a person’s personality and perceptions than formal interviews. After the formal questioning is over, candidates may be more open to sharing who they are and how they may interact with families. Make sure any questions you ask do not cross the boundaries of what is fair and legal (e.g., questions about age and marriage are not appropriate). Consult your program’s HR staff, if available, to determine the kinds of questions that are not permissible, or look online (e.g., search for “legal and illegal interview questions”).
After the interview, carefully screen references and take the time to speak with former employers. Although former employers are not legally required to share information and some may have a company policy disallowing such conversations, it is always a good idea to talk to references as part of the hiring process. To learn more from former employers about the candidate’s relationship readiness, ask questions such as:
- How was this person at handling differences between himself/herself and other staff?
- Did this person seem to work better with a certain type of parent or child? How could you tell?
- Compared with other staff, how did this person respond to frustrated or upset parents or young children? What specific skills did you see?
- Over time, how did this person’s relationships with co-workers change?
Hiring is one of a manager's most important responsibilities. A thoughtful and thorough interview process will increase your ability to evaluate candidates and make effective hiring decisions. This article offers tips for making the most of your limited time with a prospective employee.
When faced with a vacant position, most managers want to hire as quickly as possible. This is rarely an effective practice. Program directors and HR managers may use this resource to enhance their search strategies for hiring and retaining qualified staff.
This skill profile supports the development of an individual staff development plan for a home visitor. It includes a list of skill indicators, with a brief description of each skill needed to carry out job responsibilities.
Some programs allow potential candidates to engage with families through interactive virtual experiences to learn more about their knowledge and skills. Explore this series of interactive modules focused on relationship building and working with families and reflect on how you might use them in your program’s selection process.
The Relationship-Based Competencies (RBCs) are based on research and recommended practice across many fields working with families, from pregnancy through the early childhood years. Explore the RBCs guide to learn about the knowledge, skills, and practices that home visitors need to engage with parents and families. There are also professional development tools for home visitors and supervisors of home visitors to assess progress in each competency and to identify areas for professional growth.
Resource Type: Article
National Centers: Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning
Program Option: Home-Based
Last Updated: February 19, 2021