What Is It?
Use the interview process to determine the potential home visitor’s relationship-readiness and explore how the potential home visitor would handle a variety of situations. Involve staff and parents in the interview process to get feedback about the candidate from different perspectives. Parent participation can be an important parent engagement and development opportunity. Involving home visitors enhances their professional development. However, keep the number of people on the interview team small. Too many can be intimidating to potential candidates and decrease their ability to interact comfortably.
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 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 will be asked and which interview team members will ask the questions. Make sure to ask all candidates the same core questions. Be prepared to take notes during the interview; this will help team members make comparisons between candidates and decisions about who to bring back for a second interview (if this is part of your process) or whom to offer the position (pending positive reference checks and other human resource requirements for hiring staff).
Ask questions that get at 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. Review the handouts “Relationship-Ready Staff Characteristics,” Interview Questions to Assess Relationship Readiness,” and “Relationship-Ready Behaviors” (see the Learn More section).
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.
Create opportunities for candidates to ask you questions! Not only does this give them a chance to determine if this challenging job is a good fit, it may also give you some insight into their expectations around this job. Having current home visitors available to answer questions along with the supervisor could be a useful way to understand more about the candidate.
Often, informal discussions offer more insight into a person’s personality and perceptions than formal interviews. When candidates feel more comfortable after the formal questioning is over, they 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 with your program’s human resource staff, if available, to determine the specific kinds of questions that are not permissible. You might also look online for guidelines (search for “legal and illegal interview questions,” for example).
Observe a candidate’s behavior and emotional response to children and families during a home visit or socialization (if direct interactions with children and families are part of your interview process). Watch the individual to gain information about his or her comfort level with the families with whom you work, social skills, and response to unexpected experiences. Make sure to inform the candidate of your confidentiality guidelines about keeping child and family information private.
This webinar offers specific strategies for interviewing applicants and their references to identify candidates who will be able to relate well to children, parents, other staff, and supervisors. Examples are provided using these strategies in the hiring and orientation process of an Early Head Start program.
Pages 22-26 of the Viewer's Guide contain the following handouts:
Characteristics of effective relationship-based organizations: p. 22.
Relationship-ready staff characteristics: p. 23.
Relationship-ready behaviors: p. 24.
Interview questions to assess relationship-readiness: p. 25.
- Rating scale to quantify answers on relationship-readiness: p. 26.