Unbiased Interviewing? Check out “The Voice”

I am NOT a reality TV fan (except for live sports which are the original reality TV shows).  But, I started watching The Voice on NBC, and I have to admit that I really like it.  What makes this show different from all the other singing shows on television is that the judges face backward when each new singer comes on stage to audition.  They do not see the contestants walk on stage and perform at the onset of the song.  They only hear “The Voice.”   They can only make a judgment on the contestants’ musical abilities; not on her looks.

However, if a judge likes what he or she hears, he or she hits a button and the chair turns around.  If at least one judge turns the chair around, then that contestant is allowed to stay on the show and compete.  If more than one judge turns around, then the judges have to convince the contestant why he or she should choose a specific judge’s team.

The show is the epitome of the phrase “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

I find it quite interesting to see the judges’ reactions when they match up “The Voice” with “The Face.” Often, there is some surprise on the judges’ parts.  I love how anyone with a great singing voice can be a winner on this show.  Shallow appearances do not play a role in the judging.

This is fascinating to me, and I think this concept can (should?) be applied to how school administrators evaluate teaching candidates.  As hard as we all try, it is difficult in this shallow world in which we live to not judge candidates by their looks, their dress, their race, their haircuts, or their physical disabilities when they enter the interview room.  Un-shined shoes, messy hair, crooked teeth, or walking with a cane DO NOT determine whether a person is a good teacher.

What does make a good teacher is how she answers our questions and the experiences she brings to our schools.  Is she student-centered?  Does he understand how to differentiate the curriculum or use formative assessment to inform his instruction?  Can she give specific examples of how she  disciplines with dignity?  How will he establish a positive classroom climate?  These are the reasons we should be hiring our teachers.

So, should we always hold “blind auditions” for our new teachers?  Should interviews only take place over the phone?  I think sitting with our backs to the candidates might be perceived as rude, but are there other ways we can find the very best teachers without the superficial biases that the media has engrained in our heads?

Finally, I think we should be interviewing teacher candidates as a team of administrators like they do on The Voice instead of each of us interviewing separately.  In districts with more than one school, this is important because new teachers may need to move to another school in a subsequent year, and all of the administrators need to agree on who gets hired.

Hiring season is upon us.  These are important questions and thoughts that principals and other school administrators should be considering.


4 thoughts on “Unbiased Interviewing? Check out “The Voice”

  1. Dave, while I agree that interviewers need to be aware of their own prejudices regarding age, gender and levels of physical attractiveness and therefore must work hard to avoid negative influences, much would be missed without face-to-face contact. Body language and facial expressions often convey far more than words alone. And, in a “people” profession like education, unless students (and their parents) sit with their backs to the teacher as well, hiring managers need to use their eyes as well as their ears when choosing the best candidates.

    So, how do you avoid being influenced by such things as physical beauty? I could be a smarty pants and especially provocative by suggesting that women do all of the interviewing as we may not be as influenced by a pretty face. That would really throw gasoline on this hot topic, wouldn’t it?

    All kidding aside, the problem you posed could be minimized by being aware it is an issue and making a conscious decision to negate its impact. And, as you suggested, interviewing in teams with opportunities to challenge prejudicial thinking can help keep people making good hiring decisions based on criteria that all in the organization support..

    Check out this article: http://www.helpguide.org/…/eq6_nonverbal_

  2. Pingback: TV Fan – The Voice – NBC | Read, Watch, Geek

  3. Dave, as a school principal who constantly hires staff (never by my own) we use a panel that includes both genders and teachers as well school leadership. Still we don’t always get it right. I try and get candidates to tell us a story when answering a question (past behaviours are good predictors of future behaviours).

    Good luck
    PS: I like the Voice as well.

  4. Dave, Just saw this….so 18 months later here is a comment! I agree with you about The Voice. Years ago when I was watching American Idol, the first 10-12 weeks of the show were so painful for me that I just quit watching and waited until the last 2-3 weeks until there were just a few finalists. For me, even that got old and I haven’t watched Idol in more than 5 years. The Voice does have that mystery appeal and THE focus on THE voice. I find that intriguing. In the end though, I think the shows delve into the same type of audition competition so prevalent on so many similar shows and unfortunately for all the instant fame of the “winners’, it seems like more and more of them aren’t heard from again. Now back to teacher interviews. Not sure it was this way when you were interviewed, but for many years I rarely interviewed without someone else with me. There was so much more to be seen and heard when more than one interviewer was involved. Sometimes, for efficiency or the unavailability of others I did interview alone. Not often. I usually had other administrators and/or teachers with me during the interview process. I had the final decision, but in almost all cases I do recall that my decision was very much influenced by the collaborative thinking of the others on the team. Most of the teachers hired that way are still teaching or contentedly retired. On the other hand, some of those I interviewed and hired on my own didn’t last.

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