One of the most common games played in a day center is follow the leader. But when it comes to hiring a leader for the center, the game gets serious. The leader, or director, of a child care center plays a huge role in how the center’s run and how the kids attending are affected by their experience. That’s why it’s vital that the questions asked during the interview for director add to an in-depth understanding of the candidate and her qualifications.
Directors vary greatly in their assessment of a quality day care experience, according to the Urban Institute in a 2010 report for the Department of Health and Human Services. Some believe that learning is important and that their kids should leave day care with a level of learned skills. Others strive to build a more home-like, nurturing environment. The question, "What do you believe are important qualities for this center to achieve?" gives the candidate a chance to define the primary focus she subscribes to. Ideally, candidates and recruiters will be on the same page with the response.
Once the director is in place, she will be the one staffing the day care center. It’s vital that in addition to having the same values as the board or owner of the day care center, the director is also on the same page as to the quality of staff she plans to hire. Some child care center directors favor experienced teachers while others prefer to hire nurturers who will involve the family in the day care experience. Directors may hire those with more educational credentials or save money for the center by hiring those with less education and more motherly qualities. A question such as "What characteristics do you look for in your staff?" provides a clue to the priorities the director places on staff roles.
The Urban Institute reported that better funded day care centers were more successful and that financial burdens strain every aspect of the day care environment. Questions such as, "Are you experienced with fundraising and marketing?" open the door for the candidate to provide stories about her experience in this arena. A seasoned fundraiser could give examples of previous campaigns she ran and how well she courted contributors. She might talk about her networking experience and about the various boards and civic roles she participates in. Conversely, a candidate may have no prior experience with promotions or raising money, which could be all right if that wasn’t expected of the new director.
Large day care centers don’t operate in a vacuum. Directors must keep pace with changes in federal regulatory requirements for day care centers and in the current child rearing research and its results. The question, "What professional organizations do you belong to?" provides a glimpse into the professional commitment of the candidate. Successful professional child care providers participate in organizations, such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children, that provide day care centers with current guidelines for operation. Preferably, the director participates in state or local chapters of a national group and brings more than just her own opinions to the table.
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