School Bus Fleet

September 2014

A management & maintenance magazine for school transportation fleets

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20 S C H O O L B U S F L E E T • S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 4 INTERVIEW BEST PRACTICES Take a conversational approach. As part of Denver Public Schools' pilot program, Portee says she is conducting conversation-based in- terviews, particularly for offce staff or technician po- sitions, making them a two-way street. "It's equally important that while we interview the applicant, they interview us, and ensure that this is a position where they can be successful," she says. Pete Meslin, director of transportation for Newport-Mesa Uni- fed School District in Costa Mesa, California, takes a similar ap- proach, saying that engaging candidates in conversations instead of question-and-answer sessions will help pinpoint how they think, and elicit more genuine responses. "[We ask] 'How would that make you feel?' 'Why do you think that's important?' as follow-up questions. We want to get to what they are really like, as opposed to what they have rehearsed." Asking the same question in different ways to check for consis- tency also helps, Meslin adds. "If at frst they say they're all about the kids, but then in [a later] question they're all about making more money or driving, we see the inconsistency." The conversation-style approach also entails asking open-end- ed questions to prompt discussion. Houston's Weisinger used this approach when looking for a new parts technician with strong knowledge of inventory control and the ability to stay on task. "That's hard to do in an interview, but when you talk with them for a while, they tend to open up," he says. Schedule enough time, debrief. Try not to schedule inter- views too close together, Skib- itski cautions, in case you do end up having an important conversation. "Give yourself breathing room be- tween interviews," he advises. "We usu- ally have three or four people apply [for a position] and we may schedule them over a two-day period." Meslin says his team debriefs after ev- ery interview, rather than scheduling them back to back, to discuss what they liked and didn't like about the candidate and what they could add to the team, so they don't forget any details. Hire for attitude, train for experience. Meslin stresses that while he is looking for the right skills, at- titude is more important. He points out that, ideally, you will be working with this applicant for the rest of their career. "If you don't have a good attitude, we don't want you, no matter how skilled you are," he said. "We can change skill level through training. We can't change attitude." For example, when Newport-Mesa re- cently hired mechanics, Meslin looked for good communicators, so drivers would feel comfortable explaining a problem to them. Weisinger agrees, adding that that is especially important for drivers. "I like to see people come in who have never driven a bus before, and if they have a great attitude and love kids, then that's the person I want," he explains. "I want to train them in the way we do things." Pete Meslin, director of transportation for Newport-Mesa Unifed School District in Costa Mesa, California, says he hires primarily for attitude and trains to build skills. Pic- tured is Victor Garza, driver instructor at Newport-Mesa, conducting a training class for driver applicants. 5. 6. 4.

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