Hiring a Director of Technology ~ Interview Questions

by Jean Tower on March 28, 2010

I was asked recently to suggest some interview questions for a school district hiring a new Director of Technology. Here are my suggestions, but I’m sure readers have great interview questions to contribute. Please comment and offer your own suggestions.

First, I think that throughout the interview you want to ask questions that will reveal attitude and philosophy, but you also want examples. If the candidate says she is a staunch believer of using data to inform instruction, ask for examples of how she has accomplished this in her current job, or in previous jobs.

An opening question would be the same type of question you might use for any administrator interview. I usually ask a variant of: “Welcome. Please tell us about yourself. You reached the interview, which means your resume stood out during the paper screening. Please make what we have read come alive for us. What brings you at this point in your career to see this position as the right one for you?”

Tell us about your vision of technology in education.

I consider this another question to ask near the start of the interview to get a sense of the candidate.

Describe the role of a technology director in an educational environment.
In the answer to this question, I would listen for indicators that the candidate understands the business of education, the importance of building relationships, professional development, and some of the challenges about leading in an educational environment.

What would be your most important priorities for your first week on the job? first month? first year?

Does the candidate stress building relationships and getting to know the culture and the people and? Does he present a reasonable strategy for learning about the key issues and challenges of your school district? Does he describe a process to identify goals that align to district curriculum objectives?

How would you work closely with curriculum and instruction department and how would you develop that relationship?
The candidate should be able to articulate the benefits of working closely with instructional leaders and have direct strategies and examples for communicating and collaborating with all stakeholders.

Research from corporate America and higher education shows that change, such as embracing new technology, will only take hold in an institution if leadership people are on board first. As the Director of Technology, how would you lead the way for teachers to embrace and use technology?
This is a question to reveal the candidate’s leadership approaches and attitudes about working with educators. You want an answer that aligns to the culture of your school district, and includes a reasonable blend of top-down and bottom-up change strategies. I believe that when we are hiring any school administrator we want to know that they can do more than manage the existing school. We need to hire people who can lead change, who are future-oriented.

Technology directors need to have the skills and knowledge to manage the IT management parts of the job but also need to understand the business of schools – the educational environment. In which sphere of the job are your experience and skills stronger? What is your plan for growing in the other sphere?
Does the candidate show understanding of both the technical and educational aspects of the job? Does he have a plan for continued professional development for himself and his department members?

Share your experience creating and managing a budget.
I suggest adding a specific question that will serve to reveal some thought processes in this area. It could be to describe procurement regulations and to name a specific strategy he/she has for getting the best deals for the school while staying within the bounds of regulations. A second choice could be to compare the advantages and disadvantages of leasing over purchasing equipment.

Some questions simply must to be very district-specific. What are the biggest challenges your district faces? Where are your challenges that you feel have not been met? Maybe the district wants to do a better job of informing curriculum and instruction with data. Then an important question would be to flush out the skills and experience the candidate has in this area. If the biggest challenge is integrating 21st century skills into teaching and learning, then it is important to have the candidate talk about their expertise in leading change in curriculum.

Last, I suggest reviewing CoSN’s Framework of Essential Skills of the K-12 CTO. Reviewing the competencies in the framework may provide insight into the skills required by the school district.

Readers: please add your own suggested interview questions.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Gorman March 28, 2010 at 6:16 pm

First you have an awesome set of questions already. Some I may include are below. It sound like you have really thought things out! I think the number one quality that a district needs to look for is one who is ready to serve and truly facilitate others! Thanks for the communication and keep up the blog! – Mike

1. How do you evaluate the success in the programs that you oversee?

2. How do you answer a teacher’s concern that states “I have no time for technology because I have to much curriculum to follow?”?

3. What is the role of technology in a 21st century school program?

4. How do you differentiate the idea of technology and curriculum?

5. What steps do you take to insure that technology serves the student?

6. How do you decide on technology purchases for a building?

7. In what areas should you be involved in professional development and how can you use technology to sustain teacher growth?

Liz Davis March 28, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Jean – You have some great questions. I would definitely also want to know how they are personally using technology. What are their favorite technology tools? Are they blogging? Do they use Twitter? I would ask them to describe their personal learning network. I would also ask what blogs they read? Who inspires them? Who do they follow on Twitter? Why?

Thanks for asking me. I’m also going to Tweet this, so hopefully you will get a few more responses.

Anand Lakshmanan March 28, 2010 at 9:09 pm

I would ask him/her about knowledge on educational systems in other countries with specific examples.

Dana Watts March 28, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Here are a few more that I was recently asked in an interview:
1. How are you advancing learning through technology in your classroom /department/ school?
2. What do you do with a teacher that believes they know more than you do about computer technology?
3. What changes would you like to implement within the school community?
4. How will you approach the teacher that thinks technology has no place in his/her classroom?

Don Watkins March 28, 2010 at 10:25 pm

If I was hiring a technology director I’d ask them what they knew about the integration of technology into the curriculum and the following questions.

1. What level of understanding of hardware do you have? Can you fix a computer by yourself?
2. Are you familiar with setting up a subnet?
3. Do you know what the OSI model is and its significance?
4. How do you see yourself working together with other administrators and especially the curriculum director?
5. Do you see your position as a person who creates opportunities for teachers and students to experience as much as possible or are you interested in keeping the network “locked down?”
6. Are you familiar with open source software and are you comfortable deploying it?
7. How would you integrate cell phones into education? Are you an advocate or an opponent for new mobile technologies?
8. Do you have any experience with assistive technology for students and teachers with special needs?

Kathleen Risolvo March 29, 2010 at 12:02 am

I recently had to put together a few questions for my maternity leave replacement. I wish I had this list…Mine list here is very simple, but they worked really nicely:

·     How would you identify the technology needs of the school and how would you plan for improvement in implementation?

-Describe your ideal professional development opportunity.

·     How do keep current with educational technology?

·     How would you communicate with the staff on current events?

·     How would you “get our district on the map”?

·     How would you manage district information suchas passwords and class rosters?

·     How do you collaborate?

·     What can you contribute to a team?

·     What are you looking for in this job?

Chris Lehmann March 29, 2010 at 12:24 am

I would make sure they had read the vision / mission / planning docs of the district and then I’d ask, “How do your vision of technology infusion align with our vision of education? What are the first steps you would take to move us forward?”

Adam Provost March 29, 2010 at 9:10 am

Chris Lehmann’s statement above is right on.

Ask the person to describe if they will be implementing a policy that they view as best for students or that they believe in personally.

Ask what creative ideas they have to help students learn to use technology rather than simply be restricted from using it.

Two ideas. Before morning coffee!

Will Richardson March 29, 2010 at 2:17 pm

How about “How do you personally learn using technology?”

Dr. John D. Solis March 29, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Directors of Technology should, ideally, have an educational background or practical experience in instructional technology and design as a field. Ask candidates to define “technology” and “educational technology.” Also ask candidates to describe the role of instructional design in implementing successful technology programs and define instructional design as a process and product.

Marcia Pereira March 29, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Three ideas:

To back up Dr. Solis’ comment, ask “What is your philosophy of education? How does technology support your philosophy?”

The technology director will need to work with principals who ultimately have building control in our building-based model in MA and he/she may be considered part of the admin team – or not. A question such as “How would you work with admin to promote a new technology integration project to improve teaching and learning in their building?”

The technology coordinator may also direct staff, so a question on their leadership model and evaluation experience – such as handling a personnel issue, may be important.

Good luck – so much to ask and so little time…..

Theresa Jay March 30, 2010 at 8:49 am

Evaluation

How would you evaluate a teacher’s use of technology? What indicators would you look for to see if technology has improved the learning outcomes? How would you work with Principals in designing an evaluation tool for technology integrated units?

How do you evaluate your team? How do you manage a difficult employee?

Budget

In these trying financial times how would you address savvy ways to keep the educational technology tools growing instead of shrinking or staying at a steady state?
Have you had any grant writing experience? What would be your technology integrated vision to get grant funding for this district? How would you collaborate with teachers & stakeholders to get the grant?
Do you apply for E-rate?

Network
What is your solution to reducing operating electrical costs in running the computer network? Have you virtualize your previous network and or desktops? What is your projection analysis for computer replacements? Please tell me your experience in installing a wireless network. Why did you choose your vendor?

Communication
How would you handle a community member who knows everything about technology? Have you in the past set-up instructional technology committees ? Tell us about the structure of your committee and why you structured it the way you did?

Carol S. Holzberg March 30, 2010 at 10:48 am

Hi Jean
Your highly informative post and the compelling comments that trail it make for a very interesting commentary about the qualifications of an effective educational technology leader. Could they be compiled and re-printed in On Cue?

As for additional questions, here are 4 that are variations on the current theme?

1. What interests you about this full-time position?

2. What do you do to keep current about industry changes, specialty skills, and emerging educational technologies? How do you share this knowledge with others?

3. When you read the job description for this position, which 2 items on the list of responsibilities did you recognize as being strengths for you? Please provide examples from your personal experience to illustrate those strengths at work?

4. Please identify one or two highlights from your career that would best demonstrate your specialized knowledge.

Thanks again for sharing this information.

Carol

Mary Braney March 30, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Great questions all, but no mention of the school librarian or library staff. Adapting Marcia Pereira’s question, How would you work with the school librarian to integrate content accessed via technology, and to develop the ethical use of technology to improve teaching and learning?

Add to Don Watkins’ q. 4 the library director/librarians

A follow up would ask for examples of working with the librarian, or ask the candidate to describe one hands on cooperative project done either as a teacher or as the technology person that required direct work with teachers and/or librarians and students.

Eileen Barnett March 30, 2010 at 3:49 pm

The questions listed above are all excellent. – Will this individual also be a supervisor of staff. If yes, you need to include questions about their management style. Do they need budgeting skills? Again, if yes, what experience do they have in developing a budget?
What are their favorite resources?
Who has influenced them in their journey?

Eileen Barnett
Asst. Director, Academic Technology
Lesley Univeristy
(Currently out on medical leave)
Eileen Barnett

Deb Gendreau March 31, 2010 at 8:00 am

Things to consider ability to effectively manage all of the following
Infrastructure:
Standardization versus any choice
Hardware
Software

Professional development:
All staff- admin, teachers, paras, clerks, etc
During day
Workshop
Embedded coaching
Porfessional Leraning Communities

Student learning
Interventions
Research
Digital Citizenship

Communication
to staff
to parents
to community

Budget and Project management

And finally, how will you learn continually

Ernie Anderson March 31, 2010 at 2:12 pm

As you get older, there will be an occasional much younger person who ‘knows’ something you don’t. How will you handle such situations:
a. When that person is off base?
b. When that person really is on to something new and possibly useful?

Altho being a professor is not quite the same as managing a team with a mission to perform, I found that making a ‘learning community’ of the group encouraged trial ideas, and the group would evaluate, everyone learning in the process.

One of the criteria of success in my technical courses was that the student taught me (and the group) something I did not know.

Sam Richards April 1, 2010 at 3:11 pm

I believe it’s important to keep th needs of the students and teachers at the top of the list. Here are some questions I would ask:
-What are the keys to managing the Technology Department in a school?
-How do you balance creating & maintaining the vision with ensuring that details of job get done?
-Describe your learning style and discuss how that impacts your teaching style.
-Describe something you have learned recently and how you went about it.
-How do you communicate w/various constituencies such as colleagues, students and parents?

Ian Jukes April 7, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Personally, while I think these are all great questions, they are what and how questions – the critical question is why – why are we doing this. I’ve helped spend more than $160 million of money on technology and technology related matters – and after all that time, I’m grateful that there is a statute of limitations on stupidity – because I’ve made all the stupid mistakes possible.
What I now understand is that the critical question we have to ask before we spend a single penny on technology is, “what skills and knowledge and habits of mind above and beyond doing well on a bubble test do we need students to have when they graduate from school? What does that look like and how will we measure it?
Only then, when we’ve answered that question, can we begin to build backwards from the future to the present to figure out what we need to do now in order to get them there – and only then can we begin to ask what tools – high tech, low tech, no tech – do we need to have in order to allow with to happen and what do we need to do to make certain these tools are used appropriately and in alignment with our learning intentions. Our learning intentions must drive our technology initiatives – not the other way around. I have a perspective I’ve written on what I’ve learned from my mistakes – it’s called Getting It Right and you can download it at http://committedsardine.com/handouts.cfm

Allison May 12, 2013 at 9:02 pm

I am a teacher who has volunteered to be on a hiring committee for a technology director at my school. This is my first time on the other side of the desk at an interview! I wanted to thank everyone who posted here for some great questions.

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