University of North Carolina at Charlotte professors Jason Giersch and Christopher Dong recently published “Principals’ preferences when hiring teachers: a conjoint experiment” in the Journal of Educational Administration.

The study asks a very basic question: what do principals look for when hiring teachers?  Giersch and Dong presented fictitious applicant profiles to 467 North Carolina public school principals.   The authors collected and analyzed data from their responses to determine the teacher characteristics that they find appealing.  The concluded,

Principals in this study preferred applicants with classroom experience, but those with 15 years were no more preferred than those with 5. They also preferred applicants with more education, but an advanced degree was no more preferred than a bachelor’s from a highly selective institution. Preference for teachers who are committed to state standards varied with schools’ performance on state tests.

Principals may find diminishing returns from a teacher with 15 years of experience, compared to those with five.  Their preference for “fancy” degrees is worth exploring further, and the authors offer a handful of credible theories to explain it.

Of course, these attributes are only one part of the equation.  The interview can make or break the applicant, regardless of their experience, credentials, or pedagogical philosophy.