3 Job Interview Questions to Ask a Homeschooler/Unschooler

The number of children who are homeschooled has increased by 75 percent since 1999. While home-schoolers represent only four percent of all students, every year the number of children schooled at home grows seven times faster than the number of children in public schools. As a result, the volume of prospective hires who were homeschooled or who received an alternative form of education is increasing.

This is a good thing. Homeschooled students consistently test higher than public school students on standardized tests such as the California Achievement Test (CAT), the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) and the Stanford Achievement Test. And as this site’s longtime readers know, the more variety and diversity you can include within your hiring (to include varied educational backgrounds), the more creative and efficient your workplace will be.

But just as there are positive qualities associated with homeschooled candidates, there are also a number of negative stereotypes.

Whether your personal preference leans towards or away from the practice of homeschooling, it’s your responsibility as a hiring manager to ignore your preconceived stereotypes and focus on the job you’re hiring for. Just as you customize each interview for each candidate’s background, here are three questions you might consider asking a homeschooled candidate so that you fully assess their fit for the position.

#1 How would you cope with a coworker you didn’t like?

Homeschooled individuals are often stereotyped with poor socialization skills, when in fact home school curriculums often include a significant amount of time working with other students and interacting with community members from a variety of backgrounds.

If people skills are a requirement and you’re concerned about the people skills of any candidate, this is a great question to ask in order to understand how the candidate approaches diverse and possibly antagonistic coworkers.

Candidates of any educational background can fall prey to the echo chamber effect, surrounding themselves with like-minded individuals and ignoring or avoiding confrontation. Give each candidate a chance to provide an example of working with someone he didn’t like and to discuss how he manages personal conflict in the workplace.

#2 How do you approach projects and assignments that fall outside of your interest?

Interest and “discovery” model educational curriculums such as the Montessori program instill a number of highly desirable qualities in their students such as problem-solving, creativity and critical thinking. But some are concerned that this kind of schoolwork might lead a student to attempt and follow through with only projects and assignments she likes. And we all know that won’t fly in the workplace.

If focus and attentiveness to a variety of projects (often outside the candidate’s control) are a big part of the job, this question will help you talk it out. Look for an answer that indicates that this candidate can see the benefits of working outside her strengths and that she follows through with her assignments regardless of her interest level.

#3 How do you manage your time when you have conflicting priorities?

Another bad homeschooling stereotype is a laissez-faire approach to managing time and curriculum. While this stereotype falls far from the truth for the majority of homeschooling grads, it’s easy to see how it would be a concern on the job; you’re essentially wondering whether or not you can trust the candidate to complete his or her work.

For positions that require a focus on time management—both on behalf of the candidate and the candidate’s team members—you need to know that the candidate is accustomed to creating a schedule and sticking to it. Clear up any confusion by asking about the candidate’s approach to time management.

Has she been involved in extracurricular activities that required her to stick to a schedule? Has she had to manage time among competing priorities? Look for examples of successful time management in both her educational and recreational endeavors to know that she meets that requirement of the position description.

Do homeschooled candidates need special treatment? No. Like all candidates who go through the interview process, homeschooled candidates simply need to be evaluated based on their unique accomplishments and whether or not their individual talents line up with the position for which you are hiring. If you’re at all concerned that your personal experience with home-schooled or unschooled candidates might affect your opinion on a particular candidate, turn to these three questions and give each candidate the opportunity to defend his hard-earned (and non-stereotypical) skills.

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