Tutor Selection Strategy

Your candidate pool should reflect the backgrounds of the students being served. Also, when developing selection criteria, consider how advanced you need tutors to be when it comes to understanding systemic oppression and being anti-racist. Some programs look for an openness to learning and an acknowledgement of intrinsic bias as this sets the foundation for future training.

Why design a cohesive selection strategy?

The quality of your program’s work depends on the quality of your tutors. As a result, choosing the right people for the job is critical: tutors’ values should align with your own and tutors’ skills should be suited to their work. However, the more complex your application process becomes, the harder it will be to recruit enough tutors. Every step of the tutor application process, therefore, should be streamlined as much as possible and designed to select for something in particular — ideally, for several things at once.  

Determining Selection Criteria

You must first know what you are looking for in tutors. You cannot design the selection process without knowing what you are selecting for.

  • Start by listing all the qualities of your ideal tutor.
    • Use your Measurement Plan as a guide. What do tutors need to know, believe, and do to reach their goals?
  • Then, identify which qualities you will provide training for.
    • It is easier to impart practical skills through training than it is to change beliefs and mindsets.
    • What content knowledge will tutors need to brush up on before starting work?
  • What’s left? If you want tutors to have a certain quality, and you’re not going to train them on it, you’ll have to select for it.
    • Is there a baseline of content knowledge all tutors must have before even starting training? What is it?
    • Are there beliefs and mindsets that all tutors should hold? (e.g. high expectations, open to feedback, etc.)

Identifying Indicators

To ensure equity in this process, provide all your selectors anti-bias training to help counter implicit biases.

Once you know what qualities you want to select for, you must then identify the observable behaviors that will serve as objective proxies for each one. These are your indicators. Selectors should use these indicators to evaluate applications. For example, an indicator that a tutor is adaptable might be: “tutor came up with clear and correct responses to hypothetical scenarios on-the-fly with calm confidence.” You may also consider negative indicators, or flags, that are cause for concern (e.g. incorrect answers on a content knowledge assessment). All selection decisions should be traceable to specific indicators observed during the application process.

Requesting References

In addition to conducting background checks prior to tutors working with students, your selection process should also include a reference check, such as a character reference, or letter of recommendation from a current or former employer. Professional reference checks will provide you with a wealth of information about the applicant and (ideally) should explicitly address the applicant’s experience working with children. Include both quantitative and qualitative questions; for instance, request both a rating and an open-ended response. Examples:

  • How would you rate this person's ability to work well on a team? Why?
  • How would you rate this person's openness to receiving and implementing feedback? Why?
  • How would you rate this person's ability to connect with young people in low-income, urban communities? Why?
  • Is there anything else you'd like to share with us about this person as an applicant?

Students as Selectors

Tutors ultimately work for their students, not the supervisors of the program. (All program staff, from new hires to veteran leadership, ultimately work for the students!) So involving student voices in the selection process can be both empowering for the students and helpful for the program. Gathering student feedback is usually best achieved through demo sessions with actual students once prospective tutors have cleared most of the hurdles in the selection process. The goal is not to assess tutors’ content knowledge, but to gauge how well they can connect with the students they will serve.