Interview Tips for Teachers
Today, I was on my third interview panel in the last week, so I thought I’d give some advice. It’s weird being on a panel, though it’s not stressful like interviewing is, I realize. It’s weird to think that you can learn so much about a person in 30 minutes.
Here’s what I’ve noticed this week:
- Smile. Convey your enthusiasm and personality. It goes a long way. Even if you don’t think you’re naturally enthusiastic, if you talk about what you love (teaching) and allow yourself to be authentically you, it will show.
- Eye contact and hand gestures are important, especially when your hand gestures are awkward and distracting.
- Bring a binder of materials, and use them to answer questions when appropriate. This isn’t a must (we hired someone who just came in with her keys and phone this week because she’s fantastic), but I do recommend it. It’ll give you a place to put your hands and you will be prepared.
- Answer questions specifically. Give examples. Show samples. If you don’t remember part of the question, ask them to repeat it. Providing specifics shows confidence and experience, whereas vague answers make you hard to remember.
- Don’t assume anything about the school or the panel. We may not get your sense of humor just yet. I am not as young as you seem to think I am.
- It’s true what they say about phone interviews - we can hear you smiling! Let that personality shine even if you’re on the phone.
- We do read your cover letters. We read your rec letters. We notice when there’s fluff and spelling errors, and we notice when rec letters are short and vague. So, ask for the letters well in advance so that the person can do a good job and represent you well.
- References can make or break you. A good interview with mediocre references isn’t going to cut it. Choose your references wisely.
- Ask good questions! When I interviewed for my first job I had no questions because I had no idea what I wanted in a school. Now that I’m at a school I love, I can’t imagine going somewhere else without knowing answers to some key questions. Here are some question ideas for you new teachers:
- What type of support do new teachers get at your school?
- What type of professional development is planned for this year?
- Do teachers have time built into the week for collaboration? If so, what is the department you’re applying to working on?
- What is the class size max?
- What type of technology is available in most classrooms?
- What is the daily schedule like?
Here are more questions that I personally would ask if I were interviewing for a job tomorrow:
- Do the district and teachers union get along? How do negotiations usually go?
- How are campus-wide decisions usually made?
- What is the role of the department chair?
- Describe your last accreditation process. What are the goals the school is currently working on?
- How is the school supporting its struggling populations?
- Are AP classes open enrollment?
- Is there a strict curriculum map/pacing guide or are teachers free to teach how and what they want? Are there common assessments or district benchmarks? If so, how many?
Write down the questions you want to ask and bring them with you. You will forget them otherwise.
Lastly, don’t get discouraged. If you don’t get the job, it might be a good thing. I’ve seen many teachers deflated by schools that just weren’t the right for for them. I am seeing it happen at my school. I’ve also seen teachers hang on during difficult years because the school is a great fit and they feel supported. This is happening at my school as well. I was turned down for three or four jobs before I got my first one, and it was miserable. But I’m happy where I am now. I’m not a “everything happens for a reason” believer, but I do believe in making the best of what happens.
So smile, and as 2Pac would say, keep ya head up.