Whether you’re fresh out of college, making a career change or finding yourself in need of a new position in the school system, the interview is a daunting hurdle faced by everyone. Hearing the words, “You’re hired!” was the sweetest sound my new-teacher ears had ever heard. Happy dancing ensued and I was more than ready for the wonderful challenge of being an educator.
Right now, though, you may be where I was when the interview process had just begun…scared, nervous, excited…and frantically searching the internet for practice questions and tips for finding success in those school interviews. Since becoming a new teacher not too long ago, I’ve had the opportunity to sit on the other side of the table and be a part of interviewing committees. Here’s a secret: the process is just as challenging on the part of the interviewers, too! Who knew?! I seriously thought it would be a breeze to interview candidates…after all, I wasn’t in the hot seat anymore! As they say, there is always more to learn and I’m excited to share some insight in hopes that it helps YOU ace your teacher interview.
I know I’m starting with a basic tip, but you’d be surprised at how many candidates show up in wrinkled or ill-fitting clothes! When you walk into the interview room that first impression is vital. You don’t have to spend a ton of money, but arrive in a smart suit or skirt with a classic blouse or ironed and well-fitted Oxford shirt. (Hint: the buttons shouldn’t pull across your stomach or chest to reveal skin or an undershirt! And yes, that actually happened.) As an interviewer, when I see someone who has clearly taken time to prepare themselves for a good first impression….well…I’m impressed! (See? It works!)
My favorite places to shop for business attire are Ann Taylor, Macy's, Dillard's and New York and Company. Head for the sales racks first to see if you can snag a deal. I was able to luck into great sales when I visited these stores before my interviews.
Also, make sure your hair is brushed, any makeup appears natural, and stick to simple jewelry. Save the statement necklaces for later!
A small portfolio with samples of a lesson or two that represent your teaching style will help interviewers get a better idea of your potential. If you’re brand new to teaching and don’t have any lessons prepared, bring samples of lessons that excite you and that you would like to use in your own classroom! The purpose of the portfolio is to demonstrate that you are ready to bring new or innovative ideas to the school and that you are prepared to work hard and go the extra mile. Very few people actually bring a portfolio to interviews, which makes it all the more impressive when a well-constructed one appears on the table. Oh, and bring extra resumes, too. Everyone at the table should have one in front of them during the interview.
Just a side note: don't forget to follow up after the interview with a personal email or handwritten card. Even if you don't get the job, you'll leave a lasting and positive impression.
Before you arrive at an interview, spend time thoroughly researching the school and its programs. When answering questions, weave details about the school into your responses to demonstrate that you understand the needs, challenges or values that are relevant to that particular school. Not only will this (once again) demonstrate your level of preparedness, but it will also ensure that you understand the school culture. If you’re researching the school and find that it may not be the best fit for you, consider looking elsewhere for a teaching position. After all, the interview is as much about YOU finding the perfect fit for your career as it is for the interviewers to find the perfect fit for their students and colleagues.
Talk to teacher friends and scour the internet for interview-type questions. Read, review, and practice answering as many as you need to until you feel comfortable fielding a variety of questions – from the mundane to the subject or grade-level specific. You definitely don’t want your answers to seem canned or overly rehearsed, but feeling confident in your ability to answer a multitude of queries will shine through during your interview.
Try a few of these:
1. When did you decide that you wanted to be a teacher?
2. Take us through a typical lesson.
3. If I walked into your classroom, what would I see?
4. Describe your plan to communicate with parents.
5. How would you differentiate instruction?
6. What role would assessments play in your classroom? Examples?
7. What is your behavior management strategy?
8. Why would you be a good fit at our school?
Finally, and most importantly, be yourself. Finding that perfect fit can be a long process, but it’s vital to find a situation where your personality and teaching style is welcomed and embraced by the school you’ll call home. Be honest on your resume and when answering questions. The truth always comes out, and it’s better to discover that you’re not a perfect fit for a school before you’re hired than after you’ve started teaching. Losing a job due to dishonesty is not a great way to start your career. Above all, remain confident that you are a great teacher and that it’s only a matter of time before you find the place and people that will help you grow into an amazing educator who will one day turn and offer a helping hand and a warm smile to others in search of their own teaching dream job.
-The Teacher's Prep