Five Insider Tips for a Successful Interview
Read these tips from someone who has sat on school interview panels for years.
Laura Owen | Teaching
I have been on the interview panel on my elementary school for several years and have witnessed some impressive and not so impressive interviews. Like many schools, our leadership team spent hours analyzing the answers and demeanor of the candidates. Our goal was to find the best teacher from the mere 45 minute meeting. Every second counts when you are under the watchful eyes of an interview team. Below are five helpful tips that may help you to impress your interviewers and secure your desired job.
Interview Tip #1:
Maintain an understanding of current best practices and be ready to provide examples of how you are implementing them in your classroom. For example, you should certainly be prepared to explain how you differentiate instruction. In a recent interview, we questioned what differentiation techniques one candidate would use to reach the low-achieving students in your classroom. She responded that she would pair the low-achievers with the high-achievers who would help teach the material. First of all, this is not differentiation. Because the high-achievers have mastered the material they are now expected to take others under their wings and teach them? As smart as these children may be, they do not have a teaching degree. Secondly, if she were truly meeting the needs of all of the students in her classroom, these high-achievers should have moved on to other tasks that match their ability level, while she worked with those struggling to understand the material.
Interview Tip #2:
Avoid saying anything negative about current or former colleagues. Collaboration is a must in schools today. Principals are looking for “team players” whose presence and expertise will add to the staff. I once heard an interviewee explain that her teammates were not very good teachers and their personalities clashed so she did not collaborate. This may very well be the case, but it sends up a red flag to those sitting across the table. Interviewers are left questioning was it the teammate or the interviewee who was the problem? Sugarcoat your answer or omit a few details, but remain positive. No one wants to hire someone who may bring negativity to a staff.
Interview Tip #3:
Create unique answers that will stick in the minds of the interviewers. Take time before the interview to consider those questions that will likely be asked. Think about the wonderful things you do in your classroom that set you apart from others. You may even want to set up a few interviews with schools that do not interest you just to get a feel for what types are questions are currently being asked.
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Our interview team would often ask a candidate why he or she wanted to become a teacher or has stayed with the profession. In this situation, do not say that you love kids. This response was most frequent, and the least impressive. Of course, you do and that is wonderful, but the answer is common and predictable.
Interview Tip #4:
As petty as this sounds, consider your appearance. If you have seen the latest “Tide To Go” advertisements with the “talking stain,” you understand that appearance can often speak louder than words. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I once interviewed a candidate who was wearing a white shirt and thin bra that you could see right through. Needless to say, my memory of this interview was not how she ran her reading program. If you appear disheveled or inappropriate in an interview, a principal will be concerned about how you will present yourself in the classroom.
Interview Tip #5:
Do not forget to write a thank you note. Not only will your etiquette stand out among other candidates, but it gives you one more opportunity to compliment the principal and his/her school. A well-written thank you note can go a long way.