Interviewing For Your New Position
Preparing for your first teaching job interview can be an exciting but stressful experience. Before you enter the interview room, it is important to anticipate what questions might be asked and how you will respond to them. Read Interview with CHARISMA by Dr. Madeline Kovarik and Interviewing for a Teaching Position: 3 Key Questions by Dr. William Sterrett for quick overviews. Twenty Minutes to Impress by Dr. Paul W. Tougaw will help anyone preparing for interviewing—first timers, job changers, principals and administrators, and those applying for college faculty positions.
See Interviewing Questions. There is a lot of information in this document. Review it before you start interviewing. It is important to think through as many questions as you can and know how to answer them. You may even want to write down answers to many of the questions so you can quickly review each time you interview. If you understand why they might be asking such a question, it will help you answer that question and similar ones seriously and with answers that will better fit what they are seeking and who you are as a person and as a teacher.
Interviews vary in many ways—from the types of questions to the number of interviewers. For instance, a personnel director or human resources director may conduct a brief or in-depth interview with you before an interview with the principal. It’s also possible that a principal, assistant principal, and department chair or teacher coach may interview you at the same time. Some districts have all principals who are looking for candidates interview them together.
Elementary schools commonly conduct a teacher-panel interview following an interview with the principal. Expect specific questions from the teachers at these panel interviews. In many cases you will have a screening phone interview first. If you pass that, you will be invited for a face-to-face interview. The questions in the two interviews may overlap, but generally will be different, and may be with the same person or two different people.
If contacted by phone, take the call seriously and handle it professionally. Do NOT put an interviewer on hold to take another call! If you are not in a quiet place or at a time you can give the call your full attention, move to a better place or explain that it will be hard for both of you to hear or you are at a job where you cannot answer questions and request a time you can call them back, then write down the name, number, and time and follow through. Without notification, you may receive a call informing you that the school where you applied is “screening” potential applicants with a few questions—and the person will start asking you the questions! Keep your files and notes handy to answer as best you can.
Though you can’t see the interviewer, try to respond to him or her the same way you would in person—clearly and with enthusiasm! When you smile while you are on the phone, your smile comes through in your voice.
Basic Screening Questions
- Are you still interested in our position? Why?
- Are you currently working? Where?
- When are you available to interview? To begin work?
- Is your certification complete at this time?
- How much experience have you had working with students in classroom settings?
- Name one accomplishment from your previous teaching that characterizes your work.
- May we contact your references now?
Because there are so many other candidates for teaching positions, you could be asked almost any other interview questions during this call, so be prepared. After answering these preliminary questions, you may or may not receive an immediate invitation to an interview. Thank the person you talk with and ask what else you can do to qualify for an interview. If and when you are invited to a formal interview, make sure that you know exactly when, where, and at what time the interview will be. Your next big step is interviewing well in person.
Generally, interviewers create a master list of questions to ask each candidate. They may carry a clipboard of these questions, recording your answers throughout the interview. See Interviewing Questions. They will not share their notes with you, and you should not ask to see them. Be aware, however, that your interview cannot be video or audio recorded unless you grant permission. The interviewer should explain why you are being recorded and who will review it.
If you are returning to the work force as a career changer or after taking time off from work to raise a family, you may feel your interview skills are a little rusty. Never fear! The skills you learned on the job or at home negotiating the many roles a stay-at-home parent must face will stand you in good stead. You may want to read Career Changers in the Classroom to feel prepared.
Applying for a teaching position often requires several interviews before you get word that you have the job. Because interview sessions can vary widely, anticipate the types of questions you may be asked by inquiring in advance who will conduct the interview. A good time to ask is when you are called for an interview. Strive for a diplomatic approach: “I’m looking forward to the interview. May I ask who will conduct it?”
To learn what to expect, what to take, and what to wear, click on Preparing for the Interview.
Before you go to your first interview (or it that’s too late, any time before an interview), watch the videos of real interviews at Participating in Interviews.
And don’t forget to follow the protocol After the Interview.