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Today’s post is the second of a getting hired series of two posts. If you didn’t see it already, check out yesterday’s post What To Include in Your Teaching Resume
Once you’ve gotten the resume in the hand of its intended administrator, the waiting game begins. I would not recommend reaching out to the principal directly if you’ve already expressed interest in the job. They met you; they know you want it. If you’re antsy to see if the hiring process has begun (remember, schools like to post jobs for an “open period” before interviews begin), you can contact Human Resources and ask. They can also usually give you a ballpark of when to expect requests for interviews to begin. This window varies by the district, school, and administrator, so I won’t even give you an approximate date. You never know when an opening is going to become available!
So, great news…principal calls and you’ve got an interview! You first feel a sense of relief–yes, I made it to the next step. But then the panic sets in. Worry not, I’ve got you covered! If you want to have a successful teaching interview, here are some tips to land you that dream teaching job.
Dress for Success
You’ve heard that phrase: dress for the job you want not the one you have. It’s true. Always dress nicer in the interview than you would if you already had the job. I’m a firm believer that teaching is a professional career and teachers should dress as such, but at least dress the part on interview day. This may mean a suit. Men, ties are not optional. Dress shoes are required–no sneakers or flip flops–no matter now comfy they are or how much you love them. Ladies, professional dress in a school setting means nothing too tight, short, or revealing. Classic looks are best. Today is not the day to dazzle your potential principal with your wacky (possibly distracting?) fashion choices.
If get it, you’re probably going to be nervous. You really want this job and you’re trying your best to be perfect. Don’t forget to smile. My secret weapon for this one? Draw the tiniest of tiny little smiley face on your hand, right on the meaty part of your palm. If you start talking with your hands (or look down at them doing nothing in your lap), you’ll see it, slow down and remember to smile. Be friendly and personable. Look directly at your interviewer and smile. Don’t forget to greet them with a firm handshake, too!
No Portfolio Necessary
Maybe you’ve been hired because of a portfolio in the past or someone else told you that you need one in teaching; well, I’m here to tell you that just isn’t the case anymore. Gone are the days of your interviewee flipping through worksheets printed on vibrant colored paper while you speed-talk your way through explaining them. Administrators don’t want to see you make pretty consumables for your classroom. They buy programs that already have that stuff. They don’t care if you know how to use the latest and greatest word processing software. Administrators today care about data, and your classroom management style, and a lot of things that can’t be shown on paper. Trust me, you don’t need this one. They’re not hiring your worksheets or pictures. They’re hiring you. They’re not reading it.
Killer Resume In Hand (see yesterday’s post if you missed it!)
Bring clean copies of your resume, printed on decent quality paper. Make sure you don’t bring those streaky copies that tell the interviewer that you don’t buy ink regularly enough. There’s no need to spring for the cardstock anymore; any standard quality paper will do. Be sure to bring a few copies in case it’s a “surprise” panel. Obviously your interviewer should notify you of a panel interview in advance, but it’s been sprung on me twice so, be prepared.
Prep Answers to Those Most-asked Questions
There’s a ton of sites out there that cover the top 10/25/50 teacher interview questions, so I won’t reiterate them here. Be sure to click around a few sites and familiarize yourself with the types of questions asked. Chances are, if you see the question on multiple sites, it’s popular for a reason. Check out this article for 100 questions to practice with. Talk your way through a few of the tougher questions. Practice in front of a mirror or trusted friend if you can. Have answers in place for the really difficult questions like: tell me about how you handled a difficult situation with a parent. Don’t tell anyone I’m saying this, because I want you to be honest and be yourself. But, just between us: what happens when you’re asked to answer a question that you don’t have any direct experience with? Like what if you’re a student teacher and you’ve never had a meaningful parent interaction? Well, make one up. But do it in advance and practice it. And only say what you’d truly do if you had had the opportunity.
In prepping for that killer resume, you were tasked with checking out your future school’s mission statement and goals. Here’s where you’ll really drive those points home. Pick a few buzzwords that speak to you from the school’s website and link them to your practice as a teacher. For instance, if you know the school is big on technology, you’d make it a point to highlight your technological skills. You’ll already know what types of technology are in the classroom and you can mention how you already have experience working with those tools. In addition, now’s time to show your stuff. When talking about giving students assistance to meet instructional goals–call it scaffolding. When talking about modifying lessons for different learners–call it differentiation. Let your skills shine.
Have Smart Questions Prepared
You know at the end of the interview when the interviewer asks you if you have any questions? That’s never the time to say no. Some well-intending teachers might not want to ask questions about a job they haven’t received yet. Or maybe they don’t want to bother the busy administrator. No way! Ask strategic questions, whether you really want an answer or not. Now’s your chance to get to know your future administrator. Show them your commitment to this job. Some of my favorites are: can tell me about the xyz curriculum that your school has adopted? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the team I’ll be placed with? What is the biggest challenge your school faces? What sets your school apart from others?
Book in Your Bag
Do I need to tell you our country is in a literacy crisis? I hope not. I can’t tell you how many interviews I went on with a copy of The Kite Runner in my purse. At the time, I felt so passionately about that book (it’s a great read, BTW). As a literacy teacher, I just wanted someone, anyone to ask me what I was reading. Reason why? I could shine. As an English teacher, I hoped to connect with an administrator and discuss my love of literacy. If this is your niche, you should too. Whether you’re planning on being a lower grade level or upper content teacher, showing a priority for literacy is awesome. For you math teachers I recommend Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen. Otherwise, show your future administrator you’re a model reader–just like you want your students to be by having a favorite book on hand.
Thanks for reading. Go out and get ‘em! Let me know if any of these tips were helpful in your hiring decision. I’m rooting for you!
Please share with a teacher friend who’s looking for a job!