Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Teacher Interview Tips & Tricks

Well, it's that time of year! The days are winding away and you're busy thinking about your plans for next year.  While I'm sure most of you are looking forward to having the same position next year, some of you have inevitably been doing what I've been doing this spring.....job hunting!

It's stressful and time-consuming.  It's definitely not fun, but it has to be done.  I am  happy to announce that after many, many interviews and multiple job offers, I have accepted a position at a great school in southern Illinois!  My husband and I will be moving as soon as this school year is over and I couldn't be more excited.  If you don't know my back-story, I'm originally from Illinois and moved out to Utah temporarily so my husband (who's originally from Utah) could finish school.  Now that's he's done, I finally get to go back home!

I thought it might be helpful for those of you doing some teaching interviews to know the details of the fifteen interviews I participated in.  This post will be most helpful to newer teachers and I welcome those veterans out there to add anything I missed into the comments section. I'm in no way an expert on this subject, but I'm happy to share my experiences with the interviewing process in the hopes that I can help you nail the job you want too! :)

Pre-Interview Tips
  • When you get that joyous call (or email in some cases) inviting you for an interview, ask pertinent questions so you'll show up prepared.  Possible things to ask include:
    • Who is conducting the interview process?  Is it just the principal or a team of teachers? It helps to know beforehand so your nerves aren't shocked when you walk into a conference room of eight people when you were only expecting one.
    • Should you bring anything?  Some of the interviews I went on asked for a sample lesson plan.  Others told me just to bring myself.  I always bring a paper copy of my resume, however, just in case!  It's also not a bad idea to bring a notepad and something to write with so you can jot down pertinent information about the position, names of colleagues, contact info, etc. that is given to you mid-interview.  When I'm nervous, any and all information enter one ear and fly right out the other so this has been a lifesaver for me more than once!
    • Where will the interview take place? More often than not, it's usually at the school where the position is being offered. However, I did have one this time around that was at a district office. The person calling should give you this information, but it never hurts to double-check!
  • Research, research, research! Most schools have websites that are a treasure trove of information. Check out the PTA page or calendar to see any community events that your potential school is a part of.  See if there's a school disclosure form posted so you can read up on the school atmosphere. This will prepare you for my least favorite interview question of all time: Why do you want to work at our school? (And no, I don't think "I need a job" or "your district pays well" are considered acceptable answers!)
  • Practice answering interview questions aloud.  Have your spouse or parents ask you some questions from the section below and go through your answers.  If no one is available, say your answers into the mirror while maintaining eye contact (harder than you think!). This will give you a chance to work out the kinks in your answers and show you where you need to focus your efforts before the interview.
  • Clean up your social media pages.  Jobs are looking at those now.  Remove any photos that do not portray you in a professional light or set your profile settings to the strictest option so only people you know will be able to access your information. No principal will be impressed by the photos from your college keg party. You have the right to do what you want in your personal life for the most part, but teaching is a public profession and your reputation really does matter.
Interview Questions
All of these questions were asked at my interviews this year. Some were asked multiple times.  Those questions are denoted with an asterisk and might be more worthy of your attention. Some are general and others are more content or grade-specific.  Your interview questions will most likely include a few from this list that you can prepare for and many more that will be new and require you to think on your feet.
  • Tell us about yourself.  Why did you become a teacher?*
  • A student comes into your classroom visibly upset because he will be moving to another school next week.  What do you do?
  • What is your biggest weakness when it comes to teaching?*
  • If we were to look you up on social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, what would we see?*
  • How do you know your students trust you?
  • What is it that makes your work as a teacher meaningful?*
  • A student in your class isolates himself from other students, both in class and during recess.  How do you handle this student when it comes time for cooperative learning?
  • Another teacher at your school states that all teachers should use the district map given to them by the district in order to teach the curriculum.  Do you agree?
  • What does your classroom management look like?*
  • How important is parent communication to you? What does it look like in your classroom?*
  • How much of your personal opinions and feelings about a topic should come through when you are teaching your students?
  • If we contacted some of your past students, their parents, or colleagues, what would they say about you?*
  • A student with a different ethnic or religious background from the rest of your students joins your class.  How do you make that student feel welcome?  How do you prepare the rest of your class for this student's arrival?
  • What classroom technology are you proficient in?*
  • Give an example of a lesson you taught that relied heavily on technology.
  • What is the Common Core and how is it changing what we expect from students?*
  • If we walked into your classroom during an excellent lesson, what would we see?*
  • Why would you be a good fit for our school?*
You can always Google "teaching interview questions" to get a much longer list, but these were the questions I was asked during my interviews.

Other Advice
  • Come up with a list of questions to take with you to an interview.  Almost every interview I've been to has given me a chance at the end to ask the administrator or team some of my own questions.  Even if you don't really have any, asking something will show them you're legitimately interested.  (I would not recommend asking about the salary schedule at this time.  When they call to offer you the job, ask them to send you a packet of employment information for you to look over before you make your decision.) Here are some questions I've asked in the past:
    • What is your school's average class size?
    • What kind of technology can I expect to use on a daily basis at your school?
    • How are teachers evaluated in your district?
    • What does your school's PBIS look like?
  • BE CONFIDENT! Like they say, "Fake it until you make it!"
  • If you're offered a job, do not put in your resignation for your current position until you've signed a contract for the new position.  Sometimes things happen and the position is no longer available.  It's rare, but I've seen it happen to a colleague, so protect yourself, just in case.
  • Know your situation and if you can afford to be choosy.  If you're a brand new teacher, you might need to take the first job that is offered to you.  If it's not your ideal position (I've still never taught my dream grade), remember that it's a crucial step to getting your foot in the door.  I've often lived by the motto that I can do anything for a year.  It's helped get me through some tough jobs.  On the other hand, if you have options, don't be afraid to turn an offer down if it's not the right fit.  I turned down two 5th grade jobs in March (one for a reading intervention class and the other was co-taught) because they weren't what I originally applied for and I knew I would be happier sticking it out in my current position for one more year.  You're also interviewing the school, so don't be afraid to tell them you'd like to "discuss the offer with your family first" if you  need some time to decide if it's going to be the best choice for you.  I'm a people pleaser and that concept was really hard for me to understand, but I see the wisdom in putting your needs first when it comes to finding a new position.
Well, that's about all I have on the subject.  I am incredibly relieved that my search is over for the time being and I can now get back to spending all my time on less stressful things.  Hopefully you've found this post helpful.  Good luck in all your job hunting endeavors!

5 comments:

  1. Congrats on your new job!! Thanks for this post. I'll be job hunting, too, as I hope to move from private school to public.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Good luck on your own job hunt. It's pain while in progress, but it's such a huge relief when it's all finally over.

      Delete
  2. Australian Job Search
    You definitely have a point. I would like to use these tips on my next interview. Thanks!

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  3. Thank you for the post! I am currently job hunting and Im so relieved I found your blog. I needed these interview questions.

    ReplyDelete
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