Nailing Your Teacher Interview | Your Teaching Mentor

Cue the confetti! Start the disco lights! Welcome to the Summer Planning Workshop!

I am so very excited to begin and help you prepare for the 2020-2021 school year.  I know that everything seems confusing and overwhelming right now.  I firmly believe that if we take it one piece at a time, we can be in good stead to start the year and still have plenty of time to relax and enjoy summer.  NOBODY is suggesting that you work all summer long and never take a break! Far from it! But I do believe that doing what we can will help us feel more organized and ready when school does start in the fall—no matter what it might look like.

We are starting at the start—the teacher interview.  In order to have a class to prepare for, you have to nail your teacher interview and land a teaching job, but even interviews look vastly different than they have in the past.  Chances are, if you do have an interview this summer, it will be virtual instead of in-person, so these are my best tips for online interviews as well as interviews in general.

Tip #1: One thing that hasn’t changed is dressing for success.  If your interview is online, you may be tempted to go with the Coronavirus version of a Mullet—business on top, jammies on the bottom.  I would caution you against this for two reasons.

There is psychology behind the phrase “Dress for success.” According to Psychology Today,   “When we intentionally dress for success, we gain confidence through the way we are treated by others, as well as the way we perceive ourselves. Strategizing professional attire appears to be a wise move regardless of your industry, and attire induced accomplishment can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.” (Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/why-bad-looks-good/201709/power-role-play-dressing-success-makes-you-successful)

If by chance you should happen to stand during the interview, unlikely, I know, but possible, the people who are interviewing you would see that you only chose to dress professionally on top. Granted, some will find it funny and roll with the punches, but others may hold it against you and it just isn’t worth the risk.

Tip #2: Practice is important, but don’t overdo it.

I have heard time and time again that people have felt like over preparing just made them more nervous in the long run.  However, to just go in and wing it isn’t ideal either.  If you have participated in online learning, you might be more familiar with the videoconferencing software options like Zoom, Google Meet, etc.  Whether you have experience with it or not, it is still a good idea to practice on camera.  Ideally, you could do a mock interview with a friend using the same platform, but at the very least practice with your camera on.  Check angles, lighting, connections, background, etc. to be sure there is nothing distracting and you are well lit.   We have two resources on the website to help with this.  The first is a list of common interview questions to rehearse.  The second is my distance learning checklist.  Not everything will be applicable since this is an interview and not an online lesson, but it might help you think of some small detail that would have otherwise been overlooked.

Tip #3: One advantage to an online interview is that you can have notes, or a “cheat sheet” of sorts handy off camera to help if you get nervous.

You can write them out on Post-it notes and stick them around your computer or have them on a sheet of paper nearby.

Tip #4: Many interviews now have a “task” component.

I think this is something that has been trending for awhile, not just in response to moving more interviews online.  Some examples I have seen are teaching a mock lesson, submitting a classroom management plan, or writing an after-interview essay. One person even mentioned having a group Zoom interview with all candidates, being given a task and then assigned a time for an individual interview.  The task they were given was to look over some samples of student work and then comment on what that work showed about the student’s learning and what the teacher’s next steps would be.  If there isn’t a specific task component, it wouldn’t be unlikely to have scenario questions as these have long been an interview staple that I even had in my interviews many years ago.  By this I mean that the interviewer would present a common scenario like a student misbehaving, or struggling with content, or a colleague that you disagree with.  They would then ask how you would handle that particular situation.

Tip #5: Learn as much as you can about the school or district where you are being interviewed.

Some things I would suggest to find out if possible: the size of the district as a whole and the building you would teach in (if you know that), typical class sizes, demographics, programs they use, values, and really anything else that you can find.  Be sure it is factual information that can be validated—a disgruntled parent/student/teacher comment on their Facebook page, for example, may not be true.

Tip #6: Do a social media self-audit.

The personal information you choose to share on your social media profiles definitely varies with each individual, so only you know what you feel comfortable having prospective employers see.  One thing to definitely check is if you have shared pictures of students you have worked with in the past.  If you do, be sure that you have (and can produce if asked) prior written consent from the families to share those pictures. To just share images of students without consent is a violation of FERPA (privacy act) and would be something to avoid.  I have heard people say that you should make your account(s) private, but I believe that is also a personal decision that only you can make.

Tip #7: Obviously, you will be asked a lot of questions, but most interviewers will end the interview by asking if you have any questions.

While the temptation to say no might be your initial thought, I would caution you against this.  The questions you ask may be just as determining a factor as the questions you answer.  Some examples I have seen are:  What would be an example of a school-wide expectation?  What does a typical day in (grade/program/school) look like? What research, work, study (however you want to phrase it) could I be doing over the summer to be better prepared to teach at (name of school, district, etc.)? Picking one or two of these should be sufficient.

Tip #8: Almost invariably, you might get asked the dreaded “What are some of your weaknesses?” question.

This can be so difficult to answer! Obviously, no one is perfect, but nobody also wants to say in an interview that the main office had to call down for attendance daily because you always forget to post it or, no matter how hard you try, you are just always late to everything.  While these things may be true about you, it would feel awkward to discuss in an interview.  A better suggestion would be to reflect on something that didn’t go as planned—preferably a classroom experience if you have one.  Talk about a lesson that bombed and what you learned from that or a reward you thought was great but failed to be as motivating as you had hoped and how that is informing your practice now.  These types of situations show that you are human, but are willing to examine and improve upon your weaknesses.

Tip #9: Whether it is an online or in-person interview, plan to be there 5-10 minutes early.

This shows you can be punctual but not so early as to be uncomfortable (for you and the interviewer!) to sit through a long wait.

Tip #10: My final tip is to say, as hard as this might be to understand sometimes, that you either win or you learn.  There is no failure.

If you get the job, fantastic—all your hard work has paid off and you can begin (or continue) your career in what will hopefully be a good match for all parties. If you don’t get the job, think about what you can learn from the experience. Were there questions that caught you off guard?  Were you disorganized or late? What might you do differently next time? I know this is easy for me to say, but I firmly believe nothing is an accident.  If you don’t get the job, it wasn’t going to be the right fit for you.  I know that can be something that is hard to take—I know there were jobs I wanted so badly that I didn’t get, but now looking back, I know that every no I got was actually a blessing and just leading me closer to the right fit.

I hope these tips have been helpful! I would love to hear your insights, tips and experiences with interviewing as well, so feel free to leave them in the comments below so we can all learn! Happy teaching!

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