The interview is an opportunity for both you and the school to gather information. The school wants to know if you, the candidate, have the skills, knowledge, self-confidence, and motivation necessary for the teaching job.
If you landed a job interview, your resume and cover letter must have made it through the applicant tracking system and grabbed the school principal’s attention.
Now, the hiring authority’s goal is to determine whether you will fit in with the school’s current staff and education philosophy. Likewise, you will want to evaluate the teaching position and the school and establish if they will fit into your future career plans.
The interview is a two-way exchange of information; I call this a discussion-based interview. It is an opportunity for both parties to market themselves and share information freely. The school principal is selling the benefits of working at the school, and you are marketing your teaching skills, knowledge, and personality to the principal.
Interview Preparation Steps to Make the Best Impression
Researching the school and position desired is critical to interview preparation. It will be obvious if you haven’t done your homework. Spend time researching and thinking about yourself, the position, and the school. Always ask questions at the end of the interview to express your interest.
Step 1: Know yourself and the value you can offer
The initial interview preparation step is to do a self-assessment to determine what you have to offer a school. It is paramount to develop a complete inventory of relevant skills, experience, education, certificates, and personal attributes that you can use to market yourself to school principals during the interview process.
In establishing this inventory list – it is best to look at your resume. Remember all your interview answers must coincide with your resume. Know your resume and cover letter “inside and out.” Your detailed lists of teaching skills, relevant accomplishments (past jobs, extra-curricular involvement, leadership activities, committees, volunteer work, and school projects) make it easy to identify your skills.
Go through each item on the list, and ask yourself:
“What did I learn by doing this activity, event, or course?”
“How did my actions improve student outcomes?”
“What expertise did I gain?”
“What did my school principal or fellow teachers say about my talents?”
Remember, teaching skills fall into two groups – tangible and intangible.
Tangible skills are the teaching skills required to do a particular job. For an educator, tangible skills might include curriculum development, assessment tools, and classroom management. Intangible skills are valuable to many positions and work environments.
The following list is the twelve most marketable teaching skills. They are generic and are crucial.
Enthusiastic & High Energy
Knowledge of School/Position
Knowledge of Education
Friendly & Outgoing
Flexible & Multi-Talented
Often, when people think of skills, they think of those they have developed in the workplace. Remember those skills you acquired through school, volunteer work, raising children, and organizing the household.
Here is an excellent blog post about transferable skills to change careers to teaching.
If you have researched and written a paper or essay, you have written communication skills. A “Brownie Leader” or “Minor Hockey Coach” are excellent opportunities to develop the skills required of a team player and leader.
Don’t neglect any relevant teaching skills and abilities you may have. When doing the research, identifying your experience and expertise is important, but that is not all you need to prepare.
Consider the answers to other questions such as:
What are my greatest strengths and biggest weakness?
Why should this school hire me; what can I offer them? What kind of school environment will I thrive in? (i.e., supervised, unsupervised, team teaching, etc.) What makes me happy?
Step 2: Research to learn more about the available position
The next stage in preparing for an interview is to research the position. Researching the position will help you present a convincing argument that you have the experience and skills required for the specific job – but you need to know what those requirements and duties are. With this information uncovered, you can then match the skills you have (using the complete skills/experience inventory you have just prepared) with the skills you know the position desires. The resulting “shortlist” will be the one that you need to emphasize during the interview.
Step 3: Research the school district or organization
The more you know about the school, the better prepared you will be to discuss how you can meet its needs. The research you do will be critical when you are asked the question, why do you want to work for your school district?
Characteristics to find out about the school are:
• Where is it school located?
• How many schools are there in the district?
• What is the rating of the school and district?
• How big is it; is it a public school?
• How is the school structured?
• What is its history, when did it open?
• Have there been any recent changes, new developments?
• Most schools publish information about themselves. You can access this information easily in several ways:
• School directory
• School website
• Visit or phone the school and request some information
• Network with people who work for the district or school
Step 4: Prepare by practicing tough interview questions.
Having completed your background research, you are now ready to prepare questions to ask the interviewer(s). Try to think of questions with answers that are not readily available. Intelligent, thoughtful questions demonstrate your genuine interest in the position. Don’t ask anything you can find out through the school website or pamphlets. If you do, the interviewer will know you didn’t do your research homework.
Asking too many questions may imply you feel the interview was not administered efficiently or like an interrogation.
Select questions to ask with caution – this is a chance to gather information, so ask what you want to know. Avoid sounding critical by mentioning the negative information you have discovered. Questioning is one of the most effective ways to compare different schools, so for issues of particular importance to you, you should ask the same questions of each school.
Some sample questions are:
• What are the most significant factors affecting your school today?
• How has your school grown or changed in the last couple of years?
• What future trend do you see the school captivating?
• How do you differ from other schools in the area?
• What type of responsibilities will there be outside of the classroom?
• What do you like about working at this school?
• Are there professional development opportunities available?
• Have new education programs recently been introduced?
• What criteria are used to evaluate teacher performance?
• Will I work independently or as part of a teaching/grade level team?
• Are there opportunities to gain more responsibilities in this position?
• I am very interested in the teaching post. What is the next step in the hiring process, or when do you hope to make a decision?
It is recommended that you ask the last question; schools want to hire individuals who are genuinely interested in the position. Asking this question demonstrates your enthusiasm for the opening.
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