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Acing the Teacher Interview – How to Build Personal Chemistry

Acing the Teacher Inview - How to Build Personal Chemistry

Are you interested in turning interviews into job offers? Of course, you are!  To help make that interest a reality, let’s discuss some tips on building rapport with the interviewer and others within the school.

First of all, no two interviews are the same, so you can’t plan precisely how the conversation will go, but it is essential to have a strategy. You must face the interview as a selling meeting, meaning you need to build personal chemistry and establish an open dialogue for free information exchange. Success is not necessarily what you say but how you say it.

Research the School

If you do your homework before the interview, you have a strong advantage over other candidates because many candidates will fail to do this. Think about it this way, aren’t you impressed when someone is interested in you and knows some of your career highlights? It surprises you, right?

When you prepare for an interview, take some time to study the institution’s mission and vision statements, where you are applying, and their stated goals.  Many schools will post this information on their website, so it’s valuable if you can tie in some language that they use to describe themselves when you describe your ideal work environment, for example. Do you wish to secure an online teaching position?

If the school has a large population of a specific group of students, like English language learners, gifted students, or students with migrant backgrounds, learning a bit about them can provide the knowledge on how to speak about how you can assist that group better can be useful.

Whether you are searching for a job in North America or Internationally, it is critical to research the school before submitting your job application and going to an interview.

Master Your Phone Skills to Make a Great Impression

You will find that a phone conversation arranges most interviews, so start to build chemistry right there. This is a chance to make a great first impression before your official first impression at the interview itself. Ensure your tone shows you are confident, enthusiastic, and friendly. Be excited about the opportunity, and be sure to thank the caller at the end of the conversation.

During your pre-interview phone call, you can also begin to gather any information you can. Try to get job details, school structure, and information – ask and see what answers you can get. Stir up a short conversation by asking a couple of relevant questions about the position; this shows interest, and you might get some additional information regarding the kind of topics you can pull into your answers once it’s time for your interview.

Never Underestimate the Importance of the Receptionist

The receptionist will likely be the first person you meet when you arrive for your interview.  They may also be the person who calls to get you on the interviewer’s or committee’s schedule. Don’t assume that you don’t have to bring your job applicant A-Game to this portion of the interview.

Don’t kid yourself; this person’s opinion is important and definitely can influence the hiring decision. I have a lot of firsthand experience with this. When I have interviewed candidates, the secretary/receptionist would always let me know if the interviewer was rude, inattentive, enthusiastic, etc.

If you were hiring candidates who would have to work well with a range of students, families, teaching colleagues, administrators, paraprofessionals, and other community stakeholders, would you want to hire someone who did not interact well with people they met in an environment like an interview?

How would a job seeker who is rude to a receptionist be responding to a parent, a custodian, or a struggling student once they had the job?

If you go out of your way to be polite, kind, or friendly, the receptionist will more than likely go out of her way to help you — but don’t overdo it. Be the kind of person that you would want to interact with, especially with the folks who greet you as you arrive on campus.  The moral of the story is, pay attention to the receptionist because they are important.

Display a Positive Attitude and the Right Image

Did you know that many interviewers make their minds up in the first few minutes regarding whether they want to continue with the interview? You likely demonstrated that you were capable of doing the job due to your superb resume.

Now that you have reached the interview stage, you have to show the interviewer or committee that not only can you do the job and do it well, but you will also be the kind of colleague with whom they will want to spend the coming academic year.  Show a positive attitude, excellent communication skills, confidence, enthusiasm, and interest.

A smile and a firm handshake go a long way.

Make a Sincere Compliment

Make sure you use sincere comments, as it is so important not to sound phony. One hint for finding something to say is to research the school and uncover some good things to say.

Find the opportunity near the beginning of the meeting to let the interviewer know that you heard about the school’s recent gains in student achievement, the basketball team’s recent district championship, or an award that a faculty member received.

You can also complement the building, classrooms, people, academic achievement, services, etc.  Find the good and make sure that your interviewers know that you see it.  Try your best to be unique and provide some details, if appropriate.

Demonstrate Effective Communication During the Interview

Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.” When answering questions, try to use good, action-oriented stories. People remember good stories – ones that use lots of action words – it keeps them interested.

Your personal chemistry will expand if you can correctly answer tough questions. For example, let’s imagine you’re in an interview when someone says:

“Wow, Joe, you look very impressive on paper.  You should be able to solve all our problems.  Why should we hire you?”

Now, if you try to answer that, you may run the risk of sounding like you can solve *all* the school’s problems when in reality, this is next to impossible. A way to answer this and build chemistry is to explain.

“Could you please share some more information with me? Then maybe I would give you a more concise response. Yes, I do have a lot of experience and personal strengths that can contribute to the school. I’d like to know more about the school’s specific challenges and priorities so that I can better address the question.”

Remember that you are interviewing the school to the same extent that the school representatives are interviewing you. Figure out what their challenges and aspirations are.  Know the population of students you’d be supporting.

If you can’t determine these things from research, the interview is a great place to ask about it. Learning about their needs will help you determine if you will be a good fit for the position, but it also helps build chemistry with the interviewer.

Listen and Discover Their Needs

Some interviewers will let their expectations be known in the interview; this will make it easier for you to respond to questions. You need to put your “listening ears” on and use the information you gain to your advantage. If they don’t give you the information, you may have to *pry* it out of them by asking job-related questions.

“What would be the biggest challenge for a teacher in this position?” If the interviewer weren’t that keen on you, this type of question would increase your popularity. If you *listen* very closely and ask the right questions during the conversation, you will understand how the interviewer views the problem, their expectations, and whether progress has been made.

Make sure you know your strengths beforehand, and be prepared to discuss examples of your strengths; try to use action-packed stories. You can then easily relate your strengths to the school’s needs.

As you ask these questions, you can tie your responses to them back to your qualifications and experiences. For example, you might ask an interviewer what qualities they are looking for in an ideal candidate for the job.  If the interviewer lists several qualities, try to pick two or three that tie back to your experience, knowledgebase, or expertise, and remind them of how you embody those strengths and abilities.

It’s a good way to learn about the hiring manager’s needs and strengthen your case as a candidate.

Don’t Forget to Follow-Up.

At the end of the interview, make a positive comment about the interview and indicate your enthusiasm about the position. After this summary, ask a question to generate some feedback, such as:

  • “Can you tell me if my qualifications, skills, and strengths match your school’s needs, as I believe they do?”
  • “What is the next step I can take to contribute my efforts and enthusiasm to your students?”

Then send a follow-up/thank you letter to everyone that interviewed you. It is polite, expected, and will keep you in the limelight. You will be one step ahead of your competition.

Now, you have a strategy for building chemistry; I encourage you to reach out to me to help develop the skills you need to hone your strategy. Past clients have benefitted immensely from my resume writing expertise, interview coaching, and career development assistance.