You’ve scored an interview, and now the real fun (anxiety) can begin!
After hours of setting up your resume, applying for jobs, and forming cover letter after cover letter, you’ve finally done it! You heard the words, “We’d like you to come to our central office and interview for the position.” Yay! Your heart bursts with excitement and anticipation until reality sets in: now you have to interview.
Although the thought of interviewing can send butterflies swarming in your stomach, it doesn’t have to be a nerve-wracking event. The better prepared you are for your interview the more at ease you’ll be, and your confidence will shine through to your future employers. Now the only question is, how do you become prepared?
When I was a new teacher applying for jobs, I anxiously awaited my first interview. At the time, I thought back to my college classes where we held mock interviews. Our professor called in retired principals and school officials to help us learn the skill of interviewing. I quickly learned that interviewing can be a difficult skill to pick up!
Throughout the last six years I have practiced mock interviews, interviewed at career fairs, have had numerous phone interviews, and at least seven in-person interviews for teaching jobs. This may not be nearly as much as other educators, and I consider myself to be very lucky! However, my experiences have taught me a few valuable lessons when it comes to preparing for a teaching interview. As a new teacher, you may want to consider these tips as well!
Do Your Background Research
The few days leading up to the interview, I always started my research by checking out the district’s website. The position I was applying for was where I would direct my search. I would go to the individual school’s page or website and find the grade level. From there, I made note of teachers in the grade, how many there were, and any other information I could glean. Sometimes I would even look them up on Facebook or Google to find more personal information! I wanted to know the team, as well as an outsider, could before stepping foot in the interview.
Once I had information on the team, I would review the school as a whole. I’d learn about the students, principals, specials, and anything else the website included. If a school decides to share certain information, it’s because they are proud of it! They want to share what amazing staff and students the school has, and as an interviewing teacher, this helped me feel confident that I already knew about the building’s culture.
I would make note of the types of activities I saw on their websites. If I knew they annually held a particular activity, such as a wax museum, I’d be sure to ask about that or bring it up in one of my answers. I’d then look to the school as a whole and would take note of the schedule, behavior plan, and handbook.
Searching through the school handbook is a great way to find valuable information before an interview. There you can find facts about the leadership, school rules and expectations, schedules, and other important programming. When new teachers are in the interview, one question that is usually asked is about philosophy on classroom management. If you know the school’s procedures, you can weave this knowledge into your answer.
Finally, take the time to find the school or district’s mission statement/goals. If the goal is: every child will be respectful and responsible citizens, you can easily incorporate this statement into your discussion. Show that you are passionate about the education this district is providing students and the difference they are making!
When you go into an interview, it’s normal to be nervous. No matter if I interviewed by phone or in-person, I would be sweating a little (literally and figuratively) by the time it was over. It can be scary when you have no clue what they will ask!
One tip I have for new teachers (or any teacher applying for a job) is to google sample interview questions! I would look up things like, “interview questions for a fourth-grade teacher” or “questions during a teaching interview.” By writing them down and practicing my answers I was so much better prepared. And typically the school administration would ask a variation of the questions I had rehearsed!
It also helps to practice with someone else. Share a list of sample questions with your friend or significant other, and have them pretend to interview you. They may even ask questions that you haven’t thought of yet. You’ll get feedback on your answers as well as your body language. Over time, you’ll start to feel comfortable and will really know how to think through things quickly.
Create a Rocking Portfolio (And Make Copies!)
For this one, I like to go to my friends at Teachers Pay Teachers. There are so many different examples of portfolios to choose from! I always make multiple copies of my resume, cover letter, and sample lesson plans (my favorite ones).
When you enter the interview, have enough copies of your portfolio for each person. I like to bring in a professional bag to store these, as well as a notebook to write down the answers to my questions. And on that note, please leave your cellphone in the car! You will not need it, not even while you’re waiting.
Being prepared with a portfolio not only makes you look professional, but it helps you to stand out in the crowd. You would be surprised by the number of applicants who do not bring these supplemental materials, and it may end up hurting them. This is your time to shine, so come prepared!
Share A Thank You Note
When I leave the interview, I already have my envelope addressed and stamped. I will write a quick note thanking them for their time and sharing why it would be an honor to work for their district. Within the same day it’s dropped in the mail.
This is a key point to remember because in a few days all of the initial interviews will be complete. When your card comes in the mail, your name reenters their minds, and this may lead to a second interview. Then again it may not, but sending a thank you will make you look great! It shows that you are thoughtful and considerate of their time, and they may choose you to interview for a position in the future.
Applying For Jobs: The End?
Hopefully these tips have helped you a little! They definitely have helped me over the years, and I’ll revisit them when I interview in the future. My wish for you is that you rock the interview and get a job on your first try, but even if that doesn’t happen, know that you’re not alone. There are thousands of other teachers in the same boat you’re in, trying to find that perfect job. I hope you stand out from the crowd and shine!
Question: What are your biggest fears when it comes to interviewing?