Prepare for a Teaching Interview – Land That Teaching Job! - ToughNickel - Money
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Prepare for a Teaching Interview – Land That Teaching Job!

Cynthia is a writer, artist, and teacher. She loves studying language, arts, and culture, and sharing that knowledge.

Prepare For Your Interview

In the last nine years, I have had three different teaching assignments. Furthermore, I have successfully interviewed and have been offered employment at every school where I wanted to work.

This is not by accident: with careful planning and preparation, I was able to get the job that I knew would fit me and my personality. I have interviewed at many schools looking for the right teaching position.

It's not easy getting the job you want, especially in a recovering economy. However, there are ways to outshine the competition. In fact, I have coached friends and other teachers to finding the job they wanted and I'm going to share how I did it.

With these steps, finding a job won't be guaranteed, but you will greatly boost your chances of finding the teaching job of your dreams.

Interview Checklist

Educational Resume

Portfolio, With All Components

Prior School Research

10 Interview Questions

Thank You Card with Stamped Envelope

Research the School

Do your due diligence and research the school.

Why?

  • You can get a good idea if you'd like to work there by peeking behind the scenes at the school and the district in which it belongs.
  • You can reference what events are happening, read the principal's page if there is one, check out photos of students at work, and read staff biographies.

Look at the school's mission and vision statement.

Why?

  • To see if it's in alignment with your goals and values.

For example: do you want to teach at a Waldorf school when your own values reflect a desire to utilize technology?

  • This will help you when you are doing your interview.

It's always impressive if you can reference an organization's reasons for existing: it shows a true interest in them.

Create a "Teaching Resume"

A one-page resume might get you your first job at the ice cream shoppe, but usually, one page is not nearly enough to convey your teaching experiences.

  • Your teaching resume should include your educational background, as well as all relevant teaching experience.

On my own resume, for example, I still include my student-teaching experience, though it was ten years ago. If I am interviewing for a position teaching English as a Second Language, I'm going to include my volunteer experiences with teaching ESL students.

Modify your teaching resume if you're applying for different positions.

  • If interviewing for a Spanish teaching position, don't include ESL experience because it's not relevant (unless the position entails possibly helping with English Language Learning (ELL) students).
  • Do include tutoring and any interim positions you've held that have to do with teaching Spanish.
  • Include skills and hobbies in your resume. Schools like to know your skills because they might be able to tap into your talent.
  • List awards and professional organizations—these make you shine above the rest.

What's Your Experience?

Brush up on Educational Jargon

Every business has its own culture and sub-language. The field of education is no different. In fact, the educational world has many acronyms.

If you're a recent graduate of an educational program, you might be familiar with a number of terms and acronyms: ESL, PEP, EOG, EOC, 504, and many more.

In an era where teachers have more accountability, many of these acronyms come from various laws in place to help with student achievement.

Again, the more familiar you are with the terms, especially in your subject area, the higher the probability your interviewers will take an interest in you.

Knowing the different acronyms and terms will help you when you talk about "differentiation of instruction"—this is an educational buzzphrase and you must be ready to demonstrate how you do this.

You've got skills! Put your best foot forward in your  teaching interview.

You've got skills! Put your best foot forward in your teaching interview.

Interview Tip

When you're looking at a school, pay close attention to their mission and vision.

Do they align with your values and goals?

It's important that they do - you won't be happy working somewhere that is completely different than your personal values and goals.

Create a Portfolio

In recent years, there has been a de-emphasis on a teaching portfolio in favor of resumes or just talking during the course of the interview.

I'm here to tell you that if you have a portfolio, your chances are much greater of landing the job you want than someone who does not have a portfolio.

However, if you create a portfolio, make it part of the interview.

  • As you speak, you'll be able to refer to it. Remember those special needs students I spoke about above? You can use a portfolio to show their work and progress.
  • A portfolio gives your hands something to hold on to while you're talking. Many people tend to use their hands too much in interviews, or they have sweaty palms and end up wrinkling their resumes.
  • Boost confidence in what you're saying. If your interviewer asks about your teaching philosophy, you can refer to your written copy and summarize.

What to Include In a Teaching Portfolio

  • Your teaching philosophy (this must be error-free)
  • Your best examples of student work
  • A sample (or two) of your best lesson plan
  • Any awards you have received while teaching

It's a good idea to include a few extra things in a teaching portfolio:

  • A copy of your teaching license
  • A personal letter to the principal or headmaster of the school
  • Personal discipline plan
  • Past evaluations (such as summative evaluations and reviews)
  • Extra copy of your resume

The second list of items may not seem as important, but if you have a copy of your teaching license and credentials, for example, then your interviewers will not have to go through the trouble of making copies.

If you're a student-teacher, the same applies: you can use lesson plans you created during your internship, include samples of student work, and you should already have a teaching philosophy.

Be Prepared for Hard Questions

Interviews are designed so that yes, the school and the prospective candidate put their best foot forward.

However, the interviewers will want to make sure you're a good match for them. By the same measure, you want to make sure you're a good match for the school, too.

There are subtle ways to do this. Your interviewers will ask you some candid questions about your teaching.

Personal Examples of Tough Interview Questions

Question: It's October 3rd, the afternoon, and you're teaching 4th grade. What does your lesson look like?

First, you have to understand that because it's early in the year, students aren't going to know the material that they should know by April. Fourth-grade content is going to look a lot different from second grade. The fact that it's in the afternoon might mean the students are more tired.

Answer: (Remember, I am a Spanish teacher.)

I know that by then, students will have learned the alphabet, numbers and greetings. By October, I will have built upon those concepts and created a more comprehensive unit about autumn and I will have collaborated with the teacher to see what other specific things I could teach to make my lesson most beneficial to students.

Question: I had from another principal was the following:

What do you do when Little John misbehaves in your class?

Don't be fooled by this open-ended question. Principals and Assistant Principals are looking to make sure you don't say something like, "I will send him to the office."

Schools are getting away from more punitive punishments, first of all. Second, they want to see how well you can handle all the different scenarios that will arise in the classroom.

Answer:

Students have lives outside the classroom that we may know little about: little John's mom might be sick or he might not feel well or someone might be bullying him. Still, he might not understand the content I'm teaching. It's important to discreetly pull the student aside and investigate what might be causing the problem. From there, using Love and Logic can be a great tool in helping that student.

In effect, with this kind of question, you're demonstrating your ability to wear different hats as a teacher; you'll be expected to wear many hats.

Interview Tip

Always research the company or school where you want to work before the interview. Your interviewer wants to know that you did your homework. That's a sign of a hard-working employee.

Have Your Own Questions Ready

Often in an interview, people find that the interviewer addresses all their questions during the interview.

This is why it's a good idea to have at least 10 questions ready for your interviewer. Never leave the interview without asking your own questions. Your interviewer will interpret this as "not interested."

Ideally, you want to ask about 2–3 questions. Often, your interviewer will have answered a few from your list. Go over what they haven't answered and pick the most important ones you'd like to find out.

Good Questions to Ask

  • What would you say the culture is like here at ABC School?

You want to find out if the culture is lively, if morale is good, etc.

  • Could you tell me more about why this position is open?

Sometimes schools can tell you why—Mrs. Travelmundo moved to Argentina - or it might be because the last teacher just couldn't take the school anymore. Listen to your instincts on these questions because the school will not be able to give you exact details due to privacy and/or confidentiality laws.

  • What is your favorite part about working here?

You're looking for an enthusiastic response. If not, are you going to be excited about working there?

  • What is your biggest challenge as a school right now?

Faced with funding issues and constraints all across the board, schools already have certain issues. Financial constraints due to budgets are normal. What you're looking for here is if the school might have problems beyond that which you might be comfortable with.

  • Could I sit in and watch a class?

You can use this as an opportunity to get to know another teacher. That person might be able to give you candid answers about what it's really like to work at that particular school. This also shows your interest in the school itself.

  • How often do you offer professional development?

This is a way to find out how much is expected of you outside the normal school day. Private schools will typically require more time from teachers outside of the school day with various activities.

  • What sorts of safety measures do you have in place to ensure the safety for all?

We live in an age with school shootings. You want to make sure that you are as safe as possible, and that the students are, too.

  • What other responsibilities might I have as a teacher?

This is a good time to ask about extra-curricular activities you might be interested in. Do research their website beforehand so that you know if such an activity is offered or if you can create one yourself.

During the Interview

This is the most stressful part of the process. However, if you are prepared, have your resume and portfolio ready, then the interview will be like a "recap" of your skills and expertise.

  • Arrive 15–20 minutes early. (Arriving on time is actually "late.")
  • Apparel: a suit for the guys, and conservative dress for the gals (skirt, slacks, dress shirt)
  • Use and refer to your portfolio, resume, and any supplemental materials
  • Don't be afraid to use personal anecdotes from the classroom - just keep it professional

Some good ideas beforehand are:

  • Practice in front of a mirror or a friend
  • Thoroughly look over your materials so that you are confident in what you are saying
  • Do highlight your expertise and achievements, but don't go overboard: nobody likes a braggart
  • Don't bring up your personal life during the interview: never say how "poor" you might be or that "I really need this job"—you will send your interviewer running
Don't underestimate how important a "thank you" card is.

Don't underestimate how important a "thank you" card is.

After the Interview

The single-most important thing you can do after the interview? Send a thank-you card.

Every single job where I have sent a card, I have secured employment there.

In fact, have the thank you card before you go into the interview. Then, when you get back to your car (bus, apartment, etc.), thank your interviewer.

What to Say on the Thank You Card

Keep it simple: one line to express your gratitude, one or two lines to recount something you talked about in the interview, mention how you enjoyed speaking with him/her, and talk about how you would love the opportunity to be a part of the school's team.

Sign and seal the card, and send it the same day of the interview, if possible.

This works. If the school has two candidates with equal qualifications and stellar portfolios, but one person sends a personal thank-you card, who would you pick?

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2014 Cynthia Calhoun

Comments

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 01, 2018:

Rod - thank you for your insightful comment. And you know, what you say rings true: I left a position to get my master's degree in education and when I returned, they pretty much were like, "no." But I knew why: I wasn't the moldable 20-something anymore. They were going to have to pay me more. I remember the hushed conversations about hiring a teacher with a master's degree. Of course, that was with public school. I have found private school experiences more satisfying in terms of their acceptance of people with advanced degrees, but they pay less overall - just my experience. I know that's not true everywhere. And yes, things definitely change. I started out as a Spanish teacher. Now I'm the school's marketer where I work. Definitely not my skill set (not at first) but now I can't get enough of this challenge. :)

RodLW on May 14, 2018:

I join the others in thanking you for such a pertinent topic and posting. I have to say though that I am not in agreement completely. I completed a thirty-one year career in teaching, including administrating. I sat on many interview teams and also participated in "professional" portfolio, resume and dress-for-success trainings. I remember interviewing candidates that were well dressed, experienced and had a gorgeous binder filled with samples. NONE of my colleagues seemed ever impressed. If the resume was more than a page, it was usually an issue and though I personally perceived advanced degrees as an indicator of initiative and drive (along with potential benefit to our school) I was nearly always overridden by the committee, even when I served as an administrator and made such a point.

I've read a few postings recently on the topic as I relocated and have begun applying for positions in my new location. I am now on the other side of the fence, looking for a position. I have six degrees, including a PhD in education, seven certifications, five industrial certifications in technology and lots of experience. My resume has been copied as example to business sites by a resume writer who loved it. I have not been contacted for any interviews. I am experiencing, to some degree, what the highly qualified candidates (my opinion), experienced during our interviewing process over the years. I still believe that a strong teacher candidate is a person that shows evidence of growth, through advanced studies, trainings, additional service activity, etc. I know that often teacher interview teams focus more on impression and "group fit" and all else be damned- they just have to be chummy. A related principal's post mentioned high marks for candidates knowing about the school. If I were more nieve or inexperienced, I would agree; however, it doesn't really matter what they know about the school or program because things may change. Often our teacher candidates would apply for a particular position and find that once school started their position had to be changed from kindergarten to third grade- per se. One year, a Reading Specialist hired was suddenly teaching second grade. That is huge. I believe that reality dictates that teachers be flexible, quick to learn and kind-hearted. My concern on the other side is that I am not penalized for taking the initiative to earn more education (have to pay more) and that I am now no longer twenty-something. I remember how the interview teams were!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on August 29, 2016:

Audrey - hey there! Great to see you! Haven't been blogging as much lately...I'm going to be doing a lot more hubbing, though. :) I have missed you, too! Sending hugs!

AudreyHowitt on August 28, 2016:

Hope you are doing well--this popped up in my feed and I realize that I have missed your writing--I need to catch up with your blog I think

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on August 28, 2016:

BB LA - nice! Good luck on that interview. Sometimes it's hard to find stuff on the school. When it is, you can see if there's anything in the news about that school - you can get a feel if they're doing neat things or not - and you can ask at some point if you can sit in a classroom and observe. Then, that could be a possible way to ask a current teacher what the culture is like.

As far as interview questions, it never hurts to practice out loud in front of a mirror. Or get a friend to grill you. :)

BB LA on August 27, 2016:

I am about to have a teaching job interview soon! I have been going through a lot lately. I am very grateful for the opportunity, but I feeling a little bit depressed. I have my teaching portfolio and have done my research about the school. There is no principal message or teachers websites. I have been reading different questions I could be asked in the job interview. What advise can you give me? Everything is welcome :)

Gracias :)

Brenlynwin on January 07, 2016:

Hi there, Cynthia!

I have been out of the teaching world for 5 years, so your information has been invaluable for me! I am feeling so much more confident about an interview, thanks to you. Very well written! Thank you so much for sharing!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on October 23, 2015:

Haha, Audrey. I've been doing a little bit more blogging lately. :D

It's pictimilitude.com - "picto" meaning photo, creativity, and "verisimilitude" - for searching for truth: pictimilitude. That's how I remember how to spell it. :P

Audrey Howitt from California on October 22, 2015:

Hope you are well!! Looking for your blog in my email inbox , but just can't recall how it is spelled!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on August 13, 2015:

Thank you sanasiddidqui - I appreciate your feedback. :)

sanasiddiqui on July 15, 2015:

Great advice for teaching courses Teaching career is a very bright career till the end. Thanks for sharing such an informational content via this hub.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 05, 2015:

Renee - thank you. Best of luck in your teaching endeavors. If you have questions, stop back and ask. :) Have a great evening.

Tori Leumas on July 05, 2015:

Great hub! I am currently enrolled at college to become a piano teacher. I can't wait to start teaching. These are great tips!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 04, 2015:

letstalkabouteduc - thanks so much! I recently changed jobs in education after completing my master's degree and once again, I had the portfolio. :) Those work wonders.

McKenna Meyers on May 31, 2015:

Great tips! I learned a lot. I love the portfolio idea.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on September 13, 2014:

Prairieprincess - hey! Thanks for stopping by! I'm thrilled you got that job! :D Hehe, they probably thought it amusing that you forgot your portfolio - KNOWING that you were already amazing. Hehe. May you always enjoy your career! Hugs.

Sharilee Swaity from Canada on September 11, 2014:

A very well-written hub! At one interview I had, I brought my portfolio but forgot to hand it out. I ended up going back there and giving it to them. I did get the job, but felt silly forgetting it!

I like your idea of asking if you can sit in some classes, too.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on August 06, 2014:

smart girl!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on August 06, 2014:

Rebecca - I hope this helps, too. I've followed all these tips myself and have always landed the teaching job I wanted. :)

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on August 04, 2014:

It's not too late to get a teaching job!! Shared it hopes it helps. A-one advice.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 07, 2014:

Larry - thank you! I definitely love to help people secure the job they want! :)

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 07, 2014:

aviannovice - thank you so much! Hehe, yes, I definitely want to show my employer that I've done my homework. :) I hope you've been well! xoxo

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on June 05, 2014:

Very solid information. This article is helpful to anyone seeking employment in the education field. Wonderful job.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on June 04, 2014:

These are all excellent suggestions. I can see why you secured employment wherever you applied. It pays to do YOUR homework, too.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on May 21, 2014:

Audrey - thank you so much! And great profile pic by the way. It's great!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on May 21, 2014:

Rose - thank you so much! You did a fabulous job yourself - I can just tell that you are a *wonderful* teacher and creative. HUGS

Audrey Howitt from California on May 21, 2014:

Just a wonderful hub!!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 21, 2014:

Great job with this topic! Thanks for linking to my portfolio article. I love how much detail you covered here.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on May 21, 2014:

Rebecca - yes! Differentiation of instruction is a buzzword for sure. Thank you so much for coming by - you're so sweet. HUGS

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on May 21, 2014:

Vvitta - thank you so much. Yes, the kids are the ones that make it worth it. If you have kids who appreciate what you do, teaching is just magical. :) Thank you for your service to our future generations - the profession needs good people.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on May 21, 2014:

Faith Reaper - thank you so much! I appreciate your comments and feedback - so good to see you. :)

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on May 21, 2014:

macteacher - haha, ¿español? Por supuesto. ;)

Thank you so much for stopping by. I appreciate your feedback.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on May 21, 2014:

So helpful for the aspiring teacher, or one relocating, too. A great tool, and teacher's jobs aren't as scarce now as they were a few years ago. You are right, they are sure to be asked how they plan to differentiate instruction.

Kalaichelvi Panchalingam from PETALING JAYA on May 21, 2014:

Great hub. Definitely will be helpful to those who are on the verge of attending interviews or even starting to teach. Many useful tips. As a teacher with 27 years of experience, all I can say is that it is a wonderful job although the pay in Malaysia is not that attractive. the kids really make your day.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on May 21, 2014:

Excellent hub here full of keen insight into securing that teaching position and going through the interview process. Up and more and away

Wendy Golden from New York on May 20, 2014:

Terrific hub, very useful. As a veteran teacher I can say that everything you've written is right on target. Maybe you could teach me Spanish, I still struggle with it. :-) Voted up!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on May 20, 2014:

Vicki - you as well - you're always writing frickin' awesome hubs! Love ya, cyber sis! xoxox

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on May 20, 2014:

I have never heard of sending a thank you note. What a great idea! Excellent hub, as always, my dear CC. :-)

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on May 20, 2014:

BB - haha, that doesn't surprise me. You're a ROCK STAR! :)

Sgiguere - thank you! I hope it's helpful. Have a great day!

Stephanie Giguere from Worcester, MA on May 20, 2014:

What an excellent Hub! Well written, and very good tips. This is a Hub I will come back to again.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 20, 2014:

Great tips of course. I always did well in interviews, and I suspect it is because I followed these suggestions. Right on, lil Sis.