July 18, 2013

Tips for Teaching Job Interviews

Interview ready!
Between interviewing for jobs on my first job-hunt post-undergrad and interviewing AGAIN after getting RIFed last year, I have done quite a few teaching interviews!  Everything from huge panel interviews to Skype interviews to teaching cold lessons to a group of random kids, you name it.  Interviews can definitely be scary, but I definitely feel more comfortable now with interviewing than I did at first.  Of course I'm not an administrator and every administrator looks for different things, but here are some of the tips I've learned along the way.  Hope they help with your teaching interview!

What should I wear and bring?
  • For most of my interviews, I wore a simple black suit over a nice top.  I think a suit looks nice and professional, but if you don't have one, wear dress pants or a (knee length!) skirt and a blouse or nice top.  Remember to be fairly conservative--this is a teaching position after all!  
  • While every school I've ever interviewed at had a copy of my resume printed already from my online app, I always bring a packet with a copy of a resume, my teaching certificate, and my recc letters just in case.  I bring a padfolio to keep them in and to be able to take notes on in case I have any questions at the end.
  • I also brought a portfolio to most of my interviews.  If you choose to make an interview portfolio, KEEP IT SIMPLE!  I Included a few samples of student work, but also tried to include as many pictures as possible.  I included pictures of students doing hands on activities, group work, things they might see in my classroom.  I also took pictures of some of the management things I have hanging up in my classroom that I knew I would be mentioning in my interview (clip chart, etc.).
  • Bring a bottle of water!  Some interviews are L O N G!  You might want a quick sip--or a 10 second break between questions!
What kinds of things should I be prepared to talk about?
  • My best advice for this one is to have a handful of really awesome home run lessons in the back of your mind that you can use to answer any question.  It is SO IMPORTANT to give specific examples to back up pretty much every answer.  Seriously, anyone can google "good answers to teaching interview questions" and spout out all the jargon, but you will stand apart from the crowd if you back up every answer with an example from your experience.  
    • Ex. If you are talking about how you would use assessment in the classroom, share your philosophy and ideas followed by, "For example, I was teaching a unit on _____.  Before beginning, I had students do a quick write about the topic that I used as a pre-assessment tool to gauge their understanding about the topic before beginning.  During the unit, I used slates and exit slips to check in after lessons during the week.  At the end of the unit, my students created projects in groups..."  etc. etc. etc.
  • If you have any non-teaching experience that you think is valuable, be prepared to mention it and to explain why it would make you a great teacher.  I worked with children with autism during college doing behavioral therapy (ABA), and at my first interviews I wasn't sure how to talk about this experience in a way that would connect directly to the classroom.  Eventually, I figured out some specific examples from my therapy experiences that I could use to support my interview questions.  Think of those experiences and how they make you a better teacher in advance so you are prepared.
    • Ex. If you worked as a waitress or in customer service, you have great experience working with a wide variety of personalities!  This is sooo important as a teacher!
  • Have an answer in mind for the question, "Tell us about yourself."  This seems SO simple, but it can be so easy to draw a blank on this question!  It's totally okay to talk about some of your interests outside of school--remember, you want them to see the whole person and to remember YOU when they are reviewing candidates.  Do you do volunteer work?  Run marathons?  Do yoga?  Being well-rounded is important!  
  • Have an answer in mind for the question, "Why do you want to be a teacher?"  Again, this seems like a no-brainer, but to be honest this was one of the hardest questions for me when I was first interviewing and starting out teaching.  For many of us, we have known our whole lives that we would be teachers.  I like to talk about how teaching is so much a part of who I am; about how I come alive in the classroom.  How it is a privilege for me to have the chance to make a difference with kids, and how above all I care about kids.  A principal once told me not to say that you "like kids" in your answer to this question--anyone can "like kids," but good teachers truly care.  
  • Some other topics you should be prepared to talk about in pretty much every interview:
    • Assessment
    • Classroom Management (This includes your classroom routines, not just behavior management!!  Always start your answer to this question by how you teach expected behavior upfront so your students understand and know your expectations.   Building relationships is a huge part of my management, so I always make sure to talk about relationships with students in my management answer.)
    • Differentiation (including small group instruction)
    • Literacy Block (Definitely research the school's literacy curriculum in advance--do they use a basal?  Do they support more of an interdisciplinary approach to reading?)
    • Math (Does the school use a guided math structure?)
    • Technology
    • Parent Communication
    • Supporting English Language Learners (If you have no experience with ELL kiddos and are interviewing in a district with a large ELL population, try and think of some relevant experiences that you do have that would transfer.  For example, have you worked in a classroom with a wide range of needs?)
    • Collaborating with other teachers like ELL, special services, reading specialist/working in a Professional Learning Community/PLC (I have been asked in many interviews to talk about an experience I had working with a difficult colleague and how I handled it.  Have an example in mind or at least an idea of what you would do!) 
  • At a mock interview during my student teaching, the principal asked me, "Do you want your students to like you?"  I totally stammered some answer about how I wanted them to respect me but it didn't matter if they liked me.  Afterwards, he told me to throw that answer in the trash--OF COURSE we want our students to like us!  I use this type of question as an opportunity to talk about how important I think building relationships with kids is in the classroom.
  • Have a plan for a closing statement.  At the end of most interviews, you may be asked if there is anything else they should know about you.  I have always take this time to talk about how, above all, I am dedicated to teaching and committed to my students.  I would share how there may be other teachers who have more experience, but how I will do whatever it takes to help my students succeed (including asking for help when I need it!).  Leave them with some powerful words that truly reflect who you are as a teacher.
What if I don't have a clue how to answer a question?
  • First, it is ALWAYS okay to ask for clarification if you just don't understand a question.  Better to understand the question than say something totally off topic because you didn't understand!
  • A great, easy way to buy time is to, after hearing the question, pause briefly and restate it back to them as the beginning of your answer.  This gives you a second to collect your thoughts--just make sure that when you do answer, you support it with examples!
Other Tips
  • Speak slowly!  My biggest struggle... :)
  • Speak from the heart.
  • Try and make eye contact with everyone in the room.  I've had some big panel interviews, and this can be tricky!
  • Send a thank you email to the principal after the interview at the very least.  You might also want to send one to the assistant principal.
  • Be yourself.  This sounds so obvious, but it is really important.  Getting the job is obviously the goal, but it is such a great feeling knowing you got the job because of YOU and because the teacher you are and the things you believe in fit well with the school.  
What tips do you have for teaching going through the interview process?


  1. Great tips! I've been on the other side of that interview table several times and I have to add be FRIENDLY and FUN. Often it comes down to two equally qualified candidates who both had good answers to questions and we end up going with the one we just LIKED on a personal level. We have to think about personality and who we'd really want to work with.

  2. Thank you. I worked for years as a corporate recruiter, but the process for educational positions is somewhat different. The stress of interviewing doesn't change, though, no matter the field. I keep sending out applications. I have yet to get an interview for a teaching position. :( It's tough these days. Good luck!

  3. This is an incredible post! Thank you so much for this - just in time! I am on the job hunt now, and am feeling a little desperate at this point. I'm glad you posted this, so I can work on some crucial areas to my upcoming interviews!

    Mindful Rambles

  4. Thank you for these great tips! :) I may be heading back to the US soon and I'm definitely stressing about all the interviews that will imply! >< This is a great post.


  5. Thanks for these thoughts that you've given. All of them totally makes sense. Promoting one's self and being confident is what Interview Coaching Calgary really emphasized. It's a very useful and important skill that one should develop. This is an edge to getting on top.

  6. I'm having an interview next week and it's my first time to have a job interview. I think this blog will help me a lot because this has lots of effective tips. I will now save this and use this as my guide for my job interview preparation.

    Australian Job Search


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