As I am currently in the midst of my job hunt, this topic is at the forefront of my mind. Every day I am either applying for jobs or writing cover letters or praying to Santa that I get a job at a great school with lovely people. Pretty much. There are a lot of things I have done (or did not do) that have helped me (or hurt me) in the interview, and I thought to put it down in a blog post in hopes it may help someone else…so, here we are!
Prepare to show your strengths
Being boastful is not a comfortable place for teachers; it’s not what we do. In fact, we even teach our students to not show off or be a know-it-all. However, it is necessary to be ready to share some of the amazing things you are doing or have done in order for your potential school to realize what an asset you’d be to them. They would be lucky to have you; they just have to be made aware of that fact!
Make a list of a wide variety of things you do and stories you can tell (stories are great), keeping in mind where they might fit into your answers to some common topics that are likely to come up in your interview. Here are the ones I prepare for:
- differentiation/universal design for learning (UDL)
- behavior management/positive learning environment
- working through conflict
- teaching with a workshop model
- assessment/standards-based grading
- building relationships
- promoting student agency
- current book in education that I’m loving (It’s #LCInnovation)
FACT: if your last interview was last year or ten years ago, you are rusty. One interview where you give it your all is what it takes to work those kinks out and unrustify yourself. Set up an interview with a school that isn’t at the top of your list…yet. Maybe this sounds cruel, but it’s helpful to you and the person you speak with. You’re making a connection after all! Of course, remain professional and send thank you notes just as you would before, but do not lead the school on if they continue to pursue you. Who knows?! Maybe you will want to join their community after your conversation! Keep an open mind 🙂
Every interviewer should receive a thank you note or email within a day of your interview. To make sure you stay present, keep track of what the school has to offer, and who you were talking to, take notes! After, you can peek at your chicken scratch to see how you could also squeeze in some of your awesomeness in the thank-you note (tell them something you know or can do that would be of great benefit to them).
MOST IMPORTANT: Names of everyone present. You can look up their email addresses and correct spellings after the meeting for your thank-you note, but don’t forget their names (awkward!)
ALSO IMPORTANT: What impressed you, key details you want to remember, the topics they bring up (it’s important to them), and questions that come up as they speak.
Don’t stumble when they put the ball back in your court: “What questions do you have for us?” This is your moment! Your opportunity to get to know the school and how they respond, unscripted. Many, hopefully, will be answered as your conversation flowed, but you should have some questions that illuminate for yourself as a teacher and lifelong learner if this is the right place for you. Here are some of mine to get you started:
- What professional development opportunities can teachers at your school take advantage of?
- How do teachers collaborate? How often?
- What is an area of recent innovation you are proud of?
- What technology is available to teachers and students?
- How would you describe the school climate? How do people interact with one another?
- What’s your schools greatest strength? current area of improvement?
*important note* DO NOT ask questions that imply you already have the job (salary, benefits, etc.)
Give yourself space
Right before the interview, you don’t want to be stuck in traffic. If you’re like me, you have to deal with Skype or Zoom or FaceTime or Google Hangouts to cooperate. Don’t give yourself extra anxiety right before your first impression; make sure you have at least five minutes to just breathe, listen to some happy music, or relax in child’s pose.
I have completely botched an interview because I did not give myself this time and my head was so scattered throughout it. #truth
Believe in yourself
You are a fantastic educator and you will continue to improve many children’s, families’, and colleagues’ lives. Sometimes it helps to reread those thank-you letters from students and parents. OR read over those marvelous letters of recommendations you have in your file. Envision yourself laughing and enjoying the conversation. Of course, you will! Remember, you are interviewing THEM. The power is in YOUR hands where you will work and where you’ll get the chance to make an impact. Remember that!
Good luck – go get ’em, tiger!
I do not have a new job, so … well, take it or leave it!