How to Prepare for Your Teacher Interview

Dr. Rick N. Bolling
Dr. Rick N. Bolling
Elementary/Middle School Principal; Ed.D. in Leadership

As you near completion of your teacher education program, preparing for upcoming interviews becomes a paramount concern. Spring and early summer are when most teacher vacancies become available to new candidates. In preparing for a teacher interview, you must plan ahead, prepare for the interview, and learn from the process for any additional future interviews.

Do Your Research

Researching the school and division with which you are interviewing is a solid investment in time. Taking time to understand the mission, vision, key resources, demographics, and academic achievement data of a school can be very helpful in the interview process. Responses will appear more tailored so the employer will see you as invested and knowledgeable. You will be able to discuss the consistencies between the school’s mission/vision and your own educational philosophies. Further, you can share how you plan to utilize curriculum and technological resources available within the school district to their fullest potential in the classroom. You can share innovative ideas as to how you will use the available resources.

Finally, understanding the demographics and academic achievement history of the school are essential to the interview and potential employment within the school. Researching the school’s demographics shows a prospective employer that you have a focus on student success. To work within a school, it is essential for a new teacher to build effective relationships with all community stakeholders. These stakeholders include students’ families. Understanding where students come from, both the assets and challenges, helps build teaching lessons that are tailored and most effective. Further, understanding where students come from builds empathy.

Once you show understanding of the prospective students, you can share your knowledge of school achievement data. Within the interview, praise the school for its successes and share how you would like to become a member of the team. Next, share some instructional ideas as to how you will become an asset by building capacity to overcome weaknesses. Share these ideas without directly pointing out school or district weaknesses. An example would be to make comments like “most schools struggle with,” and share how you can help them overcome these struggles.

Prepare Your Portfolio

With the average teacher interview being one hour or less in length, it is important to fill the application and portfolio with selling points. You need to sell yourself as the best candidate so this is not a time for modesty. Getting a teaching job starts well in advance of the actual interview.

Spending time making your portfolio organized and professional is vital. Although it is important to have your portfolio readily available, due to time constraints, some districts may not spend extensive time examining the portfolio during the actual interview. The portfolio’s content should make it apparent that you have a student-first focus with data showing how lessons you have implemented have led to student growth and achievement.

Although the portfolio is important, the resume is likely more essential. The resume should be clear, organized, and professional. Try not to include “cute” or irrelevant information. Like the portfolio, the resume should focus on awards and certifications that are applicable to teaching. Earn credentials and work toward awards that make you a clear asset to a prospective division. Focus on work ethic, teamwork, and student growth.

Further, show that you are effective in collaboration with a multitude of stakeholders. You need to present yourself as a team player. Tests and coursework that lead to additional teaching certifications are valuable. Having multiple certifications makes you more viable as school leaders can fill needs within the school that can change yearly.

Know Why You’re a Good Fit

Being the right fit for a position or a school is an essential piece of the hiring puzzle that a principal is trying to solve. Above all, remain positive and student-focused during the interview. Avoid negative talk about current educational practices, student demographics and related academic achievement, and other schools or districts. A principal wants a teacher who can work within the team, build productive relationships with all stakeholder groups, and has positive energy that will impact student achievement. Elaborate on your certifications and present yourself as a team player that will impact the entire school. Further, present yourself as focused, dedicated, and positive. A principal does not want to hire a teacher that will increase drama in the building.

Get Ready for Tough Questions

As the interview nears, look up potential interview questions. Many times a friend, colleague, or college mentor will practice the interview process with you. The toughest questions normally relate to how you will improve academic achievement, handle classroom management, and build effective relationships within the community.

As a teaching candidate, prepare answers to these questions prior to the interview. The answers should reveal that you are innovative and student-focused. You should present with eloquence and confidence but not arrogance. In answering these questions, include differentiation, remediation practices, small-group instruction, and building positive relationships to establish yourself within the community and handle discipline in a proactive manner. Relationships are the most important piece. An administrator knows he or she can teach skills but cannot change a person. Speak to your ability to build relationships when addressing tough questions.

Be Prepared to Talk About Your Teaching Strategies

When speaking about teaching strategies, continue the student-first focus. Detail the importance of differentiation, remediation, and small-group instruction. Show that you understand the importance of these three key concepts. Further, speak to how you will use formative and summative data to assess your teaching practices. Time is a valuable resource in education so all educators should be making data-driven decisions. Formative data should be used to assess mastery and drive future instruction along the journey.

Know How to Present Yourself

At the interview, you should present yourself as eloquent and professional. Body language should reinforce that you are relatable and approachable. Try to smile and make eye contact. Dress professionally as impressions are very important. Teaching is a professional career so your appearance should reflect that in the interview.

The importance of how you present yourself in public normally starts well in advance of the interview. For many schools, your “true” interview begins with how you handle observation hours and internships within the school. These periods give a much more detailed representation of you as a potential teacher. During these times, show tremendous work ethic, display professionalism, and show that you are an asset to the school’s future.

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