As someone who has been a department chair for over 12 years, I have interviewed a lot of different candidates for jobs ranging from 6th -12th grade. I love the interview process because it fills a bit of my teacher bucket, exposes me to new people, and reminds me how lucky I am to work with such incredible people that so many want to be a part of our team! Throughout this process, I have often thought to myself how people prepare and have a few tips from the other side of the table.
- First, you have to land the interview. I look through every social studies application that comes through our system. I immediately put ones that misspell, forget to capitalize, or leave questions blank in a discard pile. Answer each question! Double check everything! Make sure you have a professional sounding email. (This one gets me every time. I’ve had some pretty awful and unprofessional ones come across my desk. That’s an automatic no, thank you.) Have a professional, easy-to-read resume. Be someone on paper we want to meet in person. And make sure your online profile is something you want your potential employers to see.
- One you land the interview, know the school that you are applying to and why you want to work THERE. This is a question I often ask people. I want to see that your genuine interest is to work at MY school, not in the district or because it’s close to your home. Do your research! Saying, “Because it’s a great school” is like saying that ice cream is good. It’s not the answer your interviewers want to hear. I know I work at a good school.
- Be precise with your answers. DO NOT drone on or lose focus because then we stop listening. Use the jargon you are most comfortable with. Be passionate about your work!
- Vary your answers. I have been in a lot of interviews where the candidate gave me the same answer for a few questions, just formed in different ways.
- Sell yourself. Show them what you have to offer them and what your plan is. If you plan to go get a graduate degree or a National Board Certification, let your interviewers know. It’s key to show that you are willing to continue to grow and adapt to new educational ways of thinking! Don’t be afraid to show them what you can offer and how passionate you are about education! Confidence is key! Don’t be afraid to show who you are as a person and be comfortable with that. Teaching isn’t a profession you perfect, so we want to see that continual strive to be better, no matter how long you’ve been teaching.
- And on that, dress in something that makes you feel good. That goes a long way in confidence!
- Never, ever say “I don’t know.” If you get stuck, take a deep breath and say, “That’s a good question.” If you don’t understand what they are asking, ask them to repeat,rephrase, or clarify. It’s ok! We work with students all day who need the same thing. I want to make sure you understand the question I am asking you!
- Be prepared for anything. You never know what you are going to be asked, but a cool, calm demeanor can get you far. Things at a education change and I appreciate someone who can go with the flow and do what is best for students. Practice with a colleague, a friend, or a mentor.
- Ask questions. My favorite part! I LOVE talking about my school, ways to be involved, how great it is to be a part of my department. I feel very turned off if the candidate has no questions. It makes them seem unprepared or uninterested. One of your questions should be about the timeline for hiring.
Each situation will be different. Every admin and department chair has what they want, so don’t be discouraged if you aren’t a good fit. I did leave out bringing a teaching portfolio. If you want to bring one, it never hurts. For me, I am more interested in who you are as a person rather than who you are on paper. It tells me more.
Regardless, as we move into the summer and interviews, I wish you the best of luck!