What are hiring agents and principals looking for in a teacher?
Some districts experience high turnover rates as the expectations bestowed upon teachers become higher, more complex, and more strict. For this reason, school administrators and human resources professionals pay key attention to applicants who not only seem to inherently know what they are doing, but who are also willing to do all they can to see students succeed.
The interview process
Despite of talent, passion, and performance, there is that pesky thing part called "the interview process." Some of us are better at interviewing than others, therefore, better interviewees will more likely be called for a teaching position than people who go to interviews unprepared.
How can we help change the world, if we cannot get past the interview process?
Here is a quick tutorial filled with tips and advise from fellow educators who have also gone through the process. These are their recommendations.
Going for the interview
First, think about the actual step of going to an interview for a teaching position. Your appearance, the way you talk, and the way you conduct yourself will be as important as your experience and talent. This is because teaching is no different than any other “public servant” position where your image and reputation are connected and exposed to dozens, if not hundreds, of people within the same district.
Here are some helpful tips for teacher candidates who want to make a good impression during an interview:
1. Have a chamomile tea prior to the interview- Chamomile is a delicious tea that naturally calms your nerves. If you do not like interviewing, at least go to yours in a relaxed state.
2. Dress for success- One of biggest clichés of all times may actually work for you. There is no specific dress code for a job interview. However, consider that the people who will interview you will take the time to look professional for you. This is how they show respect for themselves, as well as for the interviewees. You may want to do the same. When in doubt, go for slacks, flats and blouse.
3. Be honest- Your interviewers have already heard “it all” from other candidates. They are not looking for heroic stories, but for frank, honest professionals who desire to work and do their best for students. Keep it real.
4. Have a story to tell- Prior to your interview, write down your “teacher life story,” make it concise, and tell it to yourself. Include your experience working with students, and focus on how much you enjoy working in the field. Stories are more fun than documentaries. Rather than documenting your teaching experience in a long, boring narrative, retell your story with a pinch of humor.
5. Mind your manners- Good manners are always impressive. A simple “Thank you for the opportunity,” and “I appreciate your time” can color the day of an interviewer who has been listening to people all day.
6. No badmouthing. Ever! – Your previous work experience was your personal experience and not anyone else’s. Even if you are slightly tempted to tell everyone how awful your previous admin team was, or how bad were your working conditions, remember to keep it professional; keep things to yourself. You never know who knows who in the district, so do not burn bridges upon entering.
7. Make the difference of being positive- Even if 20 candidates are interviewed in one day, those who will stand out are the ones who bring positivity and energy into the room. Be that person. Say “Good Morning” first, smile first, surprise them with charm.
8. Treat yourself after the interview- A job interview is, inevitably, stressful. It is not so much because of the interview itself, but because of the waiting and the wondering. End your interview day with a nice lunch, a unicorn smoothie, or whatever you wish. Your brain will know, subconsciously, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You may even look more excited in the interview room without even trying.
9. Bring a drink with you- Soft drink, that is, or water. You can’t have a safety blanket for comfort during an interview, but a cold drink of water can calm you down on the spot. This is true also of other favorite drinks: ice-cold, sweet tea, a cup of cocoa, or your favorite juice. Now, be mindful of sodas, since they may give you the hiccups.
10. Keep a list- List all the potential schools, school districts, principals, and fellow teachers that you could contact to get an interview or job referral. Having that list will mitigate any emotion in the event that you do not get picked for a position. Knowing that there is something else you can go for will keep you going strong.
When the “bad things” come up
Suppose you have a memo on record, or an administrative action that is still on file. The best way to get advice is through the local education association or teacher’s union. Just ask what is the appropriate wording to refer to your “less than stellar” moments.
Also, follow these tips:
1. If you are confronted or presented with a situation from the past, simply admit to it- Refer it to it as the mistake of a very unprepared teacher that could have known better. Express that you are thankful for having learned from the experience, and for it making you a much better professional after the lessons learned.
2. Do not dwell in the past- If you had a less-than-happy teacher past, recognize that you are interviewing because you want to a different outcome. You want to try again because you love teaching so much. You want bigger and better things. All these are things worth mentioning in an interview.
3. If you feel that you are in the “hot seat”- If facts and questions come at you like curve balls, do not lose composure. Let the interviewer ask away. Be prepared with the truth of all your past actions by preparing honest answers at home, ahead of time. Tell your story. Focus on your desire to work in an empowering, peaceful environment, and continue from there.
It is possible to become employed, no matter what your past may have been. What matters is to be clear about all you can bring to the table; focus on "here and now.
Extra tips you may not normally think about
Somethings go amiss, and you end up realizing that you missed something a little too late. Here are some tiny tips that are not so tiny, in the end:
- Arrive early and become familiarized with the building and the environment.
- Mind your hygiene: deodorant, clean teeth, and a dash of cologne go a long way.
- Do not enter the room chewing gum, or with anything in your mouth that makes you hard to understand when you speak.
- Do not try to use “smart” words for the first time during a job interview. You may not use the words correctly.
- Try not to smoke prior to the interview; the smell of cigarettes is offensive to some people, for different reasons.
- Wear your hair in a way that won’t make you play with it due to nervousness
Whether you are a seasoned teacher, or a teacher new to a district, there is never a bad time to get advice from other colleagues who have been there and done that, too.
Do not think of all these tips as a checklist. They are a compilation of suggestions based on the experiences of other educators who have also experienced the excitement, as well as the anxiety, of a job interview. Just remember to do your best, keep it simple, and look forward to a great journey!