It’s spring, and many of us have started daydreaming about the possibility of changing schools or moving up. In the education world that means that many of us are starting to look at the job postings on district websites, Regional Education Centers, or even Indeed.
For most of us, just starting the job hunt can be overwhelming. It may take a good deal of resolve to work up the nerve to put yourself out there and apply for another job. Once you hit submit on the application, you may think you are done, but hopefully you will get a call back asking you to schedule an interview.
Now you find yourself in the predicament of having to prove that you are the best candidate for the position you want.
Whether you are looking for your first teaching job or a change after realizing that you have stagnated where you are, you will need to adequately prepare for the interview process.
When you are contacted to schedule an interview, it is OK to ask how many people will be in the interview and if there is anything you need to prepare. This allows you to have a little peace of mind when you arrive rather than being shocked if you walk into a room with 12 people questioning you.
It’s a good idea to do a practice interview. Look up common interview questions for educators and think through possible answers. You may even ask a trusted friend or mentor to interview you and provide some feedback.
One of our writers went so far as to record himself answering questions and listened to the recording while driving to interviews. Be careful, though - after reflection, he realized that his answers may have started sounding rehearsed and unnatural.
We want to give you a few tips that should help calm your nerves, think through things you may not have considered, and set you apart from the rest of the applicants.
Resume and Portfolio
Whenever you start looking for a position, whether it is a lateral move or a promotion, it is important to take a fresh look at your resume. Even if it’s just been a year or two since you last updated it, there are likely things you can add to it.
Simple things like the look of the heading, neat formatting, and an easy to read, professional font can make your resume stand out. But the details you choose to include can make the difference once you have caused them to stop and look at yours.
Consider any additional responsibilities you have had like being a team leader or a PLC facilitator, subjects/grade levels taught, being a part of a committee, writing curriculum, or community outreach in which you have been involved.
For each entry under experience, list your responsibilities and accomplishments. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn, but don’t mention anything that you don’t what to be asked to do again.
While it is typical to only list education-related jobs on a resume, if you have other work experience or community service that you think would make you a strong candidate, consider adding a note listing “other relevant experience”.
Here are a few other things to consider adding to your resume:
- professional development you have taught or facilitated
- honors or awards you have received
- professional writing or publication
- professional memberships (if you have attended any conferences, you may have received a membership with your registration)
- it is no longer considered necessary to include references on your resume if they are part of the application
It’s a good idea to bring several extra copies of your resume. More likely than not, everyone in the interview will already have a copy of your resume, but it’s better to be prepared. Go ahead and include copies of recent letters of recommendation if you have any. We suggest going the extra step and printing on quality paper and placing these items in a nice folder (not just a manilla file folder).
You may also want to compile a portfolio to bring with you. The interview committee will probably see many faces throughout their search, so anything special could really set you apart. And, some members of the committee may be fighting moments of A.D.D. so giving them something to hold and look at could keep them focused.
You could include pictures of classroom activities, copies of agendas for meetings or trainings that you led, a sample lesson plan, published writings, testing data, or anything else that would illustrate what you have to offer them.
Professional Dress and Hygiene
It may seem like this should go without saying, but first impressions and nonverbals go a long way. The way you present yourself shows your level of professionalism, it communicates your interest in the position, and it reflects how you are likely to carry yourself in the classroom.
It is important to dress, not just professionally, but dress to impress. While it is possible to overdress (it’s not a formal gala), men should at least wear a tie, but a suit is really not too much. We would discourage wearing a polo or short-sleeve button-up shirt (even with a tie).
Ladies, it doesn’t matter if you are wearing a dress, a skirt, or nice slacks; what does matter is that it’s not too casual. Your top should be a blouse; avoid sleeveless (unless you wear a sweater or jacket over) or jersey knit tops (too casual). And, be careful not to wear anything too tight or revealing.
Trim and clean your nails.
Gentlemen, make sure you are freshly shaved. If you have facial hair, make sure it is neatly trimmed. Take the time to get a haircut if you need to. If it’s a windy day, stop in the restroom when you arrive to make sure that you’re not windblown.
Pop in a hardy breath mint about 5 minutes before the interview is scheduled to start and bring some water. We have been in interviews where everyone in the room could smell the interviewee’s breath. Let’s just say it was very difficult to focus on what the person was saying, no matter how brilliant or impressive (and no, that person did not get the job).
Wear a good, durable antiperspirant. If you know you get sweaty armpits when you’re nervous, wear a top that won’t show the moisture (consider color and material); maybe even wear a jacket or sweater (unless that’s going to make you sweat worse).
And, believe it or not, shoes matter. We know of some people who will judge a candidate on what shoes they wore to the interview. Go for style and appearance over comfort (you can always kick them off as soon as you get back to your car).
Respect Their Time
It is very important that you are on time so try to be early (but not too early). Being late shows that you believe your schedule is more important than theirs. It also communicates what they can expect from you if they hire you.
If you are going to a location that you are unfamiliar with, allow time for traffic or getting lost. If you find that you are still going to be late, call as soon as you realize it, give them an estimated time of arrival, and ask if you need to reschedule.
If you are going to be more than 10 or 15 minutes early, either park and try to relax by listening to some of your favorite music, or better yet, take a short drive around the community.
If your interview has been scheduled on a school day, even though you may be tempted to teach a full day then rush to the interview, consider taking the day off, or at least a half day. This will allow you to relax and prepare rather than frantically rushing and not allowing yourself adequate time to get centered and put your best you forward.
It is also a good practice to read the room. If the interview committee is beginning to look bored or distracted, try and wrap up what you are saying. If they are looking at the clock or playing on their phones, that may be a clue that you are droning on and losing them.
If the interview has been naturally flowing and is going longer than 30 minutes, it’s a good idea to acknowledge that and say something to the effect of: I apologize if I have gone on too long; I’m just so excited to share with you my experience and my interest in this position. This will give them the opportunity to bring it to an end if they have another appointment or keep going if they want to know more. But, it shows that you are aware of how valuable their time is.
Just like your dad may have told you, a lot can be communicated by looking people in the eye and a handshake.
There is something to be said with the power of physical contact and the connection if can make between two people. If it is possible, go ahead and shake the hands of the members of the interview committee when you enter the room - a good, firm handshake (but not painfully strong). If you sense that this would not be welcomed, save the handshakes for the end of the interview when you are thanking them for their time.
While this is a very professional way to greet people, it is still a personal, physical connection and can create even a slight bond between individuals. Don’t underestimate it!
Another way to communicate confidence is through eye contact. Attempt to look each person in the eyes while talking, especially whoever asked the specific question you are answering. Failure to do so may falsely convey not just a lack of self-esteem, but possibly disinterest or dishonesty.
These are just a few items to consider when preparing for an interview. Check back soon for part 2 with even more tips!