Eight Interview Themes
Every principal or hiring authority wants to know several things about any teacher candidate. Your success in that interview will be based in large measure on how you fulfill each (and all) of the following themes.
Passion for Teaching
When I interviewed principals across the country for this book and asked them to identify the single-most important characteristic in a quality teacher candidate, guess what they all told me? You guessed it: "A passion for teaching!"
Do you have a passion for teaching? How do you demonstrate that passion? What activities, projects, or assignments have you engaged in that demonstrate your passion for and serious commitment to teaching? What have you done that shows you are willing to go the extra mile for students? Did you do something in student teaching beyond the ordinary? Did you do something during your pre-service years that went above and beyond your college's requirements for teacher certification? What truly excites you about teaching? What "floats your boat"?
Skills and Experience
One of the first things you need to do in any interview is to establish your ability to do the job. In a nutshell, Can you teach, and can you teach effectively? In most interviews, these will be the initial set of questions you'll be asked. Many of these questions will be factual in nature and will provide you with an opportunity to highlight your skills and talents and how they will be used in a classroom setting. This is when you must offer specific information rather than generalities. It is also the time to be completely objective about yourself—with confidence and assurance.
Tony Beshara, who manages a professional recruitment and placement firm in Dallas, Texas, says that the answer to "Can you do the job?" accounts for the first 20 percent of the hiring decision. In short, a candidate must convince an interviewer that he or she is capable of doing the job very early in the interview process.
How do you put together a lesson plan? What do you do when a lesson isn't working? Describe one of your best lessons. What will you bring to the teaching profession? Why should we hire you? Why do you want to be a teacher? What did you learn in student teaching? Please don't make the mistake of assuming that these are easy questions; they are not! They are often asked near the beginning of the interview because they help "set up" the rest of the interview. Positive answers to these questions help ensure the success of the entire interview.
Every interviewer wants to know about the potential and specific benefits you will bring to the school or district. Thus, it is important to give examples of your strengths that relate to the school's needs. For example, instead of saying "I like to teach science," say something like, "I've been known to get even the most reluctant of students interested in science through a 'hands-on, minds-on' inquiry-based approach to science education."
Here's a basic truth you may find difficult to believe. The most important factor every interviewer is looking for in a candidate is not the breadth and depth of his or her skills, education, or talents. It's likeability! In a recent review of more than 100,000 face-to-face interviews, there was not one candidate hired who wasn't, at first, liked by the people doing the interviewing and hiring. You might think that one's personality would be of less value than teaching prowess, but such is not the case. Simply put, people get hired because they are liked.
According to Tony Beshara, "The number of extremely qualified, excellent candidates that weren't hired because they weren't initially liked by the interviewing or hiring authority defies logic and common sense."
What are your three greatest strengths? What are some of your hobbies or free-time activities? How do you handle criticism? How did you handle disagreements with your college supervisor? What makes you the best teacher for this position? Who is the greatest influence on your life? What is the biggest mistake you've ever made? Interestingly, hiring decisions are based more on personality factors than they are on skill factors. You may be the best qualified candidate, but if you aren't the best liked, then the position will probably go to someone else.