Telephone screening interviews are often used when selected applicants are from out of town or when there are an extraordinarily large number of qualified applicants. Telephone interviews are time efficient and cost effective; they can often be done in ten minutes or less. But these interviews are just as important and just as significant as a face-to-face interview. What you say and how you say it may be even more important in these interviews than they are in face-to-face interviews, simply because there's more value placed on your responses. After all, body language, attitude, and other nonverbal factors do not come into play.
If you anticipate any communication from a school or district (including a phone interview) via your cell phone, make sure your voice mail message sounds professional. No rap music, suggestive comments, obscene language, or "cool" messages that might raise questions about your level of maturity or professional judgment. Use a message your mother would be comfortable listening to.
You would be well advised to conduct some practice interviews via phone. Invite an adult (not a peer) to call you on your phone and ask you 5—7 interview questions from this book so that you can practice your answers as well as your delivery. Ask the person interviewing you to provide some feedback on your responses as well as on how you voiced those responses (e.g., friendly, specific details, enthusiastic). Keep in mind that the intent of a telephone interview is to reduce the number of candidates; your intent is to be included in the final group of candidates invited to a hiring interview. Sufficient practice with this format can help ensure that you will move forward in the hiring process.
A face-to-face screening interview is often short, lasting 20 minutes or less. Typically it will involve one or two administrators who will conduct a brief question-and-answer session with you. Rarely will the questions be detailed or in great depth. Typical questions will include those designed to verify the information on your resume; determine if your philosophy of education is consistent with the philosophy of the school; explore your overall knowledge of current trends, practices, or standards; and assess your verbal skills and general demeanor. While this type of interview may seem like a casual conversation you might have at some sort of social setting, it's important to keep in mind that the person or persons conducting this screening are looking for responses in support of the five goals outlined earlier in this chapter.
Some schools and districts, in an effort to streamline the interview process, are using electronic screening tools. Essentially, applicants are asked to respond to a select series of questions at a computer terminal. The questions are "scored" electronically and provide administrators with responses in a very short amount of time. One of the advantages is that the electronic questions are all identical for every candidate, thus providing administrators with a way of assessing how well each person responded to the same set of queries. Computer presentations can also note inconsistencies in responses, the time it takes candidates to respond to certain questions (how much thought went into each response), and whether some answers were faked or not (the same question may be asked in several different ways).
While electronic interviews are more the exception than the rule, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't be prepared for them. The same suggestions for face-to-face interviews apply here as well. Practice with the interview questions in this book, and you'll also be ready for the electronic questions posed on your home or school computer.
One type of screening interview sometimes used is the group interview. In this situation, several candidates are called into an interview room at the same time. Usually there will be several administrators and/or teachers in the room to evaluate all the candidates collectively. Typically, a situation or a scenario (see Chapter 9 for several examples) is presented to all the candidates at the same time. Each candidate is asked to respond to the situation and how he or she might handle it. In some cases, the group of candidates may each be asked to respond to a current topic in education or a controversial issue. Examples may include the following:
"What do you think about 'Race to the Top'?"
"What is your position on 'standards-based education'?"
"Tell us how you would handle a disruptive child in your classroom."
The challenge for this type of screening interview is the fact that you are in direct competition with others. They get to see your performance, and you get to see theirs. The anxiety levels are higher, and the stress factor is accentuated. Everybody is on edge, and everybody is nervous. This is not a fun time. But, if you take the opportunity to practice how you might respond to the scenarios outlined in Chapter 9, you will be putting yourself way ahead of the competition. You will have the assurance of knowing what to expect as well as how to answer those situational questions.