In a panel interview, you will be interviewed by several people at the same time. Typically, the panel will consist of a mix of administrators and teachers. Included may be building principals, assistant principals, people from the personnel office, the superintendent, and selected classroom teachers. Infrequently, it may also include "outsiders" such as college professors, retired administrators or teachers, and/or consultants. Each interviewer will have his or her own unique personality, outlook, set of experiences, and philosophies. As you might imagine, these can be some of the most stressful of all interviews. The key, however, is to respond to each question by directing your response specifically to the person who asked the question. Don't assume that everyone is interested in a specific question (or its specific answer). Make eye contact with the person asking the question, provide your response in 30 seconds to two minutes, and repeat with every other person who asks you a question.
FROM THE PRINCIPAL'S DESK:
"During an interview, our school therapy dog was sleeping under the conference table. The dog had loud and foul gas. The interview committee apologized and explained the dog's important role in our school. The candidate did not skip a beat in her responses. She stayed calm and professional. She laughed with us as we joked about the dog's diet, but did not get distracted or nervous—a true test of character and resiliency."
These may be the least used of all the interview formats, but that doesn't mean they should be ignored in your preparation process. Here, several candidates are brought into a room at the same time, and they are all presented with the same questions. Talk about a pressure-cooker situation! This is like ancient Rome when the gladiators and the lions were all put into the same arena and the winner was the last one standing. Not only will this situation determine how well you respond to the questions, it will also reveal your interpersonal skills—how well you react and respond to other individuals. Your leadership skills will also be tested in these situations. Are you able to listen to others, build a coalition of ideas, create group harmony, or arrive at mutual conclusions? Most of all, the people doing the hiring want to know if you are a team player. Do you "go it alone," or do you seek out and embrace a common goal, a common direction?
As we've seen, teacher interviews are not always the "standard" one-on-one situations, those times when you sit down with a single individual (typically the building principal) and answer a string of questions. You need to be prepared for any kind of interview or combination of interviews. You can do this as you gather information about the school or district in advance of any scheduled interview. You would do well to inquire about the interview process from a principal, the principal's secretary, the director of personnel, or new teachers currently working in the school. Tap into the expertise of those who have gone through the interview process before you, and use their experiences to your advantage. As with everything else in the hiring process, the more prepared you are, the better you'll do!
If you are given a choice, always select a late-morning interview. Studies have shown that people who interview in the morning are offered a job more often than those who are interviewed in the afternoon. Those same studies have shown that the following days and times for job interviews are the best:
Best interview days: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays
Best interview time: 10:00-11:00