Gives Canned Answers
Practice with the questions and answers in this book, but don't memorize them. These questions are the ones asked in every interview, and most administrators have heard similar responses to each one. Put these responses into your own words, your own thoughts, and your own philosophy. Massage these responses so they sound like they belong to you.
When asked a question, allow one to three seconds before you give a response. That "wait time" gives an interviewer the impression that you are thoughtful and poised (and that you actually listened to the question). There will be less likelihood your response will be viewed as memorized or "canned."
Has a Relaxed or Informal Attitude
An interview is serious business. Your future is often dependent on what you do during the 45 minutes of an interview. Treat it as seriously as you would the teaching of students. If you appear lackadaisical, lazy, or noncommittal, you'll never be taken as a serious educator.
Is Not Focused
Jumping around from topic to topic, not completing an answer, losing your focus, stopping and starting several times when responding to a question, and a plethora of incoherent or incomprehensible thoughts will surely doom any interview. Trust me, it happens—more than you might imagine—and, if it continues, it is a sure sign that the interview will probably end prematurely.
Gives Defensive or Aggressive Answers
Don't come to an interview with an attitude or a "my way or the highway" philosophy. This is the time to make an impression, not to make a point. If the interview becomes confrontational, then it is certain that it will also become done!
Interviews are stressful situations. You'll sweat a little more, your blood pressure will go up a little more, and your nervousness will increase a little more. Some people try to compensate for these natural physiological reactions by being arrogant or haughty. They try to maintain control of their emotions with a superior attitude or imposing personality. These are, as you might imagine, not behaviors principals want in their schools, nor are they behaviors that lead to good morale or team building among teachers. It's one thing to be confident; quite another to be arrogant. Be the former, not the latter.
Has No Questions for the Interviewer
You may be surprised to learn that many professional interviewers believe that asking questions in an interview is much more important than answering them. By asking your own questions, you are demonstrating an interest in that particular school or district. If you've done your homework properly, you will be able to tailor those questions to the specifics of a school ("On my informal visit here last week I noticed many teachers using literature circles. What are some of the benefits you've seen with literature circles?"). Don't make the fatal mistake, when asked if you have any questions, of saying, "No, not really. I think we've covered pretty much everything."
Always try to ask one or two questions directly related to the interviewer. "I noticed that you're teaching an evening course at Ivory Tower Tech. What are some of the things you've gained from that experience?" or "In reading the school's Web page I saw that you got your master's degree in reading from Slippery Slope College. Is their program still as challenging as ever?"
Has a Negative Attitude
Listening to someone with a negative attitude is always a drain—emotionally, psychologically, and personally. The same holds true for someone who is always bad-mouthing other people. Principals don't hire "bad attitudes"; they want people with a positive outlook, a good sense of humor, a sunny disposition, and an engaging personality. They want to hire teachers who will be good role models for students. Negative people are not part of that dynamic.
Be a gracious guest. If the interviewer is late for the interview, shrug it off. If the interviewer answers the phone several times during the interview, just let it be. If people stick their head into the room several times during the interview, don't let it rattle you. If you show any signs of irritation or over-reaction over these little "slights," you'll never get a job offer.
Gives Short, Vague, or Incomplete Answers
When asked an interview question, it is expected that you will provide the interviewer with some specific details and explanations. Very rarely will you ever be asked a question that requires a simple "Yes" or "No." It's equally important that you provide a very specific response. Answers such as, "I'm not really sure" or "Wow, I never thought about that" will not win you many friends and will, most certainly, not enhance your "hireability."
You may be asked a question that is difficult to answer. Here's one way of responding: If you don't know the answer, simply say so. Don't try to "wing it." Make no apologies. Smile. Say something like "I'm afraid I don't know enough about that topic to answer. However, I would like to get back to you with a response." Then, when you write your thank-you letter after the interview, address that question and offer a subsequent answer ("I wasn't able to respond to your question about whole-class assessment, but I just found an interesting study that showed how....").
Principals will know, within the first two to three minutes, if you haven't prepared for the interview. Simple solution: Be prepared! That's why you bought this book, isn't it?
FROM THE PRINCIPAL'S DESK:
"It astounds me at times when candidates come to interviews unprepared and not dressed professionally."