Five Ways to Prepare for a Teaching Job Interview

When you get the call that you’ve been selected to interview for a teaching job, your emotions might run from elation to anxiety. Going to a job interview can be the most stressful part of the job-hunting process. But taking simple action can help you walk in confident and prepared. Here are five tips you can use to help you organize your pre-interview preparation, and present your best self to your prospective employers.

1. Prepare your responses to commonly-asked questions.

While it’s impossible to predict every potential question, doing some research will help you pinpoint popular general questions along with specific ones for your teaching specialty. Referring to this set of commonly-asked questions will provide a good starting place. And while it’s not practical to memorize responses to questions you may or may not be asked, it is helpful to write out your thoughts and ideas about common questions. This will help you clarify what you want to say, and may help you internalize some of the key points you want to make.

2. Create a portfolio of your best work

This will require additional effort, as many districts don’t generally require applicants to show a portfolio at the interview stage. However, curating your best work into a neat, organized presentation may be a great way to stand out among what might be a large pool of candidates. If you’re not sure where to begin, this post offers a clear plan. Making multiple copies of your portfolio items and housing them in inexpensive presentation folders will allow you to distribute your documents without pressuring your interviewer to review it before you leave. Alternatively, you can create an online portfolio, and provide the link to your interviewers.

3. Conduct research on the school and district.

Reviewing a district’s website will provide you with a good sense of its mission, programs, and structure. You may have already done this during the application process, to help you gain some useful background. Once you land an interview, however, going back to the website to delve deeper for information may help you gain an even fuller picture of your potential employer. Today, it’s not uncommon for schools and districts to have blogs and social media accounts, but many also post minutes from school board and other meetings. Reading these, if available, will round out your knowledge of your prospective employer. When you’re sitting in the interview, and are asked the inevitable, “Do you have any questions for us?” you’ll be able to use what you’ve learned to help you formulate specific, targeted questions which may serve to impress the interviewers.

4. Practice with someone who’ll give you honest feedback.

Interviewing is a skill, and something you can learn to do well. And while putting the above tips into action may benefit you, there’s no substitute for putting yourself in the hot seat to be hammered with tough questions. If you have a friend who’s also in the market for a job, you can collaborate and trade off playing interviewer and interviewee. Using a checklist can help you and your interview partner objectively evaluate your performance and identify areas for improvement. If you’re still a student, your college’s career office may offer workshops or interview coaching.

5. Follow up with a thank-you e-mail.

Prior to the electronic age, teacher candidates rushed to drop thank-you notes into the mailbox, hoping they’d arrive before a decision was made. Although hand-written thank-you notes haven’t gone completely out of style, using e-mail allows you to quickly reach out to your interviewers and let them know you appreciated being considered for a position. While this might seem like a superfluous detail, a thank-you note is another way to help you distinguish yourself and reiterate your interest in the position. Though you’ll still want to personalize each thank-you with specific details from your interview, creating and saving a basic template to customize will help you deploy your e-mail more quickly.

Finally, remember that an interview isn’t just a chance for a school to evaluate you. It’s also an opportunity for you to evaluate them, and honestly ask yourself if you can envision working for your interviewers. Shifting your mindset to remember that you also have to choose them may help you feel more in control. You want to land a job, but ideally, you want it to be the right job, so you and your students can thrive.

While the above tips won’t guarantee a job, investing time to prepare can help you shine among your fellow aspiring teachers. Rejection is often inevitable, but each interview gives you a chance to learn and improve.  

Tracy Derrell is a Hudson Valley-based freelance writer who specializes in blogging and educational publishing. She taught English in New York City for sixteen years.

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