Teacher Interview Questions and Answers

New teachers, fresh out of college, are eager to embark on their first real job. Once your professional portfolio and resume are polished, one last hurdle stands in the way of your much-anticipated career: the teacher interview. This can be a daunting task as interviews are often conducted by entire committees that may include administrators, teachers, parents and other education staff. It is unwise to “wing it,” so you want to prepare for an interview as much as possible. The following are some of the more common questions asked during teacher interviews and the types of answers that administrators like to hear. Questions are not always going to be the same from school to school, so always be yourself and sell your strengths as an educator.

Tell me about yourself

This is typically the first question asked, and Teaching Monster refers to this question as “a two minute commercial about yourself.” Your response can determine how the rest of the interview will go, so it is important to really sell yourself. Regarding this question, Betty Peltier, principal at Southdown Elementary School in Houma, Louisiana, told Education World, “Although much of what they have accomplished is listed on the applications, this opportunity to share tells me a little about them and makes them feel welcome. It’s good for me to know about their background and interests when I am introducing them to teachers on the staff. Additionally, this informal chatter gives me insight into how the candidates present themselves. I am looking more for their composure than for any particular answers.”

Describe a lesson that went well and what made it successful?

Don Finelli, principal at Catskill High School, asks this question to get a feel for how well prospective teachers plan lessons. He said, “I feel the most important times in class are the first moments and the closure of a lesson. I say, ‘You are going to teach this topic this period, and the bell has just rung to begin class. Describe what the next 15 minutes are like. What are you doing? What are your students doing? I look for knowledge, confidence and passion. Does the candidate visualize what a classroom should be like, and already know what he or she is doing?”‘

What do you do when a lesson is not working?

You need to show the committee that you are a problem solver and always have a backup plan. Chris Vail, assistant principal at Groveport Madison Middle School South in Groveport, Ohio, asks prospective teachers this question because “All good teachers are effective when the students ‘get it.’ I am looking for those teachers who have several alternate plans in mind when kids don’t understand the material.”

What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses as an educator?

Sell those strengths and back them up with details and examples rather than blanket statements like “I am organized.” You need to show the committee how you are going to be an asset to their district. Principal Teri Stokes asks this because “The question helps me gauge the applicant’s understanding of where they are in the developmental process to becoming a great teacher. Then I always ask what plan the applicant has to grow in those areas. I want to see if they plan to do some reading, attend workshops, observe a specific teacher who has fine-tuned those needed skills.”

What is your classroom management approach?

Before your interview, review your classroom management plan and approach to student discipline. Principal Patricia Green said, “I’m looking for a person who has a clear plan for his or her classroom management and who can articulate that plan. I’m also looking for an answer that will reflect some developmentally appropriate understanding of the students who are being taught. Among the things I look for are candidates who teach clearly articulated expectations and consequences. I look for their proactive and reactive strategies, and for them to involve parents and staff — for example, a dean or assistant principal — when appropriate.”

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

This is your final opportunity to leave a lasting impression, so don’t waste these last few minutes. Diane Petty, principal at BCLUW Elementary School in Conrad, Iowa, said, “Our purpose in including this question is to give the candidates an opportunity to really sell themselves. It also provides insight about what they may think is really important about teaching. They may end up showing items in their portfolios that address an additional area of teaching that was not asked about during the interview. They may expand on a topic that was asked earlier. Usually teachers give additional information that helps us see their skills more clearly or helps us make a decision about whether or not they will fit into our district.”

These are just a few of the many potential questions that you may be asked during an interview. More sample interview questions can be found at Teacher Catapult andEducation World. Remember to be prepared and confident!