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The Biggest Mistakes Teachers Make in Job Interviews

Jordan Catapano


So you have the education; you have the experience; you have the confidence. Now, you have the interview.

Your interview is that one chance to show that you truly deserve to be hired as an education professional. But the trick to interviews is not only to say the right things, but to avoid doing the wrong things.

Interviews are not the same as actually doing the job. No one can tell how good of a teacher you actually are until they hire you and see you teach. Interviews are merely a talk session – a discussion about what you can bring to the organization.

An interview offers a glimpse of who you are as a person: How you think, how you socialize, how you articulate yourself. While everyone knows that interviews are challenging situations, many teacher candidates unknowingly give the wrong impression, never giving themselves the chance to prove their true teaching skills in the classroom.   

If you really want to nail your interview, then make sure to AVOID the following common mistakes teacher candidates make when trying to get a teaching job:

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  1. Say what you think they want to hear: Teaching candidates often have a picture in their head of what they think their future employer wants in a teacher. So instead of answering questions honestly or accurately, they answer questions based on trying to portray themselves as that “ideal” candidate. Stop that! Interviewers can see through that ideal image you portray. Just be honest.
  2. Let confidence sound like arrogance: Confidence means that you’re sure enough in yourself to admit when you’re wrong. Arrogance means that you believe you’re never wrong. Show that you believe in yourself, but that you’re also willing to acknowledge your mistakes. Every teacher, no matter the background, should know they have lots to learn.
  3. Overpromise: Even if you get the job, misrepresenting your abilities at an interview may inadvertently set you up for failure. If you say whatever it takes to get the job, make sure you can actually follow through with what you promise. So avoid falsely playing up the coaching experience you lack, the content you only sort-of know, and the professional development you only half understood.
  4. Try to be someone you’re not: Employers like teachers who are confident in themselves. You’ll have to be real in front of students, so you might as well start by being real at your interview. Don’t try to “play to the audience” as a cool, perky, knowledgeable, or funny person if you’re not those things normally. A job is not an act.
  5. Let yourself get nervous: OK, so you’re going to get nervous, and that’s normal. Don’t sweat it. The trick isn’t to stop being nervous; the trick is to not exhibit those common nervous tendencies. Avoid nervously fidgeting, playing with your hair or clothes, or saying those intrusive “ums” and “you knows.” A teacher should be a master presenter – despite being nervous – so it’s important to show you can control your tendencies at your interview.
  6. Downplay your talents: While you don’t want to exaggerate what you can do, you certainly want to make it apparent what you’re especially good at. If you thrive with creative activities, show them. If you know tons about the research process, let them know. If you kick butt at reaching out to parents, show it off. Let them see how great of an educator you are and what you can bring to the table.
  7. Don’t stop talking: One of the worst mistakes any salesperson can make is to not realize when they’ve said enough. If you’ve made your point, then stop talking and allow the interview to go on. Develop each statement enough so that you’re thorough, but then stop. Nothing is more annoying than a rambler. Plus, you’re supposed to be a good communicator, right? Don’t let the interviewer suspect that you’ll just ramble to students.
  8. Talk poorly about your last job: Maybe you had a bad experience at your last job. So what? No one wants to hear your complaints. The only thing complaining about your last job will do is make the interviewer wonder what complaints you’ll have about this job. As a teaching professional, you want to exhibit your ability to get along comfortably with others.
  9. Don’t mind your manners: Remember the type of professional courtesy you want students to show you. Remember your “pleases” and “thank yous,” give a firm handshake, put your electronics away, and be as much of a listener as a talker. Interviewers are looking for an individual who not only will be respectful to students, but also a great fit for their entire professional environment.
  10. Fail to follow up: Make sure you send a personal, hand-written thank you note to your interviewers. Or, if you’re in a rush, an email. Personalize the message and mention some unique connection or topic that came up in the interview. This is a professional courtesy and a great way to show your interest in the education position.
  11. Articulate poorly: Teachers, in theory, are master articulators. They have knowledge and are experts at getting that knowledge into other people’s heads. So don’t let common articulation errors – such as saying “like” or “um,” making poor eye contact, exhibiting nervous tendencies, talking in circles, or mumbling – get in the way of the great message you’re sharing. Interviewers read into how you say something as much as what you have to say.
  12. Neglect to give illustrations: You might understand the essential principles of education, but neglecting to supply real life examples of your experiences leaves a gaping hole in your conversation. If, for example, you are discussing how you would deal with an unruly student, give an example of when you actually did so successfully.

Whether you’re in front of a department chair, an administrator, or a whole panel of educators, you want to make sure that you maximize the impact of your interview to hopefully get a teaching job. After all, it might be your only chance to sell yourself! By demonstrating that you have the right answers and the ability to competently avoid the biggest teacher job interview mistakes, then you are definitely setting yourself up for success.

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