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How to Nail Your Teaching Interview

Jordan Catapano

Congrats – you got the teaching interview! You may not have too much control over actually getting an interview, but you do have lots of control over how well you do during it. You might be thinking, “I’m so nervous!” or “I don’t know what to say!” But you don’t have to enter an interview with doubts. Instead, take a few practical steps to prepare, and you might surprise yourself at how well you do. You might even get a teaching job!

Days Leading to the Teaching Interview

Shakespeare reminds us “The readiness is all.” If we can take charge of what we have control of, then we can deal with whatever comes our way. Fortunately, we know a lot about what will transpire during an interview, and there are many easy, practical things you can do to ready yourself for it.

1. First, familiarize yourself with the school and position you’re interviewing for. You want to enter with as clear a picture as possible of what kind of school you’re at, what other schools it’s affiliated with in the district, what the students are like, what your intended position will be, and the goals and policies of the institution.

2. Next, prepare your teaching portfolio. Interviewers are excited to see for themselves what kind of experience and contributions you’ve had. You can provide physical (or electronic) evidence of your previous work, and you can tailor it to the specific needs or desires of the school. This will give you a good chance to mentally review your own experience, which comes in handy for the next step.

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3. Think about yourself and what you have to offer. What is it that makes you unique? What aspects about yourself, your experiences, and what you bring to the table that you definitely want to make sure you highlight during the interview? Do some self-reflecting to make sure that you are prepared to project the brightest and most accurate image of yourself during your interview.

4. Practice, practice, practice. Many teachers overlook the fact that they can actually predict what they’ll be asked. The last thing you want to do is to get tongue-tied! Even one awkward silence or misinterpreted answer can spell disaster. Compile your own list of questions you feel you’re likely to be asked – probably a list of 100 questions or more – and go through the list question by question multiple times. Close your eyes and imagine your interviewers asking you each question, and rehearse your best answers, including eye contact and hand gestures. The more you think through your desired answers now, the more naturally they’ll come to you during your interview. Think through specific examples you could give, and practice pointing out different illustrations from your portfolio. If you really want to practice, have trusted friends and mentors give mock-interviews to you and then provide feedback at the end. Just like a talented athlete, nothing prepares you better for the big game than lots of mental and physical run-throughs so that you can get it right when it counts. Plus, the more you practice in advance, the less nervous you’ll feel during the actual interview. I pity the person who is answering questions for the first time during their actual interview.

5. Finally, prepare your own questions to ask. Remember that you get to interview the school too, and you should take steps to make sure it’s the right fit for you. Think through several elements about the school or your possible position that you’d like to know and be ready to ask them if you’re given the opportunity.

Day of the Interview

So you’ve got your research, your talking points, your portfolio, and your questions ready to go. Now your interview is only a few hours away! You’re on the way to get a teaching job! But there are a few other details to make sure you’ve got covered on the day of your interview.

1. Dress to impress: Interviews are an important occasion, and you want your potential employer to see that you understand that. Think carefully about what you wear and the image you want to project. You are a trustworthy teaching professional, and your clothing, hair, makeup, jewelry, and all other accessories should broadcast that.

2. Mind your manners: Run through the proper interview etiquette – smile, say thank you, have a positive tone, practice good posture, spit out your gum, turn off electronics, give a firm handshake. All these little details help to broadcast you as a positive professional who will be a bright addition to any teaching environment.

3. Arrive early: Usually it is good practice to arrive about 15 minutes early to an interview. Arriving too early – like half an hour or more – sends an awkward impression and keeps you nervously waiting. Arriving in the nick of time makes you seem like a rushed person. And never, ever arrive late to an interview.

4. Practice a little more: You should be mentally rehearsing answers, greetings, gestures, and responses all through the day until your interview. Keep everything fresh so it comes out as perfect as possible when it counts!

5. Take care of your body: Drink plenty of water. Use the bathroom about 30 minutes prior to interviewing. Have a decent meal ahead of time. Get plenty of rest. If you take care of your body, then it will take care of you during the interview. The last thing you want is tired eyes or a growling stomach!

After the Interview

Yes, once you step out of the room there’s more to do! First of all, do not start obsessing over every answer you gave. What’s done is done. Instead, take time to hand write a personalized thank-you note to each person who took part in your interview. Try to make each one slightly unique and mention a detail you connected over with each person. Then, wait about 24 hours and deliver these notes to the school office yourself, or mail them if you can’t make a delivery. This is a great way to make sure that your name comes to the interviewers’ minds in a positive way as they are considering their options, and it will hopefully help you get a teaching job!


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