One of the most nerve-wracking times in an educator’s career is the interview process. You may have taken all the course work and passed your state assessment for licensure, but you know your future career hinges on how you present yourself and answer the interview questions. Once you understand what an administrator is thinking during the hiring process and what type of questions they may ask, you will be more confident in yourself and your ability to present yourself well.
What are Hiring Managers Looking for in a Teacher?
Of course, each hiring manager or administrator may have a different mindset, still there are some ways to understand what is being sought prior to the interview. When you talk to the person setting up the interview, take a deep breath and try and get as much information as possible. You might ask what position is being hired, how many team members are on that team, who you will be interviewing with (and don’t forget to ask for their title), and even how many class periods the position will teach. However, you will want to save your most important questions, such as inquiries about salary and benefits, for the interviewer. In addition to these questions, you will want to do a little research into the school and district. Those hiring will be impressed if you have background knowledge and understand their vision and can relate how your vision merges.
Hiring managers are also looking for someone who is prepared for the interview in other ways. Be well dressed. Professional dress attire shows competence and respect. You might also bring along a brief portfolio containing a resume with letters of recommendation, work samples, including pictures of you within the class setting, and an observation scoring if possible. Do not overload this portfolio, though, because an administrator does not have time to leaf through a 50-page synopsis of your past experience.
Common Interview Questions and Ideas on How to Answer Them
There are several types of interview questions that might be asked. With each question, try to get your point across without rambling.
First, the hiring manager will want to get some background information and help you collect your nerves. Questions they might ask in this portion might include:
- What is your previous experience? – Focus on educational experience unless there is another job you have worked with skills that could carry over, such as that of a manager or leader.
- In what grades/subjects did you do your practicum work and student teaching? Which grade did you prefer? – Be careful with questions about specific grades. The hiring manager may be seeing if you have a preference or would be comfortable with any grade. If you have a specific grade or subject you desire to avoid, be honest, but don’t limit yourself by saying, “I only want to teach eighth grade math.”
- Tell me a little bit about what brought you to the field of education. Was it the experience of a beloved teacher you had or your love for a certain subject? – Keep this brief, but be honest.
Next, questions might be more specific to the job at hand and will need your personal experience to answer. They might include:
- What is your philosophy of education? – Research and determine what suits your ideas.
- How do you use standards in planning a lesson? – In many states, standards drive the instruction because they are what will be assessed on state assessments.
- How do you know if learning is taking place? What would you do if it isn’t? – This answer will involve how you check for understanding, whether it is walking around as students work, asking questions, or other strategies. If students aren’t learning, you will certainly want to reteach or allow peer tutoring to take place.
- How do you differentiate instruction for all learners? – Possible answers for this might include small group instruction, working with a teacher assistant, or providing varied-leveled work.
- How do you collaborate with peers? – Being able to share ideas and take feedback from peers is essential. Discuss your strengths on being a team player.
- When will you reach out to an administrator in a behavioral situation? – Administrators want to know you will be in charge of your classroom, but they want to know that you will seek their help for larger issues such as fighting or bullying.
- How will you communicate with parents? – There are so many ways to communicate, find what works best for you whether it is by newsletter, technology, or daily planners.
Non-educational questions might be asked to see how well you are able to think. Don’t let this be a stumbling block, but you may want to ask for a minute to think if you need the time. They may ask off-hand questions such as:
- What is your favorite season and why?
- What is the most recent book you have read?
- What do you like to do in your spare time?
Finally, the hiring manager might give scenarios for you to share how you would best handle classroom issues. Answering them will show how you have handled similar issues in the past. Don’t be afraid to relate your answer to past experiences, and if you have learned from the way you responded, be sure to share.
By knowing what questions hiring managers might ask, you can be prepared with honest answers that are not so cliché that they have been heard numerous times before.
Once you have completed the interview, thank the interviewer and send a simple email as a follow-up within a day or two thanking them again for their time. This keeps your name fresh on their mind and shows you are interested in the job.