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How to Interview Well

Updated: May 3, 2020

Do you have an upcoming teaching interview that you're just not quite sure how to prepare for? I'm going to share with you how to crush your upcoming interviews with my own personal advice! I will share with you what you should research ahead of time, what you should wear, and even what questions might be asked during your interview. Interviews are stressful, but don't worry, I've got you covered!

For starters, I'm so happy that you are here! That means that you are already doing the right thing and researching how to crush your #interview! Smart move!

Pre-Interview To Do List

First things first, the moment you get called for an interview, there are some very IMPORTANT things you need to do. And it all comes down to #research. As I said, you already took the first step by researching how to do an actual interview... but there's more. RESEARCH the school that you are applying at for this new teaching position. Before you even think about walking into an interview, you need to know as much as you possibly can about that school and their district.

Look up the district website. Find out how many students they serve, their average test scores, the demographics... search it all! Look up the school website too. Look over the letters or blog posts from the principal. Look to see if the school has any special events or programs going on. Is there a teacher handbook? Look through it. A parent handbook? Look through that too. MOST IMPORTANTLY, check out the curriculum. Discover what they use for reading, math, science, etc. If you haven't heard of the #curriculum before, do a quick google search. It sounds tedious, I know, I know... But pretend you've already been given the job, you would want to do this research anyways. It'll just make you look that much better at the interview if you have already done this step, TRUST ME!

Pretend you've already been given the job, you would want to do this research anyways. It'll just make you look that much better at the interview if you have already done this step, TRUST ME!

After you have done your research, compile a list of questions you still have. Write them down, preferably in a decent looking notebook (one that's not all scratched and ripped apart) because you will be taking this notebook with you to the interview. If you can't think of any questions, try harder. It looks bad if you show up to an interview with no questions. Remember: Yes, they are interviewing you for the teaching position, but you are also interviewing them!

If you are still stuck, here are some questions I recommend always asking:

  1. "Do you have a mentoring program in place for new teachers to your school?"

  2. "What is your favorite part about working in this school?"

  3. "How will you assess my teaching?"

  4. "What ways are there for me to get involved in this school outside of my classroom?"

  5. "What short term and long term goals do you have for your school?"

  6. "How long are you interviewing candidates/when should I expect to hear back?" (Most of the time the team will tell you this at the end, but if not, feel free to ask!)

Remember: Yes, they are interviewing you for the teaching position, but you are also interviewing them!

Lastly, practice what you might say. To do this, make a list of questions you think they might ask you. Then WRITE down your responses. Writing them down helps give you time to really think about how you might answer a question similar to this. Then, find someone to do a mock interview with you. It might be your spouse, a parent, or a friend.... or even better, a teacher or principal! But wait, that means you have to know a teacher or principal and be pretty close to them if you're going to ask them to take extra time out of their day just for you, right? Nope! Honestly, you would be surprised how many educators are out there that would be MORE than willing to help you out. If you're applying for your first teaching position, ask the principal from your student teaching cooperating school if they could do a mock interview with you. Some principals may just offer it from the start, but others wait for you to come to them. Even if it makes you a little nervous to ask, just do it! The worst that will happen is they will say is no. And even if they do say no, that principal will now remember you as being a student teacher who was willing to do the extra work to be totally prepared for their future job. VERY ADMIRABLE and will score you bonus points! Plus... if that school is looking to hire, they may just come back to you!

What to Wear

I remember a moment in college where my good friend was about to go to an interview with a week old manicure... meaning the nail polish was all chipped and yucky. When I mentioned to my friend that she should take off the nail polish before the interview, she told me that it shouldn't affect anything because they should be judging her on her personality and qualifications.

Alright... the girl's got a point. They should be judging you on your personality, qualifications, and the like. But if we are being totally honest, they are ABSOLUTELY going to judge you on your looks as well.

It takes a tenth of a second for someone to make their first impression of you. There is nothing you can say or do in that tenth of a second, NOTHING.... except make sure you look well put together. This means doing your hair AND your make up if you are a girl (for some women, they do this everyday regardless. For others, they rarely touch either). And yes, make sure to either have your nails done, or nothing on your nails at all. I would generally recommend not having anything on your nails, as that can be a distraction during the interview.

It takes a tenth of a second for someone to make their first impression of you. There is nothing you can say or do in that tenth of a second, NOTHING... except make sure you look well put together.

You might be asking yourself, "Okay Jamie, I got it. Put myself together. Alright. But what about what I ACTUALLY wear?!" Don't fret my friend, I've got you.

Always dress better than what you normally wear in the classroom. If you normally where khakis or colored jeans with a nice top, you need to wear dress pants or a dress. If you wear jeans or even yoga pants... well surprise, you still need to wear dress pants or a dress. Remember, it's easy to show up under dressed (and you WILL feel embarrassed) but you will never show up overdressed, I PROMISE (unless of course you show up wearing a ballgown... but I feel pretty confident that you wouldn't do that)!

Here are my tips:

  • Make sure your top is NOT see through, that it covers your shoulders (no tank tops) and that if you bend over, you wont see any boobies. You would think the boobies part would be common sense, but I have literally seen women come to interviews dressed in what I would call "going out" clothes. Definitely not appropriate for any job interview, especially teaching. One way to check is to stand in front of a mirror and bend over to see if you can see down your shirt. If you can, don't wear that shirt.

  • Make sure your pants fit nicely and aren't too tight. If you can see underwear lines, they are probably too tight. It's very possible that your interview will require you to teach a lesson, so you need to have pants on that are comfortable and DO NOT show your butt crack. I should also note that you do not want your pants to be too baggy either or dragging on the floor! You do not want to look like a slob, you want to look polished.

  • Shoes... they should be closed toed. I met a person who said she will not hire someone who comes in with sandals. She thinks that it looks unprofessional if you can see toes, even if you are wearing heels. I met this person in college and at first I thought she was just being a little ridiculous, but as I've gotten older, I totally agree. Don't get me wrong, I wear sandals almost every day, even in my classroom. But when it comes to an interview, hide those toes. Flats are always a good choice for women and dress shoes for men.

I met a person who said she will not hire someone who comes in with sandals. She thinks that it looks unprofessional if you can see toes, even if you are wearing heels. I have to say, I totally agree.

  • Lastly, Jewelry. Statement necklaces are still a thing right now, but I recommend leaving those at home for your interview. You don't want to wear anything that can be distracting during an interview. You want them to be looking at and hearing you, not staring at the giant colorful necklace around your neck. Same goes for earrings, bracelets and rings. Keep the statement pieces at home and wear simple stuff to the interview.

Remember when you are walking out the door that you have: a bag to hold your stuff in, your note book, a pen (you don't want to have to ask for one), your resume, your lesson plan (if they require you to teach a lesson), a portfolio of past teaching experiences, and any important documents they may have requested you bring. Note: Even if they don't require you to teach a lesson, they may ask you during the interview to describe a lesson you would teach to that age of children... so have a lesson already prepped in the back of your mind!

During the Interview

Alright, by now you have already researched your school district, you've written your questions, you've done a mock interview, and you have your outfit picked out. Now it's the moment of your interview and your nerves are up there, but don't worry... that just means you care and that you really want this! Nerves are a good sign!

When you walk into the school, make sure you have a smile on your face (even if you are scared out of your mind). FYI people want to hire friendly teachers, so make sure you look friendly. When you are greeted by the principal and interview team, shake everyone's hand. I'm TERRIBLE at remembering names, so when they state their names, I always repeat it out loud. Even if you forget, at least they know you attempted to remember LOL. (Also, make sure to have the principal's name down before you even show up to the interview!)

I am someone who can get pretty worked up right before an interview. My nerves will hit the ceiling! During the interview, if you find yourself fidgeting a lot, try to rest your hands on your lap. You will most likely be sitting around a table, so if your hands are in your lap, the interview team can't see (or be distracted by) you moving around. Also realize that the interview team has been where you are. They get it. They get nervous too! We all do! Remembering this might actually help ease your anxiety. And Remember to make eye contact. If you are feeling nervous, this can be extra difficult. Just try your best!

Remember that notebook you brought with you to the interview? Here is where it comes in handy. Make sure that while you are being interviewed by them, you are taking notes. They like to see that you are taking steps to remember the important information they share with you! After they've asked all their questions, it'll be time to ask yours! Your notebook should already be out (since you were taking notes, right??) so ask away!

Here are some #questions that they may ask you:

"Tell us about yourself." Ahh a tricky question when you are put on the spot, make sure to have an answer!

"Why did you apply for this position?"

"What special talents or interests do you have that you could bring to the table?"

"Share a professional accomplishment you've achieved so far in your teaching career."

"What guides your planning when constructing your lessons?"

"When planning, what are some components that you feel make a quality lesson?"

"Share about leadership opportunities you've had." Do this humbly, but while also showcasing leadership roles!

Just remember to relax and to BE YOU! They are interviewing you. They want to see who you really are. When I interviewed for my very first teaching position, they asked me why I applied for this position. (The position was to teach 2-3 year old children... little tykes!) I was completely honest and told them that I hadn't actually planned to apply. It was a job that appeared in my lap and I went for it. I had a friend who used to work at this school and she sent me the application. I knew that I would enjoy working with that age of kids, but I had always envisioned myself working with 1st or 2nd graders. To this day, I still think that being honest in that moment actually worked more in my favor. It showed the interview team that I was a real and honest person, even if that meant my answer wasn't your "typical" answer. So be YOU, and be HONEST. You owe it to the school and to yourself!

When the interview is ending, make sure to shake EVERYONE'S hand again and to thank everyone for taking the time to interview with you! Come in on a positive note, and leave on a positive note!

After the Interview

So the interview is over and done with and you get home to kick of your shoes and wait for a phone call, right? WRONG! Follow up with the principal! This is when having asked the question, "How long are you interviewing candidates/when should I expect to hear back?"comes in handy! If you know that there are other candidates interviewing after you, I would wait a day or two to email the principal. However, if you know that you are the last one, email the principal AS SOON AS YOU GET HOME!

A principal in a neighboring town told me that he will toss out an application if that person never reached out to him after an interview. Don't let that happen to YOU! Don't let your application get tossed just because you didn't send a quick follow up email thanking the interview team for meeting with you! It takes about 2 minutes to sit down and write a follow up email! That principal told me that whether a person sends a thank you email or not tells him more than enough about that person. The people who take the time to send a thank you are the type of people he wants to represent his school and to teach the youth in his town. My point... write a darn thank you note!

Just remember, you've got this, you are a BOSS, and you are going to CRUSH your interview! I believe in you, and you should too!

If you have other experiences or tips to share, feel free to add them in the comments section! And if you have any questions, feel free to go to the "about me" page and shoot me an email! I would be more than happy to help you out in any way possible!

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