I was fortunate enough to go to 5 interviews before I got my first job. It gave me a lot of interview experience at different levels (middle and high school, reading teacher versus regular classroom). Below are some tips for the interview process based on my experiences.
1. Dress professional, but comfortable.
I can’t say enough that you need to be comfortable. If you have to wear the same outfit to every interview, do that. It needs to be an outfit that isn’t stressing you out and makes you feel at ease. My personal go-to….a black and white chevron top, black dress pants, a black bubble necklace, and black and gold t-strap sandals. The whole outfit put together looks very professional. In addition to that, the pants are comfy, I’m not fumbling around in high heels, and my top is roomy so I don’t feel like I’m constricted. Weird, I know. It helps to be in something that makes you feel powerful and that you are comfortable in. YOU are being interviewed, not your outfit. Stressing about looking exactly right isn’t what you want to be stressing about.
2. Have talking points BEFORE the interview.
Though it’s hard to anticipate what you will be asked in an interview, knowing some things you plan to talk about pre-interview is helpful. Below is a list of interview topics I encountered during my interview process. After my first and second interivew, these are the points I practiced in the shower, while getting ready, and on the drive up.
- Tell me about yourself. This is a great time to discuss interests, education, and what your career goals are. I started out with a short where I was from and where I went to school. I moved into my interests and extra-curriculars and then my career goals. Be thorough, but don’t over talk.
- What are you reading in your free time and professionally? Be honest about this! Tell the principals and interviewing teachers what you are reading. When I told the Curriculum Specialist in my second interview that I was reading Divergent, we got on a long 5 minute talk about the book. This conversation impressed her, and when it came time for my last job interview….guess who recommended me for the job?! It also helps to have some professional reading in there. Some good professional books are The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, Teach like a Pirate by Dave Burgess, and Book Love by Penny Kittle. Talking about what you are reading shows that you are active in your job, but that you also enjoy reading as a past-time. This is especially important for English teachers.
- Know how you would handle classroom situations. Pre-plan your classroom management strategies! Know how you would handle…problem students, parents, SPED/ELL inclusion classrooms, conflicts with co-workers and administration, and emergencies. Also know your RULES and EXPECTATIONS. My go to is Be Prepared, Polite, and Punctual! It’s an easy fall back, even if you don’t stick to it.
- A Day in your Classroom….What would I see? Know what a day in your classroom would look like. Do you start with a warm-up? How do you transition into instruction? What expectations do you have of students? What does your classroom look like? How do you end your day? These are important questions to consider.
- Classroom and Teaching strategies. Know what learning strategies you will use. For English teachers, this will include reading, teaching “dull or outdated” materials, discussions, homework, etc. For Math or Science, it could be about labs, making math fun and interesting, application, etc. Know what strategies you INTEND to use ahead of time, even if you don’t use them. You need an answer prepared for this (:
- Do you have any questions for us or anything else you want us to know? This is important! It shows you are interested in the job. I like to ask the principal the following questions….1) What expectations do you have of me? 2) What would you like to see if you came in my classroom for a day? 3) What are you most proud of at your school?
3. Pack a bottle of water and your resume. Also, a sheet to take notes on is okay, too! Packing all this stuff will help you feel more comfortable. I even outlined my talking points for my last interview. I did not need to look down at my sheet once to review them, but it made me feel more comfortable having it all right there. Your resume helps as a reference point for any background questions. It’s also nice to pack an extra copy in case there is a second interviewer. Water bottle….self explanatory. I always opt for a tiny FIJI bottle instead of a Deer Park, though.
4. Send a follow up letter! I like to follow up interviews with a simple email saying “Thanks for interviewing me today. I was very interested in your school before this inteview, and am even more interested know. I look forward to your recommendation for this position.” Keep it simple!
5. Don’t stress out! The time leading up to an interview can be killer…as can the time afterwards. Try to go about your daily life as usual. Have emails forwarded to your phone and know the phone number that would call you in case there has been a job recommendation made. Worrying and stress is only going to give you dull hair and zits…it won’t make the recommendation happen any faster. If you haven’t heard anything in a week, it is okay to check in. Usually, candidates who do not get the job get a letter. Those who do get a phone call from central office.
6. If you don’t get a job, think of the interview as a practice. Don’t be crushed! I was heartbroken after my first job interview. I cried all day and had a terrible evening. After getting my current position…I understand that the first job wasn’t for me. I am MUCH happier where I am than where I could have been. I got four rejections before I got my current position. And, in the end, that was fine. The other interviews helped me practice and network. Like I said earlier, the county’s curriculum specialist recommended me for my current position. THAT’S HUGE! And I wouldn’t have gotten that recommendation without the rejection. Being at peace makes the process easier. It seems hard, but trust that it’s preparing you for the right position.