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The Teaching Interview

Tis the season for new graduates to begin interviewing for those few teaching positions open as the second semester begins.  It's a tough position to be in, knowing that there is so much competition, yet also feeling like you want to find that perfect place where you can be the best teacher in the world!  Still, you need to apply, and you need to interview... Everywhere.

My first piece of advice for new graduates (and those still in the interview pool) is to interview everywhere you get the opportunity.  It's not just for the position, but it's for the experience of the interview.  Having set in on many interviews in my teaching career, I can tell you that so many come into the meeting filled with nerves and jitters, often so much so that they are unable to carry on an effective session.  Their nerves will not allow them to focus, or to think clearly, and the interview is a bust.

While nervousness is just part of the process, there are ways to be more prepared for the interview.  The first step toward that preparedness is building confidence.  Know your stuff!  This includes everything about YOU that you want to share, everything about your content area, and everything about the school at which you will be interviewing.  In the most effective (and impressive) interviews, the candidate asks more questions than those conducting the interview.  It shows that you have put in the time and effort to the school already and that you are genuinely interested in their students and their success.

Another related tip is simple - practice.  Interview with your parents, your spouse, your children, your dog... even your mirror.  Just talk.  Get used to bragging about your greatest talents and your awesome accomplishments.  Practice speaking clearly and with developed vocabulary.  Rehearse coming alive in your interview - after all, all life is a stage!

Next is the interview itself.  Here are my quick tips:
  1. Dress appropriately!  This is not date night, nor a party with friends.  Wear a suit or professional outfit that shows your ability to be the adult in the classroom.  And if you are applying for a secondary position, you MUST be able to distinguish yourself from the students.  Do not dress like them in the interview (or ever!).
  2. Be outgoing!  Reach your hand out for firm handshakes at the very onset of the interview, and do not stop from there.  Use your hands, use your voice, and perform.  Elaborate on your ideas, and do not be afraid to show what you will be like in the classroom.  If you will teach with voices, use those voices.  If you will dance and sing, dance and sing!  After all, if you can engage a group of old teachers (your interview committee), you should be able to engage a classroom of kids!
  3. Be sincere!  Tell them what you know, but also what you still have to learn.  As a new teacher, you DO NOT know it all.  Your latest and greatest methods may not yet be proven, and your know-it-all attitude may be to intimidating for the committee to endure.  More importantly, being sincere about your faults, meanwhile showing your dedication to improvement is something every administrator will appreciate.
  4. Show your knowledge!  Teach in your interview.  While it is understood that you will not know your content at 100% (none of us do), you should have a firm grasp on the basics.  Introduce your favorite content topics and show your passion for your subject area.
  5. Sell yourself!  To be an effective teacher, you must know how to market effectively.  You will be selling yourself, your ideas, your content, and your methods for the rest of your career.  You must sell all of this to your students, your co-workers, your administrators, and now the state and federal governments!  And selling is simple - know your product (you, your content, your methods) and show, show show! 
  6. Be thankful!  Appreciate the time and energy the committee has given on your behalf.  Tell them you appreciate the opportunity and that you welcome their thoughts and feedback.  Laugh, and share your apprehension, but also your excitement about the chance that you may be able to work in their school, with their students, and with them!
  7. Follow up!  While some may consider it old fashioned, I can promise you that the after-interview follow up can be crucial.  Many interview committees find themselves locked between 2-3 candidates after the interview.  A simple thank-you card, or even an email, can show them you are waiting for that call, and that you are the one they want as part of the team.
One last piece of advice I will offer is to go into the interview ready for battle!  Take in your interview packets, and have a professional teaching portfolio in hand to reference throughout the interview.  Click here for a FREE Teaching Portfolio Checklist.  Having an online portfolio is an added bonus!  This not only provides you with the goodies you need to pull out of your hat in the interview, it gives you something to clasp and squeeze when the nerves attack!

Good luck to all!
Michele