How Great Teacher Candidates Interview Differently

How Great Teacher Candidates Interview Differently – Connected Principals 

One principal’s interview mindset:

If you are a candidate interviewing for a teaching position, I want2 to take a genuine moment to explicitly share what you are up against. As a principal, I am looking for a candidate, who demonstrates a love for kids; who articulates a clear picture of what their classroom will look, sound, and feel like; who reveals incredible content knowledge; who takes ownership in their own professional learning; and the most important obstacle you are up against is this internal question, “Would I want my own child in this teacher’s classroom?”

Click here for interview questions I use to reveal much more about a candidate than just how skilled he/she is at interviewing.

As a principal, my goal is to find the best of the best.  It’s simply impossible to improve a school by hiring average people. Average is officially over.  If you desire to make it to a final interview, then be sure to consider the following tips.

“I say luck is when an opportunity comes along and you’re prepared for it.” Denzel Washington

Take the time to research and know the school in which you are interviewing. As a principal, I no longer begin an interview with the question, “Tell me a little about yourself professionally.” If I’ve done my homework (and believe me… I have), I will find out everything I need to know within your application, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts. It’s important to use every minute purposefully. A better question may be, “Tell me about how you prepared for this interview? What do you now know about our school?” If a candidate can’t answer this question, then maybe they’re not enthusiastic about being a part of our school. In fact, if you were to interview for a position at my particular school, a simple Google search would quickly pull up the following on the first page of Google.

Over 100 short videos that provide a window into our classrooms, activities, events, and the overall feeling of our school culture can be accessed with the click of a button.

Our school’s blog includes student projects and even ‘articles worth sharing.’ What an excellent opportunity to learn the type of instruction that we value.

Believe it or not, you could easily come across this exact article that provides not only the type of candidate we are striving for, but also specific interview questions that may be asked. How beneficial could that be?

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” ― Carl Sagan

If you say it, back it up with evidence. If you say you differentiate your instruction, showing me a lesson plan is not enough. The best candidates present multiple student outcomes that represent different ability levels related to the same learning goal.

If you say you provide specific feedback at the time of the learning… show me. The best candidates present artifacts that demonstrate feedback from the beginning to the end. The final product reflects the feedback.

If you say that your classroom is highly engaged with simultaneous interactions taking place among your students… I need to see it! The very best candidates bring a 30-45 second video highlighting what their classroom looks and feels like. It’s important I know you are enthusiastic and passionate about your subject matter, therefore, show me by providing a digital window into your classroom.

“Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced.” – John Keats

Answer questions by providing a story or a real experience (or if you are a new teacher, describe the experience you will create.) For instance, if you are asked, “How will you integrate technology?”

Candidates without real experiences usually respond, “I use technology to go beyond my classroom walls and tap into outside expertise to elevate the learning experience for every student.

Candidates who truly integrate technology effectively may respond, “I do not want to limit my students to what one teacher knows and is able to do. Recently, my students worked alongside engineers, facility managers, and scientists to design and create a parabolic trough to capture solar energy. I had a detailed discussion with each expert before Skyping with them. I wanted to make sure the material and information they contributed related to the curriculum and the activities were appropriate. The students were so excited from the beginning to the end….. We donated the finished product to our local bank.

Which candidate do you think is wired, plugged in, and connected?

“Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt” – Abraham Lincoln

It’s ok if you do not know the answer… I am more interested if you know how to find the answer. If you find yourself confronted with a tough question that you are not for sure about, tell me. If you try and wing it, believe me, I will know. The best candidates simply respond, “I’m not familiar with this (tech tool, instructional strategy, specific textbook, etc.), however, if you contact me tomorrow at 3:00 p.m., I will be able to tell you everything you need to know. Now, as a candidate, you better do your homework.  “I haven’t had time… or I wasn’t able to find much information… is not good enough. Great candidates are not only prepared, but demonstrate the drive and ability to find answers. There’s nothing more impressive than a follow-up phone call and the candidate shares with you how they found the answer. The best candidate spends hours researching, contacting colleagues, or even tinkering with the idea to gain firsthand knowledge. Can you imagine what they would do for a student?

“Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event.” – Heidi-Hayes Jacobs

In this day and age, you can count on a question focused on technology integration. In this day and age, using technology to create a slideshow or to conduct research is no longer good enough. The best schools are only interested in how you will use technology as a catalyst for learning. Great candidates describe in detail how their students have used technology to raise awareness, start conversations, change minds, drive change, or make a difference?

“The Only Stupid Question is the One You Don’t Ask”

Do you have any questions for us? As a candidate, you cannot only count on this question, you better prepare for it. “I do not have any questions at this time” or “I think you answered all of my questions” sends the signal that you are not interested or enthusiastic about this position. The best candidates will many times cause YOU to think by asking questions such as, “What are YOU looking for in a candidate for this position? I’ve found that the best candidates are interviewing us as well. They want to make sure they are in a place to grow and reach their full potential.

My favorite advice for any candidate was stated best by Lyn Hilt:  “Passion is necessary.  Don’t make me request your emotions – provide them, in every word, every response, every example of why you want to teach in my school.”  

Something to think about, Shawn