I just spent 9 hours helping to interview people for 3 open spots in our building next year. 9 hours, 1 hour of lunch, 13 people. I *might* be more tired than I normally am when I get home from teaching! Maybe. It might be the same level of exhaustion. We were very lucky this year, because we had a GREAT selection of candidates. It was truly hard to narrow it down. The last time I interviewed for a job was 5 years ago. The job market (in Ohio at least) is MUCH tougher than it was 5 years ago. You REALLY have to impress! One candidate we interviewed said she interviewed for a position recently and they had 1,400 applicants! INSANITY. We didn't have that many since we're a rural district, but we still had a LOT.
So I'm here to offer 10 tips for a great interview. Take them or leave them, but from the perspective of an interviewer, you might find these really helpful. And PLEASE listen when I mention some of them.
1. Make sure to bring all required paperwork. If the district you're interviewing asks you to bring any sort of documentation (rec. letters, transcripts, sample lesson, etc.), BRING THEM. It's not an option.
2. We want to see pictures of your classroom! IF you've taught, we'd love to see pictures of your current room. Cute, organized, messy, cluttered. We want to see it! It tells us a lot about you and the environment you create.
3. Don't bring a lot of random stuff. Yes, bring a portfolio with the necessities (pictures, transcripts, letters of rec., data, etc.). Do not stuff it with a lot of random stuff. While we wish we had all the time in the world to look through it, we don't. We want to be able to quickly flip through and see what you're about. Pick a few things you're really proud of and that highlight your strengths and leave it at that.
4. Show us who YOU are. We want to get to know YOU! Not the super-peppy, overly-smiley and positive version of you. And not the really negative, complaining, frowny version of you. Just be real! :) Sometimes it can be a turnoff because we feel like we only know one side of you. It is definitely difficult to get to know a person in 30 minutes, but we want to see the real you. Be genuine! :)
5. Know your stuff. Be prepared! There are certain things in education you should really know about. If that means you need to study, then study. Coming into this field, you are expected (no matter how much experience you have) to know about collecting data, progress monitoring, RTI, letting data drive instruction, guided reading, differentiation, etc. Those are the basics. Make sure you're prepared to answer questions about these!
6. Be early. As an old theater director of mine used to say, "To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is unacceptable." Plug in that GPS ahead of time and allow for traffic/trains/wrong turns/etc.
7. Be confident. I KNOW interviews can be extremely stressful. You want to do a good job, you want to impress, and you want the job. The more prepared you are, the more you can relax when you're sitting in front of a team of 6 people (or however many are in your interview). It's so easy to get nervous, but practice in front of anyone you can find. Tell them to be honest with you and take it seriously. We feel for you and try to make you feel as comfortable as possible, but we still need to be able to see who you are through your nervousness.
8. Prepare yourself to tell the interviewing team your weaknesses. This is SUCH a common question and we definitely ask it. What are your strengths and weaknesses? For some reason, some people always struggle with weaknesses. We all have them. I have a bajillion. The most common answer was, "I'm a perfectionist." That's a great answer because it can also be seen as a positive. However, once again, you need to stand out. I found that 85% of our candidates gave this answer. Think of something else. And it's OK if it can't be twisted into a positive! However, it's not a good idea to say things like, "I'm always late," or "I procrastinate." Yeah. Don't share those. ;)
9. SELL YOURSELF! Remember, we are looking at a LOT of candidates. Give us something to remember that will make you stand out from everyone else. Some of the great things I saw today were leaving a thank-you note after the interview with the office staff, giving the interviewing team a picture/card so we could remember her face (which was VERY helpful!), and creating a video of classroom pictures that we were shown on her iPad. All were clever and nice ideas that stood out! We want to be blown away and not think how you blended in with all the other candidates.
10. Remember, sometimes it's not you, it's the school. Just like you're searching for that perfect job, we're searching for the perfect person to fit in with US. We truly had FABULOUS interviews today. Those ladies and gentlemen were wonderful and we were very impressed! However, in the end it comes down to team dynamics. Who will fit in best with the teaching teams? Who would fit into our school family the best? These are things that are out of your control. If you don't get a job there, just know that it might not be a great fit for us. There will be a place that needs YOU! :)
There are LOTS of other things, but these are some of the things that really stood out to me today as I was helping to interview potential teachers. Remember to relax and do your best! You'll end up where you're supposed to be, even if you don't see it yet. :)