10 Tips to Ace Your Teacher Interview

If you’re reading this post, then CONGRATS! You have a teaching interview! If you don’t have an interview, then this is awkward. Just kidding; you’ll be sure to have one soon. Think of it this way: You are manifesting that teacher interview by reading this post. 🙂

By the way, this post is the third in a series about getting that teaching job. If your teacher resume needs an extreme makeover, then head to this post, and if you want tips for writing a standout cover letter, check out this one.

Today’s post is all about teacher interviews: How to prepare, what to expect, and how to ace them! If you’re ready to prepare for your teacher interview, then grab a cup of coffee, a notebook or a Google doc, and get ready to…GET READY!

10 Tips to Ace Your Teacher Interview
10 Tips to Ace Your Teacher Interview

1. RESEARCH THE SCHOOL

Do your homework and stalk the school before your teacher interview. I mean internet stalking, of course, but you may want to scope out the school’s location beforehand, too. Hopefully, you did some research when you were creating a resume and writing a cover letter, but you should do even more research before your interview. 

First, stalk the school’s website. Click on every tab. Check out their mission statement, their school improvement plan, their news feeds, the student handbook, etc. Creep on the school and/or the principal’s social media accounts. Search for any recent news articles mentioning the school on Google. Go back to the job posting and read the bullet points, position expectations, and the fine print!

Absorb as much information as you can, process it, and then reflect. Think about what you have to offer and how you can align that to the school’s needs. Take note of the language, buzz words, and mission, and consider how you might weave some of that into the interview. While you’re doing this research, it’s a good time to take note of any questions you have. Stay tuned for tip #8 for more info on that!

Research the school and learn as much as you can before the interview.
The more you know about the school, the easier it will be to prepare for the interview.

2. PREPARE YOUR PERSONAL SALES PITCH

Be prepared for the interview to kick off with the classic “So tell me about yourself” line. It can be dreadful and awkward, but it’s going to happen, so it’s better to be ready for it. If you’re ready, you’ll be confident enough to embrace this question and break the ice for the rest of the interview. 

When I say be ready for it, I mean brainstorm what you’re going to say and rehearse it out loud. If you’re like me, maybe even jot down notes on a Google doc, review what’s most important, and go from there. It might sound silly to record notes about yourself or rehearse your story, but it actually makes perfect sense. You know yourself too well, and that simple fact makes it easy to ramble during this question. You don’t want to end up word-vomiting your entire life story, but you do want to deliver an effective personal sales pitch that helps you stand out. 

For help brainstorming this, you may want to look back on your cover letter and resume (especially the “professional profile” section). Don’t just regurgitate that information, but think of what you can add. Maybe that’s more detail, some examples, and even a bit of your personality. Remember, this question is an ice-breaker, first impression, and important question, all in one!

Prepare your personal sales pitch the "Tell me about yourself" introduction.
They’re going to ask this, so be ready!

3. PREPARE ANSWERS FOR COMMON QUESTIONS

In addition to talking about yourself, you’re going to talk a lot about teaching! You can almost guarantee you’ll be asked these 3 essential questions, so make sure you have answers prepared:

The Big 3 – Teacher Interview Questions:

  • How do you differentiate?
  • How do you plan? (They may keep it vague or specify unit- or lesson-planning. Ultimately, you’ll want to address both).
  • How do you integrate technology?

Other Common Questions:

  • How do you manage behavioral issues in the classroom?
  • What is one strength? What is one weakness?
  • How do you teach reading? How do you teach writing? (Obviously these are ELA-specific, but think about what they might ask for your content area)
  • How do you use data?
  • Describe your teaching philosophy.

Additionally, I’ve almost always been asked a “What would you do if [insert scenario here]?” question. These can vary, but one I remember from one of my very first teacher interviews was What would you do if the veteran teachers of your department were doing or teaching something you didn’t agree with?

Once again, I highly recommend drafting potential answers and practicing your responses if you can. I like to create a giant Google doc of possible questions and bullet-point answers. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be!

Prepare and practice answers for other common interview questions.
The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be during your teacher interview!

4. ALIGN ANSWERS WITH THE SCHOOL’S VALUES

As you’re brainstorming answers to the most commonly asked questions, return to what you learned from researching the school. Then, brainstorm specific ways that you can align your answers to the school’s mission, values, and initiatives. 

For example, if the school is 1:1 with devices, make sure that you are able to highlight examples of how you integrate technology in your lessons. If the school serves a large population of English language learners, be prepared to discuss how you can scaffold students’ language skills. If the school emphasizes college- and career-readiness, show how you will prepare your learners for life after graduation. Don’t know what your school values? Return to your research and read the news. If you can, talk to people who might know more: teachers, parents, or others in the community.

Perhaps you don’t have much experience or knowledge in some of the school’s key initiatives. Whether it’s standards-based grading, project-based learning, or a workshop model of instruction, research it. Then, think about how your teaching philosophy, goals, and ideas align to the school’s initiatives. You don’t have to be an expert; you just have to show that your personality and philosophy fit!

Align your answers to the school's values, mission, and initiatives.
It’s your job to show the school that you’ll be a good fit!

5. GO THROUGH YOUR BINDERS, PLANNERS, AND DRIVES TO FIND EXAMPLES

Maybe this is just a tip for #TypeB teachers like me, but I easily forget about some of the most engaging lessons I’ve taught over the years. After years of teaching a handful of different subjects and grades, some of my creative ideas get buried in the back of my brain (or lost in my Google drive). They’re there somewhere, but I have to search for them and remind myself of everything I’ve done. To activate my memory, I always like to go through my binders, planners, and digital drives. This sounds weird, but I even creep on my own teacher Instagram because I’ve shared so many ideas there over the years. 

This part of preparation is so important because it will give you specific examples to discuss in your interview. Anyone can rattle off buzzwords, best-practice strategies, and beat around the teaching philosophy bush, but not everyone can cite specific scenarios and examples. 

Once you’ve refreshed your memory, curate a list of your favorite lessons and activities so they’re at the top of your mind during the interview. Make sure these lessons reflect a wide range of skills so you’re not caught off guard with any questions.

Go through your binders, lesson plans, and digital drives to find examples.
This will help you refresh your memory so you have plenty to discuss during the interview.

6. BRING A PORTFOLIO OF LESSONS & ARTIFACTS

Reminding yourself of your favorite examples is great, but don’t stop there. Once you’ve curated your list of lessons, print them out and put together a teacher portfolio that you can bring to the interview. “Portfolio” sounds fancy, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. My first “portfolio” was just a collection of my favorite student teaching lessons. I threw them into page protectors, snapped them into a binder, and hoped for the best. (I got the job!) This last time around, I had enough artifacts to organize my portfolio into a few different categories. I bought dividers and labeled each section so that I could show my interviewers my wide range of skills and experiences. 

In addition to impressing the interview committee with specific artifacts, a portfolio will also help you during the interview. When you’re asked those inevitable questions about differentiating and planning, you can describe how you do things and then show real-life examples in your portfolio. A portfolio gives you something to fall back on, and it will give the interview committee reassurance that you know more than the buzzwords…you actually know how to teach real lessons!

Bring a portfolio of lessons & artifacts that show your best work.
A portfolio = the ultimate preparation!

7. PROVIDE EXAMPLES & EVIDENCE DURING THE INTERVIEW

It’s easy to fall into the trap of explaining your teaching philosophy and mentioning your strategies without ever really talking about what will actually go on in your classroom. Yes, the interview committee is looking for certain answers, but everyone can regurgitate the same buzz words, strategies, and (to a point) philosophies. One of the best ways to frame your answers during an interview is through an “If you walk into my classroom, you will see…” approach. This prompts you to think of actual examples, rather than mere ideas or buzz words. 

The more specific you can get, the better. Make sure you discuss concrete examples that show your teaching philosophy in action. Not only will concrete examples offer more “proof” of your competency as a teacher, but they’ll be more memorable, too. Instead of being “that teacher with the student-centered philosophy,” you’ll be “that teacher who loves learning stations, question trails, and escape rooms.” Think of what examples define you as a teacher, and find a way to weave them into the interview. Like I tell my students, cite your evidence and show what you know!

Provide examples and evidence during the interview.
Cite your evidence and show what you know!

8. PREPARE A LIST OF QUESTIONS TO ASK AT THE END OF THE INTERVIEW

The last question in the interview will almost always be, “Do you have any questions for us?” It’s easy to reply, “No, I think you covered everything,” but it’s much better to have a few essential questions on hand. Not only will this show the interview committee that you are prepared and interested, but it will give you valuable answers to determine if you’re a good fit for the school. It’s easy to forget about this side of interviewing, but it’s crucial, especially if you’re trying to decide between schools/job offers.

Here are a few of the questions I asked in my last interview. Keep in mind that these are the things most important to me, and your questions may vary!

  • How much freedom will I have with the curriculum and planning lessons?
  • What does collaboration look like at your school?
  • What kind of technology do you have? Are students 1:1? What platforms do you use?

One tip is to ask questions that begin with “I noticed [subject] on your website. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?” This is a great chance to sneak in that you’ve done your research and learn more about what teaching would look like at that school.

Prepare a list of questions to ask at the end of the interview.
This will show the school you are prepared and help you decide if the job is a good fit.

9. WEAR AN OUTFIT THAT MAKES YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE, PROFESSIONAL, AND CONFIDENT

I love fashion, clothes, shoes, and accessories, and it’s always tempting to go shopping for the perfect interview outfit. It’s also easy for me to completely overthink and obsess over what I’m wearing and what message it might send. While making a professional impression is important, I’ve found that it’s best to keep my interview outfits simple, comfy, and professional. I feel the most confident and calm when I am comfy, even if the outfit isn’t perfectly styled and on trend. 

Resist the temptation to wear those new heels that dig into your feet, the blazer that’s too tight around your shoulders, or the shirt that you have to constantly adjust. Wear something that’s professional and comfortable so that you can focus on the interview and not your outfit.

Wear an outfit that makes you feel comfortable, professional, and confident.
Make sure you are comfortable so you can fully focus on the interview!

10. AFTER THE INTERVIEW, SEND A HAND-WRITTEN THANK YOU NOTE

This might sound a bit old-school, but I’m a firm believer in the power of hand-written notes. When you get home from your interview, grab a card, express your thanks, and put the note in the mail that day. Sure, you could email your thanks, but taking the extra few minutes to write and send a hand-written note will show the school that you’re the type of teacher who puts in extra effort. If the position is down to just a few candidates, or the committee is determining who to call in for a second round of interviews, this small act of thanks could make a big difference!

After the interview, send a hand-written thank you note to the principal.
This will show the school that you’re the type of teacher who goes the extra mile.

I hope these tips help you land your dream teaching job! Let me know if you’d like to see another post with 10 common teacher interview questions and how to answer them. In the meantime, check out these blog posts & resources to help you during your job search:

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