I hope you’re reading this post because you’ve got an interview to prepare for. If so, kudos! Now comes the fun part.
Edit: I would like to clarify that I am sharing the knowledge I’ve learned from previous interview circumstances. This knowledge helped me achieve my current position which I LOVE and plan to be in for years and years to come 🙂
Prepping for your interview goes farther than looking up sample questions and writing down a few answers. There are a handful of things you can do to really set yourself up for success. If you can eliminate questions about what you are going to wear and who you are as an educator prior to sitting down with your panel, you’ll be able to focus so much more on the school related content and stories you’re going to be asked to produce.
First, pick out a power suit
I heard once that a good rule of thumb is to have one awesome interview outfit. An outfit you feel confident in. An outfit that is professional and stylish and comfortable. However, this one time I had a really crappy interview and when I went to pull out the same dress for my next one- ick. Bad juju.
Here’s my rule of thumb: have a few awesome interview pieces in your wardrobe. I’m talking a well fitting, structured blazer, a dress of longer length, a blouse in a higher end fabric, and a pair of stylish but sensible heels. As teachers, even us elementary bunch, we need some really professional-looking clothes every now and again. However, consider that you’re interviewing for a teaching position and not delivering a closing argument in a courtroom. If you’re thinking, “I’d wear this in the classroom, but definitely not on fingerpaint day,” you’re on the right track. Furthermore, don’t shy away from color! If you want to exude a bright and sunny personality, go for yellows and pinks. If you want to project a sense of calm, pick blue. My kids have expressed to me oh-so kindly that they cannot stand an all black outfit. “Ms. Wirth, it looks like you’re going to a funeral!” Think the same for your interview panel. Make a reserved statement with what you choose to wear.
Then, do your due diligence
I believe strongly that even before you submit your resume, you should be researching the school and position you’re seeking. However, there are some key aspects to really hone in on during your interview prep. Who are the people (principal, vice principal, grade level team) who might be on the interview panel? What are some school level policies, curriculums, or initiatives? What is the school’s mission statements? What programs are highlighted? You can tell a lot from the homepage of a school’s website. What do they value?
Also, really take a moment to consider if you seem like a solid fit for this position. While our dream positions might not always be available right away, it’s much harder to advocate that you’d be great in a position that really doesn’t match your identity as an educator.
Note: It is best practice to have 2-3 questions prepared at the end of the interview for your panel. This will demonstrate that you spent the time to research their school. My favorite questions to ask include things you might not find on their website: How is a positive school culture and climate promoted, not only for students but also for teachers? What professional development/mentorship is available for teachers new to the district? What community partnerships are already active in the school and district?
Next, identify who you are as an educator
Identifying who I am as an educator is one of my favorite practices. I check-in often, but that’s information for another post.
This is going to be a tougher practice if you’ve never done it before, so stick with me. I’ve provided a few prompts that will take you step by step through my thought process, however, I urge you to add things you feel are important. Take an hour and really sit with yourself, somewhere quiet, to complete this task. I promise it will benefit you no matter what. You simply have to know who you are and where you stand as an educator.
Utilize the following prompts:
I became a teacher because:
First, tell your story. Then, write your mission statement
If you need some extra insight into this section, simply Google “find your why” and watch a few Youtube videos or rent a few books from the library. This will not only benefit your interview but all your work as an educator, moving forward
I could talk for hours about:
Think education based concepts and practices. Are you obsessed with curriculum development, student assessment and data, mindset and habit forming, etc?
Some professional goals I have are:
Are you a leader? Do you believe in traditional classroom practices or do you want to change things up? What goals would you set while in school? Are you focused on improving your classroom management or questioning practices? As an educator: who do you want to be?
Finally, practice, practice, practice
It’s true what they say: practice makes perfect. Interviews are nerve wracking. Practicing interview questions, practicing discussing education casually with another person, even practicing in front of the mirror will all benefit you in the long run. My final piece of advice on this matter is to interview as much as possible. Your first interview will absolutely be your worst but it will be a HUGE learning experience. If you can, schedule an interview for a less desirable position (granted, you need to treat that as the most desirable position) before the interview for your dream job. If not, enlist a friend or family member to help. Trust yourself as an educator and answer with what you know and what you believe.
Looking for more? My full “Actionable Interview Guide for Teachers” is available on Teacher’s Pay Teacher’s. However, you can get it free for a limited time when you sign up for my email list! Start your educational career off on the right foot and start moving one step closer to your dream job.