We just got finished conducting two full days of interviews, and I was one of those on the interview committee. I always try to join in when this is an option, because you can learn so much about the potential candidates and how they may interact with you. Although I teach kindergarten, our school strives for a full community that crosses the boundary of grade-levels and tries to take the “it takes a village,” approach.

First, I can’t give recent, or specific examples, because that would be breaking confidentiality. However, these tips will definitely give you an insight into what to include and not include when you are interviewing over a Zoom platform or even in person.

  1. Dress appropriately. Still dress to impress. You are interviewing for a future position you want. Remove any unwanted items from the background, and if you need to, use a virtual background to replace the situation you are in.
  2. Don’t be driving or moving around when you are in your interview. It’s distracting. If you are moving or relocating, pull over and take the time to interview this way. Use a virtual background, and mount your phone or put your equipment somewhere stable so we don’t see the bouncing.
  3. Address the full question and take notes. Have a notepad handy the way you would in an in-person interview. If the question talks about racial and social sensitivity, or a sensitive approach to trauma or asks about your trauma-related experiences in a classroom, address all points. They are not always one and the same. Sometimes, a lower score just means you could have added more to the response and had important things to say about this, but didn’t address the entire question. You can ask the interviewers to repeat the question to make sure you addressed everything you need to.
  4. If you use acronyms, unless you are transferring buildings within your community, define acronyms or programs and give a brief description. You might be on a time crunch, so make sure you have prepared a few good points to include in your interview.
  5. Research the school you are applying for, and don’t say it has a good community. Be specific. OSPI has information on demographics and test scores. Also make sure you do as much research as possible on the school. Be specific. If a school has a program on their website, and you’re not sure about it, address that you would like to learn more about a program you read about. Questions and comments are usually reserved for the end.
  6. Know the community. This goes with tip 5. If you are coming from a community with higher SES, and applying to a school with lower SES, then address how you will meet these needs or what you would plan to do. Be transparent, but also make things positive. Be willing to learn and be teachable.
  7. Experience is great, but if you can’t communicate it, we can’t score it. Those with higher experience don’t always get higher scores. You need to be able to articulate what you know. Bring flashcards. That’s okay. We know that people get nervous, but be prepared and don’t wing your interview. It shows.
  8. Don’t expect to get a job solely on your experience. Sometimes those with less experience get higher scores based on their willingness to learn and articulate strategies that are exciting. They are willing to learn. This goes with tip 7. So, if you’re concerned that you won’t get a job because of your lack of experience, show them what experience you do have and fit it to the community you are applying for.
  9. Read and write out answers ahead of time. Know what the trends are, the social justice pieces going on in the community. This can be a hot topic, and difficult to address. So if you’re worried about how you might say what you want to say, write it out ahead of time. You may not have access to interview questions in advance, so like being a good teacher, anticipate some possible questions that might be asked and how you would respond.
  10. Know what is important to the school you are applying to. This goes along with knowing the community. Do they partner with people in the community, how does this school do this, and how can you contribute to their identified items of importance. Principals may have a message on the website or by looking at a calendar of past events, this can give you insight into what that school values.
  11. Don’t list definitions. Definitions are important, but those in education know what you are talking about (unless using specific program acronyms, etc.) Make your interview personal. Where you lack experience, make it pertinent to the position you are applying for. If you’re a kindergarten teacher applying to be a third grade teacher, talk about what you’ve learned as a teacher as a whole and how you would apply those skills to kindergarten.
  12. Personalize your cover letter to the job and consider following up with your cover letter to the principal. Technically, this is prior to the interview, but felt like it was pertinent. Districts like ours filter applications through HR, but sometimes sending a heads up to the principals lets you know that they are coming.
  13. Give specific classroom management solutions with personalized examples. Classroom management is another important topic. There is so much to juggle. How do you juggle what you do? What does it look like in practice. How is what you do effective?
  14. Talk about how you communicate with families. Again, don’t merely list your ways of communication, but talk about how you differentiate this. Either taking an inventory to see how families wish to communicate, to being consistent with the same form of communication, and reaching out to available resources.
  15. Don’t merely say you differentiate instruction. Tell us how you do this. Be specific. And don’t merely say that you differentiate by using technology, unless it is a specific process that you use. The more specific the better.
  16. Include your teaching philosophy within the interview. You can always fit this in within the questions. There’s always an opportunity to slide this in.
  17. Smile. Smiles are infectious. Show your enthusiasm for the position you are interviewing for. Be composed, but show your passionate. Show your willingness to learn from your students as well as teach them and be part of their lives.
  18. Collaboration is important. Yes, it is. But there’s more than just saying this. It goes beyond not shutting your door to teach, but collaboration examples should again, be specific and should be sandwiched with personal examples.
  19. Show what makes you special and innovative and can bring to the team. Uniqueness is important, but we want to make sure that a round peg fits in the round hole or that if you are a square peg, in a round hole, that you are helping us to fill in gaps that we are missing as a building or community. Unique perspectives are important.
  20. Don’t dismiss distance learning by merely saying technology is important. Share how you use it intentionally in the classroom to blend learning in a way that meets students needs. Address the equity concern and how you plan to overcome this to the best of your ability.
  21. Don’t avoid talking to the challenges of teaching, but address them head on. Talk to how you persist and plan to overcome or be innovative in your strategies to ensure students and families feel valued and heard.
  22. Assessment. This might look different during COVID and the current distance learning / blended learning shift in teaching. How do you plan on using data to drive instruction? Be specific about the challenges this presents and how you plan to best overcome them.
  23. Talk about blended learning. Address the challenges of blended learning, but also talk to how you can teach using this model in a way that is effective. It might diverge from the specific teaching model we’ve embraced in the process. How might this look different for each grade-level? Have responses for different grade bands and then give specific examples for the interview.
  24. Don’t eat during the interview. Be in a quiet space where you can talk. Feel free to have water handy – in a safe space where you won’t spill it on the computer or slurp it up. Needless to say, it’s not the time to have a hot dog with mustard and ketchup.
  25. Don’t lean on your charisma. You might be teachable, and willing to learn, but you still need to have substance in your interview. Know the content and current trends in teaching culture. This might be different in different areas of the country. Look up professional learning books being recommended on district websites, etc. or address your professional reading material in the interview.
  26. Look at teacher colleague websites, etc. This might not be available, but if it is, look at teacher websites – not personal, but classroom related, etc. if available.
  27. Consider having a digital portfolio handy of assessments and student examples you can share (no photographs of students or confidential information). Also have print materials ready that you can share as best you can or use as props. It’s great to have props handy so that you can use them to address during the interview process.
  28. Ask questions. When given the opportunity, ask important or thoughtful questions. Don’t ask about what furniture is in the building or if you can bring furniture (true story from an interview a long time ago). Be thoughtful. Ask about the culture of collaboration in the building and what that looks like and how the school partners with families to encourage equity, etc.
  29. Review best practices. If you know the research behind strategies you are using in the classroom, then address that in your response. Use statistics in your favor. Not only does this show that you are engaging in data-driven instruction, but that your instruction is driven by what research and best practices. It gives you authority.
  30. Address what you do when there is a negative experience in the classroom, such as restorative practices. Don’t merely define this, but give examples. If you don’t have specific examples of students, then use a fictitious character of examples you have seen more than once and how you would address this.
  31. If a school uses a social emotional curriculum, familiarize yourself with what that is and what it looks like. If the school doesn’t have an SEL curriculum, then address how you teach it explicitly in the classroom. It’s no longer an extra thing to teach during extra time, but needs explicit instruction. This needs to be stated with again, examples.
  32. Within your classroom management strategies, give specific examples of spaces, such as a break space and how students can earn their way back into the classroom or earn trust back. You also want to differentiate this based on age, such as student contracts. You also want to address how the classroom behavior modification strategies look different based on the different tiers of supports offered to different students. A tier one student might need a time-out/think time/break space, and a tier two student might need contracts and behavior forms, and a tier three student will need wrap-around support.
  33. It’s okay to talk about family, within a context. If you haven’t taught for twelve years, and feel comfortable telling the interview team that it was to take care of your children, then please do so. We can’t ask, and might be wondering. Teachers love kids and making teaching relatable as a teacher as well as parent is understood. Just make it appropriate and applicable to the circumstance/question.
  34. Don’t expect interviewers to ask clarifying questions. According to HR policy, this keeps the interview process equitable. So please, again, take notes or prepare for interviews. No matter how prepared you might be, it helps to write it down or review prior to going into the interview.
  35. Go to the bathroom ahead of time. This should go without saying, but nothing like being in the middle of an interview and feeling like you have to go to the bathroom. Then, that might be all you think about and throw you off your game.
  36. Don’t try to quit. The week you are interviewing is not the time to quit smoking (although, way to go!) or stop drinking coffee. You won’t find me without my coffee on most occasions. It is not the time you want to quit caffeine. Try the week after you get a job or after you are a little more comfortable in your position. The added stress can be very distracting.
  37. Sleep. Again, a tried and true tip. You don’t want to be yawning in that 8 am meeting. If you are, try to hide your yawn by keeping your mouth closed.
  38. Look at the camera when you are talking on Zoom. When you look around, it might be hard to make eye contact when needed. When you look at the camera, it looks like you are in the room with the speaker and talking directly to them. This is also a time when you can monitor your expressions. If you feel your energy is a little to high or low, you can self monitor and adjust.
  39. Address the equity issue and learning gap concerns in education. Address this issue head-on, and find a way to incorporate an incapsulated statement and example within the interview. Find a way to include it in one of the questions, whether or not it is asked.
  40. Address the layers of culture, race, ethnicity, heritage, tradition, religion, community and how they interact to make a person unique as well as part of a global community. Each are separate and yet interwoven. It’s important that culture is addressed, but there are layers of this. Each of these should be briefly handled or addressed to show you have an understanding of these concepts as well as how they are addressed in the classroom. For example, a student from Africa is not the same as being a Black American. The experiences are different, even though you might address some of the community building in the classroom the same way. The conversations might look different. It can be as simple as asking families what they think is important.
  41. Don’t use the melting pot analogy. This is an outdated term. I heard of it as a salad bowl in my social work classes at school and love the newer take on the analogy. A salad bowl has many types of vegetables, and they are each celebrated as unique for their contributions, and yet all treated with the same level as respect. Experiences might be different and it’s important to know our bias, and be self aware of the issues and concerns of many different people.
  42. DON’T refer to people as Blacks, Whites, Mexicans, etc. Please preface each as Black Americans or people, White Americans or Caucasian Americans, etc. Same as students with disabilities, and not disabled students. This puts the emphasis on people as people, rather than being defined by the color of someone’s skin or disability. We want to address people’s culture, but what to also emphasize that we are people.
  43. Be succinct, but use the time given to you. Monitor nonverbal behavior of the interviewers. Do they look engaged with what you are saying or bored? Are you saying too much or too little? Self-adjust.
  44. If it’s your personality, use humor when appropriate. Showing that you are competent, transparent, reflect on your teaching and unique is important, but also showing you are fun to work with makes people want to work with you. Don’t talk about something inappropriate. But I remember telling my interview team years ago that I felt like I was on American Idol, because of the way everyone was seated. It broke the ice and led to a great interview. I got the job.
  45. End on a positive. There’s a lot of heavy, hot topic issues in education right now and much to discuss. So end on a positive. Encapsulate your sales pitch about what makes you unique as an applicant and sets you apart in two to three sentences.
  46. Relax. There are jobs to be had! You can always reflect on what went well and what didn’t. Some principals will call back and give feedback; you may not get feedback, because of HR issues as well. Use that feedback and try not to take it personally.
  47. If you don’t get that job, don’t despair. Theres no way to know why you may have been passed up for an opportunity.
  48. Ask about the turnaround time. If the interviewers don’t address the turn around time for hiring, then ask. It’s okay to ask what the next steps are and when to hear. I was hired two hours after my teaching interview. However, sometimes HR takes lots of time to call and get back to candidates when there are lots of candidates or a larger district is hiring. If you didn’t get hired, it’s also not unusual to not hear anything. So feel free to call HR and ask – just don’t harass or overwhelm them. If it has been three weeks, it’s okay to check in again to ask.
  49. Practice before every interview and/or practice your notes or incorporate feedback (if given) from principals and other professionals post interviews of jobs that were given to other candidates.
  50. Reach out to your teacher mentors and colleagues, if just graduating, or other teachers that have participated in interview teams and ask their advice for future interviews.
  51. Reach out to your past principal(s) to ask advice about interviewing, and, if you are finishing student teaching, make sure you had built a connection with your principal to ensure you have good letters of recommendation and interview tips. You can even tell your principal (if interviewing in the same district as your student teaching experience) the jobs you are applying for. If they really recommend you for a job, they might reach out to that principal to let them know. Principals hiring will also often call the principal from which a candidate is coming from (within district).

What do you do to prepare for interviewing? Have stories to tell? Let me know in the comments below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *