Interview Tips from a Real Life Principal
I interview teachers 12 months a year because I am always on the lookout for talent. One of the most important jobs of the principal is to recruit, interview, select, and retain effective teachers, so we take interviewing seriously. Over the past 18 years, I estimate I have interviewed nearly 1000 teachers. Here are some common tips for successful interviews, so you can be one of the people offered the job instead of one of those who gets the “we chose another candidate” rejection email.
Interview like you want the job. Arrive on time, professionally dressed (in a suit) and ready to talk about the school you are interviewing for. Even if you are interviewing in a foreign city across the world it is easy to find an internet presence to learn a few key facts about the school. You would be shocked to know how many teachers answer the “what do you know about our school” question incorrectly by blurting out school colors or our mascot because they haven’t taken the time to browse our website or do an internet search. As a principal I am looking for someone who puts thought into what they do. If you know nothing about the school, then I already know something about you that you don’t want me to know.
Differentiate between social meeting and interview. Don’t bring in drinks into a job interview. If you are offered a drink feel free to accept one but don’t walk in with a cup of coffee or a 32 oz. drink and plop it down on the interviewer’s desk as if an interview is informal. Manners matter. Shake hands, wait to be invited to sit down and don’t bring in food, gum or drinks which takes the attention away from you and onto the fact that you are hungry or thirsty.
The interview begins before you walk in the door and doesn’t end until you drive off the property. Don’t be fooled into thinking the receptionist isn’t interviewing you too. Everyone in the school has an eagle eye on their potential future co-worker. Hence, change from sneakers to professional shoes in the car, not in the office.
Prepare some answers ahead of time. If I were interviewing a professional baseball player for a job, I would ask how he gets more runs than other teams. If I was interviewing a fortune 500 company president, I would ask about how she outperforms her competitors to earn more money. Spend some time thinking about what you are going to be asked and how you want to answer it. On the evening after the interview, write down the questions you were asked while they are fresh in your mind so you can collect a plethora of questions you can review before interviews, so you will never be surprised by an interview question more than once.
Make sure your questions of the interviewer are thoughtful. I once had a first year teacher ask me when his lunch would be because he told me he had last lunch in his student teaching experience and last lunch “would be a deal breaker for him.” There was no deal on the table and that candidate showed me clearly that lunch time was the most burning question on his mind. I wanted to stop the interview and whisper “you can eat a sandwich in between 1st and 2nd period for all I care; don’t make something this trivial the stamp for who you are.”
Interviewing is a challenge but it’s a necessary process, so you can select a school that is correct for your particular skill set. You want to have several schools to choose from and that’s where the power shifts from the interviewer to the candidate. I get to choose who I offer the job to, but you make the ultimate decision about if you want to join our faculty.