Finding a Teaching Job, Part 3: Interviewing for a Teaching Job

What to Expect

If you have passed the initial screening process and have been offered an interview, congratulations! Interviewing for a teaching job is not all that different than interviewing for any other job, but there are a few things you should expect.

  1. You will likely be interviewed by a panel of administrators, teachers, and parents. The administrator will likely make the final decision, but the other panel members may have quite a bit of influence, so try to engage everyone!
  2. You may be asked to come back for a demo lesson. This is pretty standard, so make sure to have your calendar ready in case you need to schedule on the spot.
  3. You will be asked about your teaching philosophy everywhere you go. Make sure you know what you will say, and that you can back it up with examples.

Be Prepared

It is not difficult to anticipate the kinds of questions you will be asked. I found this site by doing a simple Google search, I’ve been asked all of these questions before. I don’t recommend memorizing everything you will say or giving canned answers, but having some idea of how you will respond to the “why did you become a teacher?” question will prevent you from saying, “because I love children” (which may be true but it’s a totally lame answer!). Instead of scripting your answers, think of some examples of your best work. If you say you love project based learning, you better be prepared with an anecdote about how you’ve used it. If you claim to use assessment to inform instruction, make sure you can demonstrate how.

Ask Questions

The Q & A portion of the interview is your chance to determine if the school is a good fit for you, but it’s also your chance to share any valuable tidbits of information about yourself that may not have surfaced yet. If you really wanted to talk about how much of a leadership role you played in a previous position, ask, “are teachers given the opportunity to fill leadership roles?” This opens up a dialogue about the topic and you have the opportunity to explain why this interests you. Avoid questions that don’t add value to your interview, don’t ask about parking, or other logistical things.

Follow Up

I’ve often been advised to send thank you cards to everyone on an interview panel. While I have done this out of superstition, having been on the receiving end of these cards, it doesn’t make a whole heck of a lot of difference. I’ve never based any decision on post-interview correspondence, but it certainly can’t hurt. When I say follow up, I mean send your interviewer a quick thank you email. Tell them you appreciate their time and consideration, include a link to your portfolio, then sit back and wait. If it seems to take a while, you can send another follow up email, but keep it very short, and don’t be pushy! You want to seem interested, but not overbearing. I received an email from an applicant last week detailing all the reasons I should interview her. She emailed me several more times, each time with more urgency, demanding my attention. Needless to say, she did not advance to the interview stage. It is possible to be overzealous.

Hopefully all of your hard work, and patient waiting will pay off and you’ll get an offer! Teaching jobs are unique in that there is often no room for negotiation, you are placed on a salary schedule, so you can accept your offer right away without haggling, and start teaching!

This post is Part 3 of a three-part series by Emily Dahm. Read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

Finding a Teaching Job, Part 1: Get Ready to Pound Some Pavement

Where to Begin?

So you have your credential, or you will soon, and it’s time to start looking for a job. Where to begin can be unclear, especially if you are still in school and focused on finishing all of your assignments and projects.

Some teacher preparation programs are great at helping graduates find jobs, but most of us are left entirely to our own devices. If this is the case for you, don’t worry! If you are willing to pound the pavement a little bit, you should have no trouble finding a great position.

What’s Your Plan?

The first step to finding a job, is to decide what your ideal situation is. Of course, you will likely have to take a job that is not ideal, but it helps to have some idea of what you are looking for. Determine what your non-negotiables are, for example: Is there a particular age range you will not teach? Do you find sixth graders big and scary? Does the sound of a child crying make your skin crawl?

Don’t limit yourself too much, but you will almost certainly be asked which age range you prefer. It is good to be flexible, but having a range in mind will help you find the best fit. Other things to consider: proximity to your home, resources available, cohesiveness of the staff, parent involvement (this is huge, as too much involvement can be very stressful, and not enough can lead to difficulty getting support for kids at home). These are all things you should be able to determine by doing a little research on a school, but you can always ask during your interview.

Get Ready to Apply for Jobs

Before you even begin putting together a resume, make sure to get all of the recommendation letters you can before you finish your program — it is best to ask while you are fresh in everyone’s minds! Also, some people prefer you to draft a letter yourself, and allow them to edit it. Do whatever you can to make it easier for them (and bring them a cup of coffee, or buy them lunch when they deliver!).

Try to ask professors or supervisors you’ve had a close relationship with. It can be awkward if the person you are asking knows nothing about you. Also, you will very likely be asked about your teaching philosophy. This isn’t something you should make up on the fly. Write a one page statement (or better yet, create a multimedia presentation highlighting your work) and include it with your resume. Try not to use too much jargon, and include real examples of what you’ve done (or plan to do) with your students. If you want to get really fancy, create a different statement of philosophy for different schools/districts that aligns with what they are looking for.

Creating a Resume

So, you might be wondering, “How am I supposed to write a resume with no work experience?” Well, not only is it possible, it is expected. You are in the same boat with all the other new teachers out there, you have to start somewhere!

Writing resumes is an art, and writing a bad one can land you in the reject pile very quickly. Writing a great one, however, can bump you to the top of the pile, even if you have the same amount of experience as all of the other applicants. So, I am obligated to state the obvious here: make sure there are no mistakes! You are a teacher! If English is not your first language, make sure to have several (at least 5) native speakers edit your work.

Next, list specific things you have done, or are able to do. Make sure there is a verb in each of your bullet points. I have looked at hundreds of new teacher resumes and a mistake I often see is applicants listing things (like assessments, or curriculums) without explaining how they used them.Your bullet points should be actions!

Also, keep it to one page. If you are a new teacher, there is no reason for your resume to go on longer. I see a lot of badly formatted resumes, even though you are not being judged on your design skills, it does affect the first impression you are making. I suggest using a program that does the formatting for you. I like, it’s super easy to use and your file will look very professional.

Get Out There!

Now that you have your applications ready to go, get ready to pound some pavement! You may be sending out resumes to several schools and districts (at least I hope you are!), but the application process does not stop there. You should always follow up, either with a phone call, or a friendly email. If you are applying to a big district, make sure you contact individual schools, even if it is not required.

It is easy to get lost in the shuffle, and you need to make yourself as visible as possible. Anything you can do to get a Principal to give your resume a second look is worth the effort!

This is Part 1 of a three-part series on “Finding a Teaching Job.” Continue reading Part 2 now!