Preparing for Interviews
The interview is the final step in the job search process. It is your opportunity to sell yourself in person. Your job in the interview is to convince the employer that you have what they need and you are the right one for the job.
It is also critical to remember that in any interview situation, you are evaluating the employer as well. You need to determine if this organization is the best place for you to put your talents to work. The interview is a two-way street!!
The single most important way to insure your success in an interview is to PREPARE. The two main keys is to know the employer and to know yourself. Click here for Sample Interview Questions or here to see questions you should be asking them! Click here to view portfolio advice which is helpful to have when involved in a district level interview (not a screening interview like those conducted at job fairs).
In order to convince the employer that you have what they're looking for, you must know as much as you can about them. If you are applying to a public school system, you should know some basic information,such as where it is located, how large or small it is, what the student enrollment is and whether it is an urban, rural or a suburban area. You will also want to know what the school system states as their philosophy of education or their mission. What does the organization value and reward? What is the size of the program in your teaching area? You must research the school system!!
Once you find out all you can about the school system, begin to think about how you fit in with what you've learned. Do they have a philosophy which you particularly admire? Do they have a special program in an area in which you have expertise? Can you particularly relate to their student population because you attended school in a similar kind of community? Think about what makes you ideal for the job and be prepared to let the interviewer know it.
You must know yourself in order to communicate to the interviewer what you feel you have to offer. You must be prepared to answer two basic questions:
- what have you done (experiences, achievements, skills developed, etc.)
- what are you like (personality, preferences, motivations, strengths/weaknesses, teaching style, etc.)
- Study your resume. Be prepared to discuss in detail and in a positive manner any item you've listed.
- Know the two or three most important points you want to make about each item on your resume. Keep these in mind as a guide so when asked general or open-ended questions, you will focus on the important facts and not ramble on about inconsequential details. Make the most of the short amount of time you have to convince the interviewer of your suitability. Your outline will help you stay organized, and answer questions completely.
- Study the sample interview questions and think about how you would answer them. Anticipate tough questions. Do you have any trouble spots in your background, a bad work experience or a semester of poor grades? If so, determine how you will handle these items if they come up in the interview. If you had a bad work experience, can you show what you learned from the experience or how you overcame it and moved on.
- Prepare a list of intelligent questions to ask the interviewer about the school system and the job. For example, you may want to know the facilities, equipment or other resources relevant to your teaching area. Or you might want to ask about what kinds of orientation or support services are available for beginning teachers. Think about the factors you consider important to your success as a teacher.
- Practice with a friend. Take turns asking each other questions and answering them as though you were in a real interview situation. This will give you experience with having to think quickly and will also help identify questions with which you have difficulty so that you can work more on them. You can also make an appointment with Gigi Davis-White to have a mock interview for additional practice--plan to do this in the fall semester due to the timing of Expo in the spring.
During the Interview
- Answer questions fully. Do not give one word answers, but don't ramble. Get to the most important points. Remember your outline!
- You are not expected to have the answer to every question. In fact, you want to guard against appearing too over-rehearsed.
- Think before you answer, especially if the question is one you hadn't thought about.
- Be sure to answer the question the interviewer is asking. If you are not sure what the question was, ask the interviewer to repeat it or to clarify. Do not simply begin to talk and hope you say the right thing.
- Be sure to make the connection for the interviewer between what they need and what you can offer. This is your time to convince them that you are the best candidate.
Interview Do's and Don'ts
- Do arrive on time (or ahead of time!).
- Do make a good initial impression. Be well dressed, have a firm handshake and make eye contact with the interviewer. Anything you can do to help the interviewer feel comfortable with you will be greatly appreciated by him or her and will also make a good impression.
- Do be yourself! Answer the questions honestly and sincerely. The interviewer wants to get some sense of what you are like as a person.
- Do try to appear confident, capable and enthusiastic without exaggerating, boasting or appearing arrogant. This is a fine line and may come more easily with practice.
- Do tell the truth, always. School systems can and will check information.
- Don't criticize, blame or speak negatively of anyone or anything.
- Don't minimize your experience or skills. The interview is not the place to be overly modest. If you won't sell yourself, no one else will. If you are not proud of an experience or item on your resume, then leave it off the resume.
- Don't fidget, tap, chew gum, play with a pen or other items in your hand that will show your nervousness.
- Don't forget to get the interviewer's full name and do send a brief thank you note within several days of the interview. Also, at the end of the interview, ask what the next step will be, such as when you can expect to hear something. That way you will know when you should get back in touch with them.