At NavaED, we focus mainly on the certification tests that teachers have to pass before they can even interview for a job. But, we also know a thing or two about the interview game. After all, I have both interviewed for different teaching positions, as well as interviewed and hired teachers. And, we are happy to share the dos and don'ts when it comes to sitting down with a principal and a committee for an interview.
- Be positive. A positive attitude in teaching is everything. Let’s face it, principals are looking for people who can take challenging situations and turn them into amazing learning opportunities. Focus your conversation on times in your life when you did this. Maybe even brag a little.
- Research the school at which you are seeking a job. A quick trip to google will help you understand the basic aspects of the school. Even better: Get onto the school website and look at their literacy programs, their student demographics, and unique things that make the school special. Principals and teachers love to talk about their schools, especially the positives. Talk specifics so principals know you are truly interested in their school, not just any school.
- Talk up your strengths to showcase your ability to work with students and parents. Never taught before? No problem. Use experiences like camp counseling, serving in a restaurant, working in retail, or even volunteering for community organizations to demonstrate how you’ve helped people. Remember, your focus is helping students achieve. If you are sincere about that, the principal and committee will see it. A passionate teacher with the desire to do anything to help her students is far better than an experienced person who is apathetic to the success of students. Trust us.
- Make eye contact with everyone in the room. While you may get a one-on-one interview, you may also be in a room with a hiring committee. Engage all of them if this is the case. If you focus on the one or two people you think are the most important, you will risk getting a thumbs down from those you brushed off.
- Speak clearly and audibly. Sounds like a no brainer, but we have been in the room with some mumblers and fast talkers. While we’re at it, please use intelligent vocabulary, but don’t overuse “big” words just because you think they make you sound smart. And, always stick to words you know. Now is not the time to toss in obscure words. Clear communication is key.
- Put yourself in the principal’s shoes. She has to manage a large staff, an even larger student body, events, building maintenance, community outreach, and much more. She needs to know you will be that employee who will step up to get involved outside of your classroom. This is another great place to sprinkle in your volunteerism and leadership roles in the community.
- First things first, NEVER, and I repeat NEVER, bad mouth a prior boss, colleague or situation when interviewing for a job. Saying things like, “We didn’t get along.” or “She didn’t like my ideas” sends up a red flag and tells your prospective principal that you are difficult. Like we said in our dos, keep it positive.
- If you are applying for a high school position, unless the football team is winning, don’t mention it. Seriously. Football is a very stressful aspect of being a high school principal and can be a sore subject. When they are losing, principals hear about it in the community and see it in their low game attendance. Don’t even bring it up.
- While the hours and vacation time are nice, please never say things like, “I want to teach because I am seeking summers off and long winter breaks.” Nothing says, “I only care about myself and not students” than this statement about vacation time. Ditto wanting to spend time with your kids. Yes, that’s a nice perk, but the principal cares way more about the hundreds of kids in her school than your handful or less at home. Your main goal should be student achievement. And, a principal worth her salt would never consider hiring someone who isn’t hyper focused on student success.
- And, last but not least, don’t come dressed like you’re headed to the beach. Yes, it’s summer. It’s hot. But, being a little sweaty is worth strapping on a pair of pants or a skirt, a nice top, and some close-toed shoes. Shorts, sleeveless tops, and sandals do not scream, “I’m a professional.”
After you slay the interview by following these handy tips, make sure you send a follow-up letter to thank the principal for the opportunity to interview within 24 hours. This gets your name in front of the principal again and speaks volumes about your professionalism, your desire for the position, and your communication style, all things quality teachers possess.