Interview Preparation Guide
Before the Interview
Do Your Research
Take the time to learn about the district and specific school you will be meeting with. You should become familiar with the school’s philosophy and curriculum to find out what they are looking for in a candidate. Most of this information can be found on the school or district website.
Find out some information about the interview itself. For example, who will be interviewing you – the principal, school board members, teachers? Are you going to be asked to teach a demonstration lesson? If certain logistics about the interview are not clear, it is perfectly acceptable to contact the school to seek out the information you need.
Participate in a mock interview at the Pomerantz Career Center or practice responding to interview questions with a school principal, cooperating teacher, or available family and friends. A list of possible questions can be found here.
Prep Application Materials
Go over your application materials – resume, cover letter, essays – and be prepared to talk about their content and your experiences.
Brush up on current events around the world as well as recent trends in the education field. Although it is not possible to be up to date on every piece of news related to your career, it is incredibly important for you to keep abreast of trends and newsworthy items for discussion in interviews. Employers seek candidates who have an awareness of what is happening in the world, and you should be prepared to share your thoughts on what is happening today. Utilize the technology that surrounds you to browse headlines daily and investigate those articles and stories of particular meaning and interest, especially those related to district news or state teaching standards. Twitter is another excellent resource for learning about topical events in any industry.
Pick out an appropriate and professional interview outfit (a guideline for what to wear can be found here) and make sure it is cleaned and pressed on the day of the interview. If you need FREE professional attire, please visit the Clothing Closet at Iowa, 213 Iowa Memorial Union.
Calculate how long it takes you to get to the school or interview location and practice your route so that you can plan accordingly for interview day. Plan to arrive 10 minutes early.
The Interviewer’s Perspective
“I spent many years as a school district recruiter, and I was never impressed by the rehearsed answers. Interviewers don't look for stock responses to their questions; they look for sincere responses. To best prepare for an interview session, spend time reflecting or even journaling about teaching. Think about the following as a starting place:
- What prompted you to become a teacher in the first place? Has it been a life-long dream, an unfulfilling first career, or a love of learning?
- Honestly and genuinely think about your priorities in this career. What is the most important thing you will do in a day? Every day?
- When you think about your first day in your own classroom, what do you see? How are the students? What kind of classroom environment will you create and specifically how will you do it?
…the best preparation is to think deeply about your teaching career.”
During the Interview
Nothing makes you look worse than showing up late to an interview. Use the extra minutes after you arrive to calm your nerves and mentally prepare yourself.
Interview from the Beginning
Remember that the interview begins as soon as you arrive at the school (including the parking lot), so be sure to greet the secretary and be friendly and respectful to all those you encounter.
As soon as you enter the interview room, greet all the interviewers with a smile, good eye contact, and a firm handshake. Introduce yourself with your first and last name.
Typically you will be interviewed by a team of people that can consist of 2-10 people. Try to remember all of their names and take the time to jot them down as they introduce themselves. If possible, get their business cards before you leave. This will be important for thanks-yous.
Be sincere in your responses! Your answers should be genuine and authentic – not rehearsed or canned. Remember to back up each statement you make with a story or evidence and speak clearly and confidently. Your goal is to “wow” the interviewers with your personality and qualifications, so put the “impress” in “impression”!
Teach an A+ Demonstration Lesson
A how-to guide and tip sheet can be found here.
After the Interview
Take a deep breath and relax – you did it!
Jot down some notes about the interview – who the members of the interview team were, your initial feelings about how you think the interview went, how long it lasted, etc. Also, make a list of the questions you were asked and the answers that you gave. These notes will give you a solid perspective about how the interview was conducted and provide you with questions that may show up at your next interview.
Write a thank you note to the interviewer(s) within twenty-four hours of the interview. Guidelines and tips for writing a thank-you note can be found here, and a sample thank-you note can be found here.
A General Reminder
Searching for a teaching position is essentially a full-time job and should be treated as such. Do your homework on all the districts and schools you interview with and keep track of all your application materials. A good way to do this is to put copies of all your application materials for each position in one place, such as a folder or binder, for easy access when you need them. Also, we recommend creating a spreadsheet with district requirements, deadlines, contacts, interviews, etc. to help you if you are interviewing with multiple districts.