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Job Interview Advice for Teachers


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Listen to the Podcast (transcript):


Interview season is upon us. Tens of thousands of hopeful teachers are printing out resumes, ironing their best clothes, and showing up for those nerve-racking interviews. And when they do, some of them will hit a home run, wowing their interviewers and landing those jobs. Others will be disappointed, sometimes over and over again.

So what are principals looking for when they interview prospective teachers? I asked five administrators to tell me what qualities are most important to them. They talked about the things candidates do to really impress them, and the mistakes that will make a job offer highly unlikely. Here are the five fantastic administrators who gave their time and advice for this episode:

Chris Nordmann (@ChrisNordmann), Academic Dean at the Kaleidoscope Charter School in Otsego, Minnesota.

Penny Sturtevant, Principal at Big Walnut Middle School in Sunbury, Ohio.

Herbert O’Neil (@herbertoneiljr), Director of Academics for Lifeschool in Dallas, Texas.

George Couros (@gcouros), Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and learning for Parkland School Division in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada.

Joe Collins (@collins6HCPS), Assistant Principal at Harford Technical High School in Harford County, Maryland.



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  1. Charles Moore says:

    I was once on a committee of veteran teachers who sat in on interviews with our principal and offered our input afterwards. One certain very nervous young woman, who was incidentally a little late, stumbled through much of the interview but impressed all of us when she said that she just liked children and would give anything to work with them. She’s been there for over 12 years now. Sincerity! You must be sincere about your commitment to this profession. Also, don’t speak edu-babble. It works in the college classroom, but not in the school.

  2. Shelby says:

    I just went through two rounds of interviews and was offered a 7th grade ELA position in my dream district! I have a couple of recommendations for interviews:

    Bring something to leave with your interviewers that is more memorable than just a résumé. I put together a sharp-looking document of testimonials of my teaching from students and teachers, which were quotes from letters given to me that advocated for my teaching.

    Write follow up thank you emails to everyone on the panel. Use that follow up to readdress and add on to a point you made in your interview.

    Tell quick, relatable stories about students to bring home points you’re trying to make in your interview.

    If possible, get up and write on the board. I did this during my second interview to better explain a public speaking acronym I use in the classroom.

    Be confident, speak conversationally, and smile.

    Re-read or skim through your favorite book on teaching beforehand. I was asked about what book guides my teaching practices.

    Let your interviewers see your portfolio. My portfolio is online and I included a link to it in my follow up emails so they had the option to see work I’ve done in my content area if they were curious.

    • Shelby, I so appreciate your contribution here–this is excellent advice! The one about leaving something memorable behind and having stories ready is fantastic!

      • Ray Frappolli says:

        3 suggestions for successful teaching job interviews:

        1. Dress professionally
        2. Arrive EARLY
        3. Anticipate and prepare for the questions …
        How would you….
        What would you do …..
        Why do you think….
        Tell me about your best/worst lesson

        Etc. all opinion questions. Prepare.

  3. As a teacher-leader at my school, I get to participate in interviewing prospective teachers. So many of the interviewees make me cringe inwardly because of how poorly they present themselves. I’ve realized that what they are missing is any display of passion–passion for their subject areas and passion for evoking that same passion in their students. So many of these teachers look great on paper but present themselves as duds. I am telling friends who are currently interviewing to show off their passion–even if they have to stand on the table! (There’s a Sam Adams beer commercial where the employees at Sam Adams are spraying each other with hoses and falling backwards into piles of hops as the voice-over talks about “their passion for making beer.” That’s what I’m talking about.)

    Here’s a link to an article about teacher passion in interviews:

    True passion isn’t gimmicky or pretentious. I know people are nervous, but holding back isn’t going to get you hired.

    Passion trumps inexperience. I can work with and “bring along” anyone who has passion for teaching. That kind of teacher is a no-brainer for a recommendation from me to hire.

    • Great contribution, Christopher. I think most interviewers recognize that there are some qualities you can teach a person, and others that have to be innate. A lack of passion is kind of unfixable. What’s a shame, though, is that some candidates who might seem like duds in an interview might be pretty passionate people in real life; they just think they have to assume a “professional” demeanor in an interview. There is only one you, so make sure that person shows up when it counts!

  4. Christina says:

    Share a time when you were coached/coachable, as well as a time that you served others as a coach/mentor/support.

  5. Jlynn Ingemansson says:

    Hi Jennifer, thanks for this awesome article, It came to me through Facebook. My old Principal passed it my way. I loved the comments everyone gave especially about “Passion”. I can’t express how important that is to be Passionate in your field of study. I think the best teachers are geeks in their subject and if they get all excited when teaching the lessons then the students can’t help but to be swept away with you. Inspiring the next generation goes way beyond any chapter in a text book or a test score. Anyway, thanks for an inspiring article.

  6. Leanna K Johnson says:

    Thanks for this blog and everyone for adding comments. I’ve linked this to my online portfolio course for preservice teachers. It will support exactly what they do in my course: self-reflection on practices and passion for the curriculum area and its students.

  7. Great article. Can I share on my website?

    • Hi, Timi!

      We would be happy for you to share that resource on your blog, as long as proper attribution is given. Also, please simply write a bit of your own introdcution and then link the article on your site without copying and pasting the content of the post. Thanks so much for checking with us on it!

  8. Stephan Currence says:

    The very first person interviewed wants a teacher that is a team player and alludes to the things that add to teacher burn out suggested in episode #119.

  9. creole creole says:

    I find it difficult to pass an interview and get a job!

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