Teacher Job Search and Interview Strategies

Smarter job search strategies are required to get a teaching job. Finding a teaching job in today’s market is not easy; many public schools have gotten quite competitive. This doesn’t mean that a teaching position is out of reach, it just means that you must be more prepared than ever.

School districts are always on the lookout for new teachers; the turnover rate is pretty high. Over the past few years, we have seen a number of teachers retire, or decide to stay home for family reasons. As a principal for 11 years, I have read 1000’s of applications and conducted 100’s of interview. What follows are strategies to find, apply, and interview for a teaching job.

Start your search with knowing the market. What are you up against? How can you position yourself?  What does your position in the market mean for your job prospects? From there it is critical to know who you are as a teacher. How do your skills translate into practice and what can you bring to a school? Knowing this will help you write an effective cover letter and interview.

Finally, you must know the job you are applying for. Take time to research the district and school. Find a real connection with the job to put you in the mindset to start writing and applying for the job. Once you have that knowledge, then it’s time to market yourself with a resume and cover letter.

Resume and Cover Letter

The resume and cover letter are a team; the representation of you on paper. They are the first impression a prospective principal has of you. These documents are never finished. Your cover letter will tell a potential employer your story. Your resume gives the details of your story. Both should leave the school leader and/or hiring team wanting to know more.

The resume and cover letter are tools that allows you to highlight how you can contribute to a school. The purpose of the resume is to get you an interview – not a job. By researching the school/district, your letter and resume must capture the principal’s interest and attention and show the principal that you have the ability to add value

Here are some resume guidelines to follow:

  • Make it visually appealing; the hiring team looks at it before they read it
  • Make sure it is well organized; don’t force the reader to search for important information like licensure or experience.
  • Zero tolerance for grammar/mechanical/formatting errors
  • Do not leave gaps in time; these are red flags.
  • Optimize every word on the page; use concise, powerful language
  • It is a professional document; avoid cutesy graphics, images, and formats
  • Stick to what you know; don’t sprinkle buzzwords in that you don’t understand
  • Focus on achievements and results; lists of duties are not impressive

Here are some resume mistakes to avoid:

  • USING ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. This make it much harder to read and not grammatically correct.
  • Including a picture; a resume is not a social media profile
  • Using several fonts to catch their attention; your resume presents as a “ransom note” with all the changes in letters.
  • Presenting yourself out of order; your resume is a story – it should have a theme and flow
  • Using superlatives to emphasize your work
    • Great performance as …
    • Out performed

Here are some cover letter guidelines to follow:

  • No more than 1 page; ¾” margin minimum, and 11 point font minimum
  • 5 Paragraphs; opening statement, 3 paragraphs to highlight your fit in the school,  and a closing statement
  • Demonstrate that you can write; mechanics, topic development, transition, and flow
  • Ensure you are capturing who you are as an educator
  • Communicate the message “I am a match for your school” without directly stating “I am a match for your school.”
  • Customize your letter for the job; “Dear Principal __________.”
  • Put it in front of at least 5 people you trust before sending
  • Tell the reader why you are writing to them

I am happy to support your journey – feel free to email me your resume if you want to me take a read and give feedback. Email to DrMatthewXJoseph@gmail.com

Interview Time

So you followed the above strategies and got a call to be interviewed. Now what?  It’s on you to bring your A game and highlight your skills. The market is flooded and the openings are limited in education and there are thousands of graduates looking to get into the teaching profession. There are a thousand more who went back to school to be a teacher and now trying to get your foot in the door and “get my own classroom”. A resume gets you an interview – an interview gets you a job.  The below “tips” will help prepare an aspiring educator for an interview. Tis the season and jobs are posted, so it is on you to go in and impress.

Interview Tips

Relax.

Take a deep breath and relax. The person who is interviewing you knows that almost everyone has some degree of nervousness during an interview. He/She will not think you’re weird or hiding something if you’re afraid – it’s a normal part of the process.

Be prepared.

Nothing can sabotage an interview like being underprepared. Review your resume, especially if you haven’t read the entire document in a while. Make sure that your contact information and references are up-to-date. Bring paper and a pen to take notes during the interview.

Research.

Find out about the school district online or by asking other people. Learn what kind of services they offer, what type of “image” they have in the community, and what kind of people work there. Many interviewers are impressed when you take the initiative to learn more about their school; possibly giving you an edge over other applicants.

Be honest.

It’s not okay to list jobs you did not have, or describe responsibilities that were never yours. Also, give truthful verbal responses, even if you think the interviewer wants to hear something else. Being honest, however, does not mean providing an answer that describes your entire life story. An interviewer will appreciate a thorough, honest, well thought out and concise response.

Be professional.

Start with your attire. Dress professionally; something that is appropriate given the position for which you are applying. Casual dress pants and a button-down shirt are fine for many positions, while others require a suit and tie. Ask someone you trust if your clothes are appropriate. Posture is also important. Avoid slouching or leaning back in your chair – this gives the impression that you’re disinterested and not taking the interview seriously. Keep eye contact with the person you’re meeting with, but don’t stare at them. Greet them with a firm (not bone-crushing) handshake.

Be polite.

Say hello, thank you, you’re welcome, and have a great day in all the appropriate places. Turn off your cell phone; it’s a must.

References

Sometimes the best resume, smartest cover letter, or even the strongest interview skills are not enough to persuade an employer to hire you. To land the job, you will also need strong references; people who can sing your praises and attest to your professionalism. Have names and contact information for your references prepared. Also, talk to each reference beforehand, to get permission to use his/her name and help prepare him/her to talk about you. Your references are doing you a big favor. They’re not only investing their time for you, but they’re also putting their own reputation on the line. Never forget to thank your reference whether you get the job or not.

Ask questions.

Remember, you’re interviewing the district as much as they are interviewing you. Be inquisitive (but not pushy) about your potential work environment. Come with a list of questions already prepared to ask at the end of their interview; it’s your turn.

Practice.

Many interviewers ask standard questions – you might want to review them, come up with great answers, and practice them. Stage a mock interview with someone willing to help you – say your answers out loud to hear them before your interview.  Below are a list of potential interview questions. I broke them up into question type to help you frame your practice.

Possible Interview Questions

General Questions

  • Do you consider yourself a risk taker? (Give an example to defend your answer).
  • Some people say you should demand respect. Do you agree or disagree?
  • How do you feel if a student does not meet a deadline?
  • When students say they want their teacher to be fair, what do you think they mean?
  • How would you create and promote a safe learning environment in your classroom?
  • Describe what you consider to be the model classroom. What would a typical day look like in this classroom?
  • Are you an empathetic person? Give an example.
  • Describe an outstanding teacher. What makes this educator outstanding?
  • What does “teamwork” mean to you? Give an example.

Experience

  • Describe your student teaching experience(s). What are some of the most significant things you learned from your cooperating teacher(s)? What did you like/dislike?
  • What is your knowledge of, and experience with, standards-based education?
  • What experience have you had with students from culturally diverse backgrounds?
  • When did you first become interested in teaching?
  • What opportunities have you had to bring multicultural education into your classroom?
  • Describe your experience(s) working in an urban setting.

Instructional Skills

  • Describe the teaching techniques or strategies that are most effective for you.
  • How would you include cooperative learning in your classroom?
  • How would you identify the special needs of your students?
  • What do you include when you write learning objectives?
  • What techniques do you use to keep students actively involved during a lesson?
  • What methods would you use to access student learning?
  • Describe different student learning styles and how you adjust lessons to benefit those differing styles.
  • Do you feel that the teacher should be responsible for developing objectives or should they be provided in the curriculum?
  • How do you deal with an unmotivated student?
  • Is drill and practice important? How and when would you use it?
  • What would you do if 50% of your class did poorly on a test?
  • How would you incorporate technology into your classroom?
  • Assuming you have adequate equipment, how would students be allowed to use technology in your classroom?

Classroom management/discipline

  • Describe your philosophy regarding discipline.
  • What techniques would you use to handle discipline problems in your classroom?
  • What was the most challenging discipline problem you’ve encountered and how did you handle it?
  • Did you feel prepared to handle this situation? How would you have handled this situation any differently?
  • What kind of rules do you have in your classroom? (Share an example). How are they established?
  • What is your classroom management plan/style? What are your goals?
  • Share three interesting classroom management techniques you’ve used in your classroom.

Relationship building

  • What should a principal expect from teachers? What should teachers expect from their principal?
  • What kind of principal would you like to work for?
  • How would your students describe you as a teacher?
  • How do you approach parent/teacher conferences?
  • What do you feel is important to know about your students? How do you gather this information?
  • Describe your use of paraprofessional aides and/or parent volunteers in your classroom.
  • How do you develop self-esteem in your students?
  • How do you keep parents informed about the daily/weekly progress of their son/daughter? What vehicles do you use to communicate with parents?

Remember, relax, be confident and prepare. Your cover letter and resume are there to represent you and get you the interview, then it’s your time to shine. Good luck!!

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