Home >> A Issues >> Issues >> Job Interview Prep

Search form

Are You Ready for That Job Interview?

It's that time of year -- school districts are recruiting for fall teaching vacancies. If you dread the interview process, here are some tips that can help you prepare and boost your self-assurance. Included: Tips for overcoming shyness, answering those tough philosophical questions, and more.


Root canals. Changing a tire on a busy highway during rush hour. The job interview. Which do you most dread? If it's the job interview, you're in good company. For most people, whatever the outcome, the process of interviewing for a job creates a high level of stress and anxiety.

"Candidates are really quite frightened by the process," said Janet Connell Ehlers, assistant director of career services at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Interviewers expect candidates to be nervous, but the interviewee must be able to convey the kind of confidence and self-assured presence required of a classroom teacher. "They [the interviewers] are looking for self-confidence, a sense of humor, a great gift of gab, and the ability to relate well with other human beings," Ehlers said. Ehlers has been counseling students for 35 years.

Following are some of her tips to help teacher candidates prepare for job interviews.


That first impression does make a difference. The first interview, which usually takes fewer than 50 minutes, gives the interviewer a snapshot of the candidate. It is important to care about looking your very best because it reflects respect of the interview process, according to Ehlers.

"You are a different person if you are put together in a package you are proud of," Ehlers said. "It's a mindset." Your clothing should be flattering and professional looking; it should also be comfortable, she added. If your shoes are uncomfortable or your clothes are too tight, your body language and responses will reflect that discomfort.

Ehlers also offers the following suggestions:

  • Don't wear jewelry that jangles or clangs because it detracts from what you have to say.
  • Be sure your eyeglasses are clean.
  • Get a good haircut.
  • Be sure shoes are clean and polished.
  • Apply fragrance sparingly.
  • Carry a lightweight portfolio that includes extra resumes, a note pad for notes, and a pen.
  • Don't wear anything loud or extreme.
  • Be on time!


Students often think they have nothing of substance to say at interviews because of their lack of experience. Ehlers lets them know they can find a way to answer those tough, philosophical questions. "One trick I tell all students during their mock interviews is to think of five significant events that have helped mold them," she said. "What has moved or changed you?"

This spring, Ehlers counseled a very shy student who was extremely nervous about her upcoming interviews. Raised on a farm in a small rural town, she is the oldest child in a family of five children. She has always set goals for herself to serve as a role model for her younger siblings and other children from her small town, showing them that getting a college education is possible. "She wove that story into her answers, about how goal setting helped shape her," Ehlers said.

Telling her story revealed the student's enthusiasm for education, usually masked by her shyness, Ehlers said. Using important personal events shows in a candidate's body language and in his or her eyes. "You can see it in the person's whole being," she said.


Most school districts usually interview prospective teachers twice. The first interview is a screening interview. If a candidate is a match, the second interview usually takes place at the school and includes the principal and some classroom teachers.

The first interview is structured, and all candidates answer the same questions so the interviewer can compare their answers. Often, schools use the Perceiver Interview, an interview tool developed by Gallup Inc. The Perceiver Interview questions are geared to find a match between a candidate's characteristics, traits, or patterns and those most valued in a given school district. The answers are based on the applicant's personal point of view.

The interviewer grades the candidates, based on those answers that most closely match the school district's goals. Certain answers boost a candidate's rating; others detract from it. Many of the questions are seeking gut-level answers to subjective questions, such as "Are good teachers born?" "There is lots of gray and interpretation," Ehlers said.

The Perceiver Interview usually focuses on a specific theme and takes fewer than 45 minutes. The questions generally take three forms: situational, observational, and personal.

One way to prepare for such an interview is to read from lists of interview questions compiled on Web sites, Ehlers said. Many Web sites, especially those affiliated with teaching colleges, offer lists of possible questions that interviewers may ask candidates. "Good teachers are trained to react to feedback, so these interviews can be difficult because there is no feedback from the interviewer, verbal or gestured," she said.

During the second interview, a candidate should be prepared to ask questions, including those regarding parent involvement, socio-economic characteristics of the student population, curriculum, behavior management philosophy, and staff development. A second interview can last a few hours.


Ehlers said taking a portfolio to the second interview is a good idea, although not all interviewers will take the time to review it. "Simply the act of putting it together helps prepare you for the interview," she commented. "It intrinsically gives you confidence, and it helps you mentally prepare and formulate your own teaching philosophy."

A portfolio is an individualized effort to highlight unique aspects of a candidate's professional development. It can include a variety of artifacts acquired during student teaching, demonstrating an applicant's growth and development as a teacher. A candidate might include some of the following artifacts:

  • a statement of his or her philosophy of education.
  • a statement listing methods used in behavior management.
  • a unit of study, including lesson plans, that he or she created.
  • samples of adaptations or accommodations for students with learning challenges.
  • pictures of applicant-created learning stations.

Sending a thank-you note following the interview is a nice touch and demonstrates basic courtesy, Ehlers said. E-mailing a thank-you note is also acceptable; it's fast and reiterates the candidate's interest in the position.


Diane Weaver Dunne
Education World®
Copyright © Education World


Related Articles from Education World


Last updated 04/23/2012