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Les Potter is currently the Assistant to the Superintendent (Educational Services Overseas Limited) in Egypt. He received his doctorate from the University of South Carolina. Les has over 45 years...
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Negative Factors That Are Evaluated During An Interview

I hope you find these hiring tips helpful. Remember first impressions count!

  • Poor personal appearance---dress for success but don't over do it. It is very important that you dress and look like a professional. This is not the time to dress in your most trendy outfit. Leave the 10 pounds of jewelry at home.
  • Overbearing/aggressive/conceited/know it all attitude. You should be confident that you can do the job if given the chance but certainly do not come across as if this is an easy job that any idiot can do. I applied for a university professorship and the interview went for 8 hours (met several groups of folks, had breakfast and lunch with others, taught a class, etc.). I did get the job and when I joined the department I asked why the interview went so long? They said that they knew I could do the teaching and research but wanted to see if I would be a good colleague. I always remembered that and it is true---can and do I want to work with this person I am interviewing? This is why I believe that a good first impression is very important.
  • In some states there are teacher shortages. Also some states allow non-education degreed people to get a temporary one or two year certification as they pursue their permanent certification. We have interviewed a number of these candidates, most were very nice but certainly lacked the experience  and acted as if teaching was easy. Teaching is not easy and we recommend that temporary certified candidates start pursuing their permanent certification right away. Try substituting and volunteering in schools to gain experience. Also start reading about education and teaching.
  • Inability to express yourself clearly---poor diction and grammar. If you can not express yourself clearly in an interview, what are you going to do in front of a classroom full of kids?
  • Lack of planning for career---no purpose or goals. Interviewers often ask about short and long term goals. A good answer (whether true or not) is that you want to be a teacher for the long haul. I have had several candidates tell me that they want to teach for a year or two and then get a real job!
  • Short or poor answers to the interviewers questions. Normally you have 30 or more minutes in a zoom or face to face interview. Give the best possible answers to all questions. If you do not know the answer, say so. Don't try and bluff the interviewers.  Many questions are open ended so the interviewers are not looking for a yes or no answer.
  • Candidate did not prepare for the interview. Knows nothing of the job, school or district. Do your homework!
  • Don't ask questions that are on their Facebook or webpage. Many questions can be answered by doing a little checking. Show the interviewers that you have taken the time to do this.
  • Lack of enthusiasm, interest, passive and indifferent. Administrators like enthusiastic people. If you are normally not this way, learn to be for the interview and the job. Remember that you will be performing in front of students everyday and you must be enthusiastic and passionate with them.
  • Lack of confidence, poise, nervousness and ill at ease. We expect you to be a little nervous but not to the point where it affects the interview.
  • Poor resume and cover letter. Spend time on your resume as this may be the first information they get about you. Occasionally, I would get 20-30 applications for a teaching position. I would not interview that many so I would do a "paper screening" where I would eliminate candidates that had a less than stellar resume or cover letter. Update your resume. Make it current to the position and school for which you are applying. Same with your references. Update those as well. On one occasion I was following up on a reference for a candidate for a position at our school. When I called the number listed for the reference, a lady answered and said that her husband had died a year ago.
  • Over emphasis on money and benefits. (contact the personal office prior to your application and find out about the salary and benefits).
  • Lack of tact, courtesy or maturity. I am amazed on occasions on how college graduates answer questions in an interview. Work on your interviewing skills!
  • Condemnation of past employers. Education is a small fraternity. You never know who knows who. If you are going to be negative about your former bosses and coworkers, what will you be saying about us in the future?
  • Little sense of friendliness, is this someone you want to work with? Certainly show that you have a personality. You are in the people business. Caring, enthusiasm, humor and friendliness are important ingredients to have.
  • Doesn't sound like you have the time needed to be successful. Sometimes candidates tell us how much time they spend in their community, volunteering, etc. Some of this is good but not when it can take away from your job.
  • Not certified for the job you are applying for. If you are working on your necessary certification, please tell us. As a candidate, you have to sell yourself.
  • Argumentative or hostile attitude. Interesting that I have to even mention this but surprisingly this behavior does come up. So even if the interviewers are confrontational, don't you be. Act as sincere and interested as you can be.
  • Radical ideas for the job. Remember, administrators by nature are generally conservative and want a good teacher not an educational reformer. Not that those new and different ideas aren't welcomed but this is not the time to broach the subject.
  • Asking no questions about the position, the candidate doesn't know enough to ask, either the candidate knows everything or doesn't care. Have a question or two about the job. Something that you could not find on the school's or district's website.

Good luck!


Dr. Les Potter
Assistant to the Superintendent
American International School West
Cairo, Egypt
[email protected]