Interview Basics 101
As an experienced school and district leader I have participated in more than my share of interviews----on both sides of the table. Out of this experience come five basic tips that can make the difference between getting the job or the disappointment of a rejection.
1. Do your homework. Not every school district or school is the same. Every interview team likes it when a candidate clearly knows something about their place of work. Take time to read mission statements, board meeting minutes, principals' and parent organization letters as well as recent media stories. Being in the know reduces the chances of receiving a "no!"
2. Establish your core message. Be prepared to weave it into your interview, regardless of the questions asked. It might be about your work ethic, commitment to public education, ability to learn quickly, openness to change, or whatever. Make certain that by the end of the interview your message has been received loud and clear.
3. Highlight your unique qualities and mitigate your weaknesses. We all have both, and the best interviewees know how to bring forward their particular strengths and how to offset any perceived weaknesses. (BTW- the most common weakness for new teachers is, of course, that they are new. So be prepared to share stories about your involvement with youth, the lessons learned as a student teacher, your energy and passion to learn more and your commitment to be a great teacher.)
4. Prepare for the first and last question. The first question is usually something to the effect of "tell us about yourself and why you want to work here." This is a softball question and your task is to hit it out of the park, setting the tone for rest of the interview. This is the time to begin to weave in your core message. First impressions matter and that is certainly true for interviews.
The last question is usually whether or not you have anything else to share and/or any questions for them. This is your opportunity to restate your core message, thanking the interview team for the opportunity to share time with them. As for questions to ask, this is a great time to give evidence that you have done your homework as you might ask about a program or initiative unique to the district, changing demographics, growth and school construction plans, etc. It is also a perfectly fair time to ask about their timeline for making a decision. There is no reason for you to be hanging out there not knowing when a decision might be made.
5. Be personable! Never forget that much of the goal is to make the interview team like you. Fundamentally they are trying to decide if you are a good "fit" and are a person they want to work with on their team. Smile and be authentic, positive, energetic (but under control) and excited about possibly joining their team. Everyone likes to be complimented. Don't be shy about telling them something great about their school or district, which attracts you. You might want to compliment them on the quality of the interview as part of your concluding statement. Making them feel good may make you feel good at the end of the day!
Next week: Things I wish I had been told......
Steven Enoch, Career Coach
Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success
Montana State University, Bozeman, MT