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What Do They Want to Hear?

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As you prepare application materials or get ready for an interview, a natural question is "What do they want to read or hear?"

The first question to answer is: "Who is they?" The people most likely to determine whether you will be interviewed (the purpose of your paperwork) and whether you will be offered a job (the purpose of your interview) are administrators. These administrators will be human resource representatives, superintendents, assistant superintendents, and principals. Occasionally teachers, school board members, and parents may have a voice in hiring decisions, but human resource representatives are often the first professionals to handle your application and conduct initial interviews while principals usually have the final word. 

So what are administrators expecting from you as they examine your paperwork, read your reference letters, conduct your interviews, consider your portfolio, and see you teach a lesson? We asked that question to a number of administrators in Western Pennsylvania not too long ago, and here are the most important qualities they seek, in no particular order:

  • Assessing student achievement and designing differentiated instruction based on multiple assessments.
  • Effective use of technology in the classroom:
    • For teaching, communicating, and managing.
  • Ability to adapt lessons for inclusion students and limited English speaking students (ELL, English Language Learners). Also may be referred to as ESL, English as a Second Language.
  • Excellent communication skills with parents as well as students.
  • Passion to teach all students.
  • Knowledge of the subject area and a willingness to learn more.
  • Willingness to be involved in the total school community.
  • Professionalism:
    • Your conduct, language, dress, and knowledge;
    • Your preparation and teaching ability;
    • You serving as a positive role model for students.

This list isn't an exhaustive list, but it does capture the essence of what administrators seek in new hires. When you are in the schools,  as a student teacher or a substitute teacher, ask the building administrators what they seek in new teachers. Ask teachers the types of interview questions they were asked. You can use this list as a starting point, but build on it through your own research. 

Most important, ask yourself if you are addressing the topics in the list above as you prepare your application materials and get ready to interview.


By John Snyder

Office of Career Education and Development

Slippery Rock University of PA

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