How To Succeed In An Interview For A Teaching Job
You’re almost there!
Your CV landed you an interview and now it’s time to seal the deal.
So what’s the best way to approach the interview.
If you got this far it means your CV and qualifications were suitable for the job.
What you know need to prove is that your attitude and personality are suitable too.
A major concern when schools hire new foreign teachers (native or non-native) is whether they will be able to handle the group of students in front of them. At primary level this is about classroom management and with adults its more about coping with high expectations and challenging questions.
You are likely to be asked about how you would handle classroom mangement issues so you should have some examples or strategies ready.
Another issue you should try and address is the fear of having to replace you. Reassure the person interviewing you that you will honor your contract and preferrably stay at least 2 years.
Finally, during the interview you must give the employer some concrete reasons to employ you! Don’t sit their passively waiting to be offered the job. Go out there and get it!
You have about 30mins to prove that, alongside a good performance in the classroom and adequate academic knowledge, you will be easy to spend time with day after day and that you can remain positive even when the going gets tough.
After the initial getting to know you questions you can expect questions about your teaching style and ability, so think about those and prepare some answers.
Very few schools in Turkey have a dedicated recruitment department so you are likely to be interviewed by the head of the department, a manager or even an experienced teacher rather than an HR professional. This means that its fairly easy to predict the questions you will be asked.
Even if they don’t ask the exact questions you have prepared for, the process of preparation will be extremely valuable.
You will be able to use ideas from one question in your answer to another similar one that they ask. You will have ideas at your finger tips. You will be more relaxed and appear more professional.
Here is our 11 step guide to aceing the interview
1. Start Strong
Although most interviews start with “tell me about yourself” or “walk me through your resume”, most people blow it off with boring answers like:
“I studied [major X] because I really care about making a difference in [industry Y] as you can see through my last job at [company Z]…..”
This answer is like tearing out the first 200 pages of your autobiography.
You leave out everything that gives meaning to why you want this job in the first place.
Most people don’t answer the question the interviewer is really asking, which is, “What are you like, how and why did you become a teacher, and are you a good fit for us?”
If you are not a native speaker of English then this question serves another very important purpose, which is, allowing the interviewer to listen to you speak English for a couple of minutes. It is really important that you eliminate any doubts the interviewer may have about your language ability right here, right now.
Plan out what you will say here carefully.
Make sure you include a range of interesting vocabulary and tenses. Consider the message you want to convey in great detail. Include examples and short stories about your journey to this point and explain how you feel this has prepared you for the challenge of the new job your are interviewing for.
Most people start and end their personal story leaving little to inspire the interviewer.
Craft Your “Story Statement”
Next time, use what I call a “Story Statement,” which is a summary of your life and experience so far including some insight into your personality as well.
Here’s an outline of a “Story Statement” which links past experiences and choices to the institution being interviewed for:
A Story Statement shows that you’re a person, not just a professional. It also makes it easy for your interviewer to predict the next chapter of your story. Your aim is to demonstrate to the interviewer that this job is a logical next step.
Your Story Statment might include an early experience with a foreign language, international travel or a different culture and talk about how your passion for languages grew from there.
Chances are, we’ve all had experiences we can connect to where we’re trying to go. It’s just a matter of selecting the right ones to tell our story. That said, if you struggle to craft your Story Statement for a particular interview, you might be applying for the wrong job.
2. Prepare for the predictable
Research the institution
You should know why you want to work there and whether you are a good fit for each other.
You are probably going to get asked, “Why do you want to work at XYZ school?” so you should know!
It probably sounds obvious now but 90% of people I have interviewed know almost nothing about the company they have applied for. It doesn't take much to visit the schools website, Facebook page and Twitter page to read up on some recent projects and become familiar with what is important to them.
Prepare answers to common questions
- Can you tell me about a successful behaviour management strategy you have used in the past that helped engage a pupil or group of pupils?
You use lots of positive reinforcement. You are firm, but you don't yell. You have appropriate consequences for inappropriate behavior. You have your classroom rules posted clearly on the walls. You set common routines that students follow. You adhere to the school's discipline guidelines. Also, emphasize that you suspect discipline problems will be minimal because your lessons are very interesting and engaging to students. Don't tell the interviewer that you send kids to the principal's office whenever there is a problem. You should be able to handle most discipline problems on your own. Only students who have committed very serious behavior problems should be sent to the office.
- If I walked into your classroom during an outstanding lesson, what would I see and hear?
I'd like to hear about: animated discussions, students clearly making progress....
- Why do you want to work in this school?
We want to see clear indications that candidates have done background work about our school and can talk about why the way we work appeals to them. We'd always want candidates to have visited the school so they should be able to flesh this out with specific examples of what they thought based on their visit.
- What are the key qualities and skills that students look for in teachers?
Liking young people. Fairness. Consistency. Sense of humour. Passion for their subject. Good at explaining new concepts/ideas. Able to make the topic or subject relevant. Able to make everyone feel comfortable and confident about contributing.
- Describe the worst or best lesson you have given.
Provide a specific example of a lesson that worked really well. Focus on how you reflected back on the lesson to determine what the strengths of the lesson were and how you utilized this information in future lesson plans. Planning lessons is a fundamental skill that all teachers must master. Expect teacher interview questions that explore this skill. By emphasizing that you are constantly analyzing your lessons for strengths and weaknesses you highlight how hard you work at developing this skill.
- How do you approach the first lesson with a new class?
Firm but fair. Setting out boundaries. Learning student names. Building rapport.
Getting a feel for your students level. Identifying student needs to better prepare for future lessons.
- Which is more important, teaching or learning, and why?
Teaching is terribly important. It can contribute so much to learning, but it’s not essential. Learning can happen without teachers, which means there’s no justification for teaching that doesn’t promote learning. This is why the focus on learning is more fundamental and why the best ways to improve teaching grow out of understanding how students are learning.
- How might you use ICT in your teaching?
Don’t just say ‘computers’ or ‘videos’. Those are expected as the minimum. How exactly are you using videos? What do the students have to do while watching? Are the students creating their own videos? Are you using tools like eduCanon or present.me to get students producing work? What about blogging or screencapture?
3. Ask some questions of your own
You will at some point be asked if you have any questions. Whatever you do, don't say no! It's probably not the best moment to ask about holidays either! Something specific to this institution and it's students is much more appropriate.
Here are a few examples that will work in most cases:
- What professional development opportunities are there at this institution?
- How do you assess students’ progress?
- What are your students’ goals?
- What materials do you provide?
- What behaviour managements procedures do you have in place?
- How is the management structured within the department?
- What duties are there outside of the classroom?
- What are the work permit arrangements?
- What happens when someone is ill?
4. Tell (short!) stories
A stock of four or five stories illustrating your key strengths will make you memorable. Choose your stories for their relevance to the role you're applying for.
5. Involve your interviewer
A large part of the interview is relationship building. You are both trying to understand if you will be able to work together so you should try to learn something about them as well.
A little bit of personal background, how long they have worked here, what their specific role in the organisation is and how closely you will be working with them will go along way to breaking the ice and taking that formal edge of the situation.
6. Be interesting
A good presenter will modify voice and gestures, or use pauses for dramatic effect. Do the same with your stories. Practise them so you feel confident, but be careful to avoid sounding over-rehearsed or static.
7. Don't ramble
Use a structure with a clearly defined beginning (the problem), a middle (the solution) and end (the outcome).
8. Be honest
Give credit to others (if it's due) to enhance your own credibility and likeability.
9. Give them clear reasons to hire you
So we can assume that you tick most of the boxes by this point, but don’t sit their passively waiting to be offered the job.
Go out there and get it!
The interviewer has a set of concerns in their mind and it's your job to be proactive in addressing these concerns.
The interview will also probably have to justify their decision to offer you the job to another superior like the school principal, so they are looking for headlines that they can use to 'sell' you to them and support their own decision to hire you.
Hiring someone is a risky business. People are hard to work with!
Here are some of the questions the interviewer is trying to answer, but can't ask:
- Will you be able to cope with meeting the students' parents? (Where relevant)
- Do you have other skills which can benefit the department? (Art, music, drama, writing...)
- Can you be trusted?
- Can you handle pressure?
- Can you stay positive when the going gets tough?
- Do you help your colleagues when the need arises?
- What will you bring from previous experience that will be of benefit to these students?
- Can you adapt easily to new situations and can you cope with the challenges of living in different culture?
- Will you stay until the end of the contract?
10. Follow up
After the interview, write to your interviewer. Thank them for seeing you and review the main points of the interview in respect of the challenges and opportunities the company is facing and how you can help them address those issues.
Have you been asked any tricky questions?
Is there anything we should add to this article?
Add your comments in the box below, I'd love to hear from you.