It’s a tough year to find a job…for teaching jobs because of state budget cuts it’s harder than ever to find the ideal fit. We’ve got a few openings in my school and so the hunt is on for the very best. Reading through the applications we’ve received so far I was reminded of an older post, I’ve updated with a few additions for a new year. After 10 years of being an interviewer, I have some definite opinions of Do’s and Don’ts for applicants/interviewees and I thought I pass along a few.
1. Do read the posting carefully. Make sure you meet the minimum requirements and if you don’t explain why you deserve a chance in your cover letter.
2. Do research on the company before your interview, if possible go beyond the website and try to glean as much information as possible. Work your research into your cover letter and answers to interview questions. And speaking of the cover letter write one, write a good one to me with specifics. Don’t as one applicant did today attach a cover letter from 2007 addressed to another person.
3. Follow the directions exactly as in the posting. This is my first chance to see if you can follow directions and if you have the needed technical skills to send an attachment. Note: If you’re applying for a teaching job and the posting asks for a copy of your license they are probably not talking about your driver’s license. (seriously 2 people did that today.) Bonus points if you format your documents in a pdf.
4. Use proper English, have at least 2 people you trust proof read your work and if responding to an email try sending it to yourself first and then to me. For goodness sakes if you’re a social studies teacher trying to convince me your qualified to teach language arts don’t say “I’m qualified and I can teach really, really good.”
3. If you get an interview…don’t be wishy washy in your answers. It’s totally ok to ask for clarification on what an interviewer is asking so that you can be specific.
4. Do listen to the question and if I ask you to give me an example of a situation and resolution be very specific. Don’t pretend to be perfect and say you’ve never had this situation because that tells me you don’t have enough experience. Try to find an example that’s most relevant to the job you’re applying for. Ex: Tell me about a time you had to deal with a confrontational student/parent/employee/customer and strategies you used to resolve the situation. I would answer that question with one of the following — autistic boy who used to scream at the top of his lungs all day and the steps I took to build a relationship with him, a mother who cussed me out for suspending her son and 1 month later called and asked for help, or my all time fav supervisor/employee termination story where the employee called his mom during the termination.
5. Do dress in business attire for the interview, even if your research says it’s a casual workplace. My personal preference is that you also remove piercings in places except for your ears and cover as much as your body art as possible. You want me to focus on your answers and behavior, not staring at the giant ball in your chin. If your piercings are an important part of you and your look do ask in the interview if the company dress code allows you to wear them.
6. Do prepare some questions and make sure to ask them. Often times the questions you ask me are weighted as strongly as the answers you give me. I am looking for someone who cares about my mission and is not timid.
7. Do be up front about your compensation needs either before the interview or during. Nothing ticks me off more than calling a candidate and then being told ‘I can’t work for that much money’ when they knew how much the position paid before they even applied.
8. Do be ready for the standard questions. Have great answers for the following
* Why do you want to work here?
* Why are you the best candidate?
* What are your strengths? If you struggle with this question I highly recommend Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham.
* What are your weaknesses?…and don’t say I’m a work-a-holic. It may be true, but I might just think that you’re not efficient with your time and have to work late often because you spent too much time chit chating or surfing the web during the day.
9. Do mimic/mirror my body language. There have been several studies on successful interviews and they have found that when the candidate mirrors the interviewer they are more likely to be offered the position. Why? Non-verbal language tells me that we’re a match and can get along together.
10. Don’t talk negatively about a previous employer or place blame for your leaving on another person or member of the team you worked on. As an experienced supervisor, I usually jump to the conclusion that you’re a difficult person to work with and I don’t want that kind of negativity entering my work environment.
11. If I ask you what you teach…the correct answer is KIDS. Talk about how you impact kids and their learning through your content expertise.