Interview and Job Advice from An Online Teaching Certification Program
What does it take to get a teaching job in America?
It takes time, know-how, determination, dedication, preparation, patience, self-confidence, stamina, insight, a positive attitude and a proactive spirit.
Do more teachers get jobs through certification in traditional university programs or through alternative teacher certification programs?
Both are equally acceptable today. It’s a matter of personal preference and convenience. Some want to attend class to see the teacher and meet the students. Others want to stay home and use computers. ‘On Campus’ and ‘On Line’ are simply different streets leading to the same destination – that revered and required teaching certificate.
Does it help to get hired if one gets their teaching certification in a ‘critical need area’?
Yes, this can help. There are teacher shortages across America in Math, Science and Special Education. However, it is very important for teachers to like what they are teaching and demonstrate passion for their subject.
How are teaching vacancies advertised?
Most school districts advertise vacancies on their website through the Human Resources Department/Teaching Vacancies. Applicants should check this site daily as vacancies change. They should apply for multiple vacancies and not limit themselves to only one position.
How important is the school district’s teacher application?
The application is extremely important. The screeners/interviewers expect accuracy, completeness, neatness, contact information for references and a well-written ‘Statement of Education Philosophy’ if required. In summary, the application reflects one’s ability to write well and without errors.
How important are the teacher’s references who are listed on the application?
The professional opinions of ‘references’ are one of the most important considerations for interview teams in the selection of new teachers. (Family members and friends who haven’t worked with the applicant should not be references.) Applicants should contact all references to ask for their permission to be included on the application. Also, many districts send teacher rating/recommendation forms to references which are usually submitted online.
When do school districts advertise their available teaching positions?
The major hiring occurs in the spring and summer for the coming school year. Most districts follow a hiring timeline/process similar to the one described below.
In February through April, districts ask teachers to renew or not renew their contract for the next school year. Some teachers know they may not return but sign the contract anyway. This allows them to keep their options open and receive benefits until they leave. Therefore, there will be additional vacancies during late spring and summer.
In April and May, districts allow teachers to request transfers to other schools with vacancies. This gives current teachers priority to apply for vacant positions.
In May and June, after teacher contracts and transfers are completed, new applicants may attend a district Job Fair where staff members screen and interview them. (Applicants should bring copies of their resume and cover letter in expectation of possible interviews/screenings at the Job Fair.)
In June and July, many interviews are held for new applicants as the school year is over and the school staff has completed all responsibilities from the prior school year.
In August and September, more vacancies occur as teachers announce late resignations. (School districts are careful not to over hire prior to a new school year until the official student enrollment is determined within the first 1-2 weeks of school. If the enrollment has increased or decreased, changes are made accordingly.)
In November through January, there will be another list of school vacancies due to teacher resignations submitted before the end of the calendar year, though far less vacancies than in the fall.
Do school principals play an important role in the teacher hiring process?
Yes. The selection of new teachers (staffing) is one of the primary responsibilities of school principals. Although the district’s Human Resource Department usually coordinates the hiring process, the principal frequently reviews the applications and resumes of applicants and requests specific teacher interviews.
What paperwork should teacher applicants bring to an interview?
Applicants should bring multiple copies of their current resume with a cover letter as the interview may be a group/panel interview. (If applicants have prior teaching experience, they may bring a portfolio containing items such as student photos, complimentary letters form coworkers, students and parents, reference letters, prior teacher evaluations, sample units and lesson plans, etc.) Portfolios are impressive, informative and have significantly increased in popularity.
How important are teacher resumes and cover letters?
They are extremely important, since this is the first screening tool, along with the district’s application, that is examined. Applicants should research various resume formats and select a preference. Resumes that are limited to 2 pages are easier to read. Resume information should include the following: Heading (identification), Career Objective (optional) Education (in ascending order), Experience (in ascending order) Awards and Honors, Volunteer and/or Community Service, Activities and Hobbies and References (with contact information). A personal photograph is optional.
How should teacher applicants prepare for an interview?
Applicants should spend considerable time preparing for an interview.
Become familiar with the school by reading all information on the school website, including staff names in the directory, school test scores and other ratings, testimonials, the school mission and history, academic offerings, school recognition and awards, etc. Obtain information from others who have experience with the school.
Predict common questions that interviewers may ask and research the following areas: Technology, Student Evaluation, Time Management, Classroom Discipline, Teamwork and Collaboration, Diverse Populations, Individualized Instruction, Parent Involvement, Critical Thinking Skills, Teacher Strengths and Weaknesses, Common Core Standards, Sample Units of Instruction, STEM/STEAM, etc.
Predict/research ‘situational/behavioral ‘what if’ questions’ such as
“In what ways would you motivate a low achieving student?”
(These types of questions can be more difficult to answer and require specific responses.)
Schedule mock interviews with family members, friends or mentors for practice.
Prepare organized notes to refer to during the interview if desired.
How should teacher applicants present themselves during an interview?
Applicants should exhibit self-confidence resulting from extensive preparation and a positive attitude.
A few tips and techniques include the following:
Dress professionally with attention to grooming due to the importance of first impressions.
Smile, make eye contact, stand/sit up straight and use surnames if known.
ex. ‘Ms. Johnson’. (School yearbooks and websites usually include staff photos.)
Avoid rambling when unsure of an answer to a question. (One can email an answer the following day to the interview committee.)
Pause before answering a question and keep answers clear and concise.
Listen carefully and ask for clarification for confusing questions.
Give specific examples when possible.
Ask the committee 2-3 predetermined questions before the end of the interview.
Exhibit enthusiasm, passion for teaching, love of learning and, above all, love for children.
Thank the interview committee for their time and interest.
Should the teacher applicant do anything following the interview?
Deliver a handwritten thank you note to all interview committee members within 24 hours.
Contact the head of the committee about the position if no word has been received after a week following the interview. (“The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”)
Immediately write down the questions that were asked to consider ways to improve answers for future interviews.
Avoid feelings of rejection if not selected and continue to apply for other positions and improve interview skills. (Practice makes perfect.)