November marks an annual professional ritual: serving on an interview panel at my alma mater. Returning to the college that prepared me for my first teaching job always gives me a charge, because we address graduating college Seniors, who are eager to land their first teaching jobs.
Unfortunately, many graduates believe securing that first position is simple. Graduate from a reputable, competitive college. Get called for an interview. Start teaching.
Not so fast. There are a number of steps from the first to the last. And many mistakes that are made along the way.
Here are a few pitfalls that will help a teaching candidate land that coveted first job.
They don't prepare for the "interview before the interview".
They don't prepare for the "interview during the interview".
They don't prepare for the "interview after the interview"
Fortunately, I've made many mistakes. I've seen the mistakes that are made, through hundreds of interviews I've conducted. And, I've hired teachers who have aced these three interview phases. The good news is, they can be learned, and you too will ace the interview.
Here's how to "ace the interview":
Step 1: Do your research. Prepare to show how you're a "perfect match".
Schools in the 2020's are telling their stories, in countless ways. Social media, school apps, and traditional website and local papers (print and digital), not to mention word of mouth.
This information is easy to access. And it's a candidate's chance to learn as much as possible about a prospective existing match between the school and interviewee. Looking for themes and patterns in excellence, and what the school community promotes and celebrates make it easy. In turn, highlighting aspects of your resume and cover letter to show strengths and complementary qualities is key. This common ground lives where a successful candidate focuses his/her talking points on responses to questions posed.
Step 2: Use the interviewer's questions to tell your story.
Most interviewees don't do this: Select five aspects of your resume to embed in responses to questions. This is often a key distinction between the candidate who advances and the one who gets the obligatory rejection letter.
To improve your chances for a call-back, review the research you outlined on the school. Pair those with the five highlights on your resume. And begin to craft a story of why these connections exist. Speak not only about what you've accomplished, but also what you'd be excited to contribute and learn from in your new setting. Think: You represent the solution to a District's problem. Make it obvious as to why that is. Far too many candidates stay on the surface, talking only in generalities for this part. Be confident, not shy when connecting these dots for the interviewer(s).
Step 3: Leave them with something to remember you by.
Consider how you may leave a memorable (positive) impression. How will you leave the interviewer wanting to learn more about you and from you? Write the handwritten thank you note. Include a QR code to be noticed and scanned, bringing them to your digital portfolio. Do something that will keep the interviewer thinking about how you'll be a fit, even after the interview is over. While nothing is a guarantee, these three ideas will set the mind of the interviewer at greater ease, and may just lead you to your next interview round, or perhaps even, your first teaching job.
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