Interview Tips for Prospective Elementary Teachers

By Leah Davies, M.Ed.

Interviewing for a teaching position can be stressful, especially for those who are recent college graduates or reentering the profession. The following ideas may help you prepare and feel more confident during the process.

Administrators are looking for prospective teachers who…
• show a genuine passion for teaching.
• care about helping children learn.
• are prompt, prepared, and organized.
• are flexible, enthusiastic and energetic.
• have classroom management skills.
• can maintain discipline.
• can create a calm, intellectually stimulating, and respectful classroom environment.
• have high expectations and hold students to high standards.
• possess knowledge of the subject matter.
• have an understanding of state standards and state testing.
• use a variety of teaching methods.
• have the ability to integrate technology into instruction.
• can motivate children to learn.
• can pace instruction so that student interest is maintained.
• can differentiate instruction.
• are amenable to changes.
• are willing to develop and implement new curricula.
• express an interest in collaborating with colleagues.
• have superior writing and verbal skills.
• exhibit “people skills,” i.e. get along well with other educators, students, parents, and community members.

Steps to Take Prior to the Interview
  1. Make sure that you are certified or can be certified in the state in which you are applying for a teaching position.
  2. Complete the application form neatly and follow every direction. Enclose a short cover letter stating why you are interested in their school or district. Use resume paper, a business format, and do not repeat what is in your resume. To differentiate yourself, point out a unique interest, experience, or qualification that you possess. If you apply online, complete the application accurately.
  3. Contact references prior to listing them to receive permission to use their names. You may want to ask your supervising teacher, principal, professor, and/or a past or present employer who can attest to your attributes and skills.
  4. If you decide to hand deliver your resume and application, be prepared to meet any potential interviewer.
  5. Associate with as many educators as possible. A recommendation from a fellow teacher or administrator could facilitate you getting an interview.
  6. Do research on the internet to discover all you can about the school, school district and community: characteristics of the student population and faculty, size of the district, mission statement, upcoming initiatives, discipline plan, etc. Prepare to incorporate what you learned into your answers during the interview.
  7. If you know someone on staff or a child who attends the school, ask them questions that are not covered on the website. Also, find out as much as you can about the interviewer(s).
  8. Call the school and ask to receive a student or school handbook to review.
  9. Ask the secretary or personnel official what format the interview will follow and the number of interviewers.
  10. If feasible, ride by the school to note its location, surroundings, appearance and other characteristics.
  11. Be prepared to explain your classroom procedures, discipline methods and classroom management plan (see “Elementary Classroom Rules and Management”).
  12. Match your discipline plans to theirs. If they do not approve of tangible rewards, then accentuate other methods you use.
  13. Make a list of questions you may want to ask concerning the school, students, faculty and curriculum. Take them with you to the interview. For example:
    • How would you describe parental involvement in the school?
    • What kind of computer technology is available in the classroom?
    • What is the typical class size for this grade?
    • Is summer employment a possibility?
    • What sort of opportunities do you offer for professional development?
  14. Prepare to answer questions (see “Interview Questions for Prospective Elementary Teachers”). You may want to write down your responses to help formulate them in your mind. Provide concise and straightforward answers that can be supported with examples of actual experiences. Practice answering the questions aloud.
  15. If you practice with someone else, look at him/her as you answer questions. Also, you may want to practice giving a firm hand shake and making eye contact.
  16. Be prepared to answer questions in written form immediately prior to being interviewed if requested to do so.
  17. Make sure you have an outfit that is clean, pressed, and comfortable, such as a suit or a neutral colored dress, skirt or pants with blouse and jacket. In most cases men should wear dress pants, shirt, tie, with a sport coat though for some formal school districts a suit may be most appropriate. Put everything you decide to wear aside in case you are given little notice of an interview.
  18. Make several copies of your current resume and letters of reference. If desired, take a portfolio (see “Portfolio Ideas for Prospective Elementary Teachers”).

Steps to Take the Day of the Interview
  1. Since first impressions are extremely important, look your best. Your hair should be clean and styled and your fingernails should be filed and unobtrusive. Dress conservatively and professionally.
  2. On your way to the interview, remind yourself that you are a great teacher and that any school would be fortunate to hire you.
  3. When you enter the building, be aware of trophies and pictures that you may want to reference in some way.
  4. Walk in with a confident smile and shake each interviewer’s hand if offered.
  5. Be prompt, pleasant, polite, enthusiastic, and interested.
  6. Sit up straight, uncross you arms and legs, and make eye contact with each interviewer.
  7. Be prepared to demonstrate that you have given the teaching profession a great deal of thought. Support your positions with confidence and insight. If you have had actual experiences that have influenced your thinking on a topic, be ready to discuss them.
  8. If a question seems unclear, ask for clarification or paraphrase what you think the interviewer meant.
  9. Freely acknowledge that you want the position and will work diligently to do what is expected.
  10. Ask if there is anything else that you need to do, and/or when a decision concerning the position will most likely be made.
  11. Thank them for their time and for the opportunity to share your thoughts with them.
  12. Send a handwritten note to everyone who interviewed you. Try to personalize it by including something that impressed you.

Used by permission of the author, Leah Davies, and selected from the Kelly Bear website [], 11/07.

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