It’s interview season–the time when new teachers graduate teacher prep programs all over the nation and start looking for jobs. People retire, move on, and vacancies fill the air. Experienced educators and educational leaders switch schools. We all want the best people teaching our kids, but when hundreds of applicants flood the system for a couple of jobs, it’s tough to know who the right one will be. In truth, there are probably several right ones. Knowing this person will add his or her flavor to the school community for years, it’s a weighty decision.
In a recent edition of the #satchat Twitter chat educators from all over the land discussed how to find the perfect educational leaders and teachers for schools, giving tips to interviewees and interviewers from all backgrounds. These were job seekers, recent hires, and district officials reflecting upon the types of people they want to hire. This is important information.
If you’re interviewing, you might think it’s important to wow the crowd with amazing things like data, statistics, standards, and other things, but I think differently. Your interview is your shot to get in the door. It’s marketing. If the committee likes you, you will be invited back. Here are a few tips for people on both sides.
Be Prepared For Anything
You have to be able to read the committee in front of you. If they are asking for certain types of information, make sure you have it. It’s okay to say, “I’m not sure, I’ve concentrated more on this.” Don’t make up answers if you don’t know. Be honest and sincere. Then follow up with the right answers in an email or short note.
Have Your Portfolio
I recommend showing a digital portfolio, but bringing a professional and attractive cover sheet with you. Not all schools will have the wireless you need to show your Haiku Deck on your iPad. You might have to have these things exported to Powerpoint or Keynote to be able to use them. Make sure your LinkedIn is up to date and strong. Have a file on your laptop with downloaded images, pictures, or links to anything you may be able to use to market yourself. If someone surprises you with a question, be sure to have a notepad ready. Promise to email them the link later.
Print Professional Business Cards
Believe it or not, most teachers do not have business cards. Having one with your website, Twitter handle, a link to your online portfolio, and whatever else defines you gives the committee something to look at when the interview is over. I used to write my email on sticky notes. This is not impressive or memorable. Treat yourself like like the CEO of your own company and the world will start to perceive you as one.
Have A Conversation
The best interviews are not rapid fire question-answer. Do anything in your power to make a connection with the committee and maintain a conversational tone. People enjoy working with people they like. Be that person.
Turn The Tables With Research And Questions
Interviewees expect to be at the receiving end of the firing squad. This doesn’t have to be the tone. Before I connect with anyone, I research them, their organization and work. I go in prepared to ask questions. This is especially important in a job interview, because you will be tasked with making the organization a better place to be. Show you know the school by asking pointed and intelligent questions about specific initiatives underway. Once you hear the answer, explain how you will be a part of the solution.
You might be on the other end of the spectrum helping to choose someone for your school. It’s an overwhelming decision, especially in light of the fact there may be two or three great candidates that would take the school in different but excellent directions. What do you do?
Love the School
Sometimes a candidate would be perfect–just not for your school. Does the candidate fit in with the staff culture? Is he or she connected to your unique student population? Does the candidate understand your particular initiatives and love your school? If so, you’re on the road to choosing the right person.
Enthusiasm is a large part of teaching and educational leadership. The best instructors and leaders make people want to be better. That’s the mission of education at any level–lifelong learning. Does this individual have what it takes to make you want to be a lifelong learner as a student or staff member? Do you feel inspired by this individual? Then he or she will be an asset to the climate of your school.
The best instructors and educational leaders connect. They connect curricula. They show real-world applications of learning. They connect with students, staff, families, and all members of the school community. They must also connect with the outside world, providing real-world examples for students, and in the case of school leaders, connect with press, policy, and sometimes politicians. Is the person in front of you able to do that in good times and bad? That’s a person that’s going to rally the troops and make the school a better place.
The Truth Sometimes Hurts
If you ask a tough question about an area for school improvement, the last thing you want is a yes man. Improvement requires thinking outside the box, whether it’s in an individual classroom, department, or whether you’re choosing a leader at the school or district level. When a candidate says, “I understand you’re struggling with this and I think it would be appropriate to look at other solutions,” you know you’ve got that type of person.
Taking these things into consideration will help you be a strong candidate or hire the best people. Creating a great school climate–ready for learning–is a tough thing. Good luck this hiring season!