Teacher Interview Tips

Teacher interview questions are definitely specific to the role.  You’ll probably get asked about behavior management, lesson plans, teaching strategies, standardized test scores, and perhaps even your teaching philosophy.  I can’t imagine any other potential employer would ask those same types of questions.

Teacher interview questions are very specific to the role. You'll get asked about management, lesson plans, teaching strategies, test scores, and more.

I actually was a late-to-the-game teacher.  I didn’t realize it was my “calling” until I was in my 30s.  For me, working retail seemed like a good career path and I worked my way up from a part-timer selling everything from shoes to clothes to office supplies into a full-time store manager where I was earning a pretty good salary for a twenty-something.  Having only finished 18 months of college that wasn’t necessary for this career path, I quickly skipped classes and pretty much bombed out of school.

But after having my daughter, being required to work every weekend and night shifts when employees (who were making minimum wage) didn’t show up, wasn’t very appealing.

Waking up at 3 am to open a store on Black Friday instead of spending time with my family over the holiday season suddenly was pretty inconvenient and not a life I wanted to be a slave to for the rest of my days.

So I returned to school and graduated magna cum laude with an excitement about the new career path I now knew was the perfect choice for me – and for my family.

Of course, it wouldn’t be perfect.  No job really is, is it?  All the time?  But it fit with my family priorities and our schedule a million times better.  No longer would my daughter have to be at the babysitter until late night because I was working at a mall an hour away.

I could now be at home the majority of the evenings.  To this day, I still count my blessings on Black Friday when I am at home enjoying family time.

Of course, interviewing for a teaching position was something foreign to me – and it took me three years of subbing before finally earning my own classroom of third graders.  But it was so worth it.

Here are some tips and suggestions from colleagues, administrators, and school professionals out there in the field to help you ace your next teaching interview.

Teacher Interview Tips

Make sure when you are writing your introduction email to the administrator or hiring department, that your email is short and to the point.  Everyone is busy.  Having something quick and concise saves them time – which they will appreciate.

Remember, you are just trying to get a face to face in order to take the process to the next level.

The beginning of your cover letter should lead with your very best foot forward.  Someone might not read to the end.  So make sure the highlights are first and foremost – and not just a repeat of your resume/CV.

The cover letter should be focused on how you can help the school district.  Not on how much you will get out of the job or how you went to elementary school as a child and have always wanted to teach there and live in your childhood home, etc.  That can be mentioned during an interview.

Always have their interests in mind and feature how you will help them with their needs.  They want you to be a good fit for them as their primary focus.

Before hitting that send button, make sure to email the cover letter and resume/CV attachment to yourself or to a few different friends.  Make sure that person can open the file.  Some file types aren’t supported by all computers at schools, depending on the software they use.

For example, Mac pages won’t work if the user doesn’t have pages.  Same with Microsoft Word.  Sometimes even .zip files are blocked by school servers.

That would be a surefire way to be overlooked when they are calling for interview slots.

And don’t forget your contact information on everything.  Pieces and parts of application packets can get mixed in together.  If a hiring committee sees something they like, but can’t find your contact information anywhere on the page, it will get placed to the side.  Include a footer with your name, email, and phone number at the very least on the bottom of every document you submit.

What to wear to a teacher interview?

Being dressed professionally doesn’t mean a full suit, stockings, and heels.  But it does help to appear crisp and clean.

Teacher interview questions are very specific to the role. You'll get asked about management, lesson plans, teaching strategies, test scores, and more.

The first thing an interview committee will notice is your appearance.  You want that appearance to be professional.

I always suggest looking for a picture of the administrator online and dressing to that caliber.  If he or she is wearing a button down shirt with a tie in the official website photo, then matching that level would be appropriate.  For ladies, that might mean a dress blouse/cardigan combo and dress pants/skirt.

If the principal is more of a sweater person, you could choose instead to wear a nice dress with flats.

Teacher interview questions are very specific to the role. You'll get asked about management, lesson plans, teaching strategies, test scores, and more.

If you can find out more about the dress code for staff (if there is one), you’ll get a feel for what you would be wearing on a daily basis.  You want to look the part from the first moment potential colleagues set eyes on you.

Make sure your clothing is clean, pressed, and something you would feel comfortable with parents seeing you wear in the classroom.

Walking in the door in stiletto heels, with pearls, and a pencil skirt probably wouldn’t be normal attire for a kindergarten position you are are applying to teach.  If the interviewers can’t picture you filling that classroom role, they won’t ask you to come back.

What to bring to a teacher interview?

Your resume/curriculum vitae and a cover letter for sure!

Even though you have already emailed it with the application or inquiry, bring a hard copy.

Make sure it’s nice and crisp – no wrinkles or crinkles.  Placing it in a slide report cover is an added  nice touch.

During the interview, the interviewer will most likely skim your cover letter and resume again, so using bullets and a specific name in the cover letter will set you apart from the crowd.

True story alert:  After graduating, I was applying EVERYWHERE local to me.  I needed a job and in my small area, jobs are typically not advertised for very long because they usually have already interviewed and offered the position behind closed doors before anyone else knows it’s even available.

So I pretty much sent the same cover letter out to every school and principal, but changing the contact information on the top.

Of course in my haste, I may have sent a couple with the wrong name and school district at the top.  Obviously – I never received a call from those schools and to this day, I’m still pretty embarrassed.

Don’t be like me.

Make sure to research any needed licensures before showing up for your appointment.

And research as much as you possibly can about the school and district.  Know what their demographics look like:

Are they an affluent district or a high percentage of free/reduced lunches?

Does the district tout a very high rate of graduation?

Is it a Title school where they receive extra funds to increase reading and/or math skills for their students?

What is the ratio of special education and gifted population to staff members?

How many staff members make up a typical grade level team?

Are they a neighborhood school or a school choice district?

Knowing some basic stats about the district and school can definitely help you to steer your answers to highlight the skills that will benefit the school the most.

Sample Interview Questions and Answers

  • Why did you decide to be a teacher?
  • How do you handle discipline problems in the classroom?  What is the worst behavior problem you’ve ever had to deal with?
  • What are your strengths as a teacher? Weaknesses?
  • Why do you want to be a {middle school} teacher?
  • How do you ensure you are reaching every child?
  • What are your beliefs about homework? Grades?
  • When is it okay for a child to fail?
  • How do you use technology in your classroom?
  • How do you differentiate instruction?
  • When did a lesson go well? Not so well?

Make sure you come prepared with a few questions too!

  • What does your ideal candidate look like?  {This is an opportunity for you to highlight your skills that the hiring person mentions.}
  • What is your hiring timeline for this position?
  • When should I expect to hear back from you on your final decision?

Lastly – ALWAYS follow up with a phone call and/or thank you card/email.  I personally love handwritten notes, but it would need to be sent immediately following the interview in order to have a quick turnaround by the postal service.

But a phone call to say thank you the next day is also the extra icing on the cake.  The hiring committee will know for a fact you are interested and are willing to be remembered.

Need a quick PDF checklist of common questions and potential answers to typical teacher interview questions?  Grab the 8-page freebie below and get practicing so that your answers roll off your tongue without thinking.

Teacher interview questions are very specific to the role. You'll get asked about management, lesson plans, teaching strategies, test scores, and more.

What are some of your most memorable teacher interview tips and/or experiences?  We would love to hear your advice for new teachers in the comments below!

~Charity

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