By: Kristen Haurin, Assistant Director of Recruitment
We know that many job seekers find the interviewing process to be stressful and that nerves and anxiety can get in the way of candidates feeling prepared to put their best foot forward, especially in the virtual interviewing space. The questions can be endless: What do I include on my resume? How do I prepare for my phone interview? What if my demo lesson doesn’t go as planned? How do I even know this is a place I want to work?
However, interviewing doesn’t have to be scary! Interviewing is the perfect opportunity to learn more about different approaches to education and to challenge yourself to grow your practice through the things that you learn throughout the process.
We want to make the interview process as transparent as possible so you feel confident that you are able to showcase the excellent teammate you will be! We asked principals and recruiters across Democracy Prep what their top tips are for prospective candidates and you will find their recommendations below. While this post will focus on teacher interviews, even if you are looking for other school-based roles, read on! Many of the same principles apply for any role that you may be interviewing for with any school or district.
Stage One: Resume Review
• Keep it concise: one page is best, two is totally fine, but beyond that, it becomes much harder for somebody who is reviewing it to follow. If you start going over two pages, consider how to only highlight in detail roles that are most applicable or how to use a cover letter to detail the narrative of your professional journey. Another place to save space is by cutting the objective from your resume.
• Include and label education and relevant certifications either at the top or the bottom of your resume.
• Showcase and be explicit about what you have achieved. Whether you’ve taught before, are just graduating from college, or are changing careers, be sure to include the actions you have taken to drive results, what those results are, and any relevant data you have around those achievements.
• Highlight your transferable skills if you’ve never taught before. Are you super tech savvy? Incredibly organized? A confident public speaker? Showcase the strengths that you will bring to your classroom on day one!
• For those who have just graduated, include any leadership experience you may have on your campus or in any organization you have worked with previously. This can include chairing committees, organizing social events, or spearheading initiatives.
• Ensure you are clear about the start and end dates of past employment and commitments. This helps us to better understand both your longevity and growth in both professional and educational settings.Stage Two: Phone Interview
Research and prepare
• Ultimately, interviews go two ways! You are interviewing schools just as much as they are interviewing you. Know ahead of time what you are looking for in a school and listen for how the school hits those points.
• Get to know the organization or district before your conversation! Know their mission and specifically why you chose to apply there.
• Review your resume and be ready to talk about how your personal and professional background make you interested in the position for which you are applying.
Answer questions like an interviewing pro
• Ground your answers in past examples. We recommend using the CARL approach: Context of the situation, Action you took, Result of your action, Learning from the situation and how you applied this lesson moving forward.
• Draw from a variety of professional or, for recent graduates, relevant experiences. Especially if you haven’t taught before, share what you’ve done as a part of an organization, as a volunteer, as a leader of a club, or in your current career.
• Show you have done your research by asking about something you care about that you saw mentioned on the website.
• Ask questions that help you assess if the organization hits on the things you are looking for in a school.
• Know your timelines. Examples include: when you can start a new role or what timelines you have in making a decision about your next position. If your recruiter doesn’t ask you about this, start the conversation with them!Demo Lesson and In-Person Interview
• Reach out to your point of contact at the organization if you have questions leading up to your demo, especially if those questions will ensure you are able to better deliver your demo.
• Research the specific campus or ask your recruiter for more information about the site at which you’ll be interviewing.
• Come prepared to start teaching right away, even if the demo isn’t the first part of your visit. If you have restrictions, such as being unable to make your own copies, give as much notice as possible to your recruiter. If your interview is virtual, test your microphone and speakers ahead of time.
• Find a comfortable, distraction-free space for your virtual interview. That being said, we know that interviewing at home comes with challenges. Feel free to name upfront if there will be noise in the background, etc.
• Use any resources the school shares with you (exemplars, planning templates, etc.)
• Carefully read and follow all instructions provided by the interviewer or recruiter. This includes meeting deadlines if asked to share lesson materials or other items ahead of time.
• Take notes about what you see in classes if you are given time for observations.
Practice with an eye for what the school is looking for. Plan to do the following:
• Take a minute or two at the start to introduce yourself, set general expectations for scholars, confirm an attention-getting signal with the class, and to share the agenda for your lesson.
• Communicate your intended outcomes to your scholars at the start of the lesson.
• Build in assessments throughout the lesson and an exit ticket or other summative assessment at the end so you know if your outcomes were met.
• Intentionally think through how you will build engagement and joy in your lesson.
• Be ready to share what went well and what didn’t. Even if your lesson goes completely left, all is not lost! What we want to see is your ability to discuss why things didn’t go according to plan.
• Talk about any adjustments you made in the moment and why if you are an experienced teacher responding to the formative assessments you included in your lesson.
Engage in the Debrief
• Share your reflections.
• Engage with the feedback. Ask clarifying questions and for examples. Take notes that you can reference later, as well.
• Jump head-first into any opportunity to practice the feedback you received. If you aren’t offered the opportunity to practice, ask for it so you can be sure you are learning from this experience.
Answer the other interview questions like an interviewing pro again! After all, you’ve already prepared and practiced for your phone interview.
• Don’t forget CARL!
Ask questions to better understand the role and school culture
• Go back to the notes you took during observations and ask any questions you have about what you saw in classrooms.
o Include questions about instructional practices, systems & routines you noticed in the school, and how teachers are coached and developed at that campus. Again, this is a chance for you to see if the school is a place you want to work.
o This is also a great time to ask questions about the day-to-day and other responsibilities of a teacher on campus, including what after-school programming looks like.
• Don’t forget those things you are looking for in a school. Ask questions that help you determine if this is the right fit for you.After the Interview
Send a thank-you note
• This should be done within 24-48 hours after your interview. You can send an email via your recruiter or ask your recruiter for the interviewer’s email address.
• Focus on what you learned in your interview and how the school matches what you are looking for
Let your recruiter know if anything changes
• If you liked your experience but have another offer to decide about, let your recruiter know about your shifting timeline!
Want to learn more about interviewing? Join us for our webinar on Wednesday, March 24th, at 5PM EDT to hear what some of our school leaders look for during the interview process. You can RSVP by following this link.