The Administrator’s Guide to Interviewing Potential Teachers

Oct 26, 2023
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Filling slots in the teaching world is an important task for a school leader. Colleagues retire, move away, or, unfortunately, leave the profession. As we all know, teaching is a unique profession, and it’s important to find the intangible qualities within candidates that can indicate success. Here are some things to look for as you’re interviewing potential teachers this summer.

List the Traits That Often Lead to Success in Your School

Is community outreach important at your school? How about multicultural understanding? Do you serve a student population with a wide set of abilities for which creativity is highly valued?

Every teacher should possess the qualities of perseverance and calmness under pressure, but are there specific instances where those traits come into play at your facility? Ask yourself these questions when interviewing potential teachers in an effort to get an accurate sketch of a teacher who would be successful in your unique environment.

Skip Generalizations; Instead, Ask For More Stories

Interviews often give a less-than-accurate picture of candidates. Skilled, experienced interviewees have an answer for anything, while the inexperienced may be nervous.

One way to see a more authentic picture of the candidate’s potential is to stay away from questions like, “Would you say you are a diligent worker?” and instead ask for a story that could show the applicant’s diligence.

The same goes for any trait you identified in the first step. Asking for specific stories as you’re interviewing potential teachers can demonstrate a potential employee’s ability over hypothetical or “What if?” responses.

Ask About Mistakes When Interviewing Potential Teachers

Any teacher will tell you that days in which everything goes to plan simply don’t exist. You want people who will admit their mistakes because reflection is an integral part of growing as a teacher.

Did the candidate take a risk that didn’t pay off? In many instances, that’s a great sign of someone with creativity and a determination to improve.

When things went sideways, did the applicant seek help? This is a critical trait in a profession that loses half its members before the five-year mark. It’s sad to have to accept the resignation of a teacher who was having trouble or experiencing burnout that no one knew about.

There are many strategies to help struggling teachers, but they should feel comfortable enough to admit when they need extra support.

Bonus Tip: Don't Test People

Many of us have heard horror stories where someone who should have been perfect for a job missed out on the opportunity over some Willy Wonka-like test during the interview that they didn't pass.

Things like judging a candidate by a handshake, seeing if an interviewee will send a thank-you note, or even a purposeful spelling mistake in the job description to see which candidates can catch it might seem like a clever way to sort through applications, but these "tests" will ultimately do more harm than good.

These "gotcha" moments generally don't look good to a potential employee and can put unnecessary barriers between you and a quality candidate. Instead, be straightforward and honest when interviewing potential teachers, and look for someone who reciprocates those qualities.

Looking for resources on teacher retention? Check out this blog post on keeping teacher retention rates up and increasing student achievement!

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