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By Matthew Mingle
Getting your foot in the door is just the beginning. Acing the first-round interview requires preparation, confidence, and a clear sense of purpose. Here are five suggestions to aid in preparing for your next interview:
1. Know your audience.
If the person scheduling your interview does not provide information about the interviewer, call the appropriate secretary and ask. Although this information is not always readily available, knowing whether you are meeting with one administrator or a panel of interviewers that may include parents, students, or teachers provides helpful direction in your preparation for the interview.
2. Do your homework.
I always ask candidates why they want to work in my district. This question is designed to give them the opportunity to prove to me how they fit into what we are doing. With most districts operating websites and social media accounts, it is inexcusable to enter an interview without knowing the district well.
The best candidates use this information to show me how they can enhance our priority initiatives. My strongest candidate in this realm referenced the curricula she would be asked to teach throughout the interview and offered specific ways her educational background and prior experiences would enhance learning opportunities for our students.
3. Prepare your opening.
Many interviewers, in an attempt to build rapport, open interviews by asking candidates to introduce themselves. This opportunity seems simple enough, but it is actually one of the most challenging parts of the interview because it offers no context within which the candidate can operate.
Instead of repeating everything that is already on your resume, use this time to share your personality. Speak succinctly—30–45 seconds is plenty of time—and highlight one or two key aspects of your background that set you apart from typical candidates.
I strongly urge all candidates to practice doing this with friends, family members, colleagues, or anyone else who will listen with a timer.
4. Dress the part.
A district I used to work in actually included a section on its interview rating form for professional dress. This is not something to take lightly. Although in your student teaching you may have come across teachers in casual clothing, your interview is not the place for that.
Although I do not expect candidates to go to work in their classrooms every day in clothing they would wear to a wedding, I do expect to see them at their best in interviews. If you come to the first meeting looking sloppy, I expect it will be quickly downhill if I hire you. Dressing the part includes other etiquette pieces—no gum, no cell phone use, etc.
5. Pick something up on the way in.
I have never been to an interview where I did not spend some time seated in a waiting area. Use this time to your advantage. (As an aside, while you can expect your interview to start behind schedule, it should never be because you are late.) Read anything that is available to you—student newspapers, yearbooks, principal newsletters, mission statements, local newspapers, and plaques.
Talk to the secretaries politely and without prying—they may give you valuable insights into the district. Use something you learned during this time during your interview.
"I saw in your newsletter that you are piloting a ‘bring your own device’ initiative. In my student teaching experience, I…" This type of preparation costs you nothing—you were going to be sitting there anyway—yet it gives you so much.
Not only will it impress your interviewer, you will inform yourself even further about whether the district is a good match for you.
This content is part of the Pathfinder career article series featured on the ASCD Job Ramp. For more similar content or job search tools, visit www.ascd.org/ascdjobramp.
Matthew Mingle is the director of curriculum and instruction for Madison, N.J., Public Schools, New Jersey ASCD Board Secretary, and a 2011 ASCD Emerging Leader. His areas of expertise include 21st century learning, curriculum development, teaching strategies, classroom management, and teacher supervision and evaluation.