What principals want in a candidate, and how to convey that during an interview.
I recently had the opportunity to be a part of a “Speed Interview” session for a local college. The college wanted to provide their soon to be graduates with the opportunity and experience of interviewing with various principals from the area. It was a good experience for the teachers, yet it also provided me the chance to reflect on what truly makes somebody hirable and desirable in my school.
Below is some of the feedback that I offered to the students; I hope that you find it useful in your career search. I’ve also included past interview experiences as examples.
First thing first. Make sure you do a bit of research on the school. Don’t come into an interview with absolutely no idea of what the school is all about. Start with the school’s website, check out the principal’s messages to parents and community, look at his/her blog. Get a feel for the personality of the school and cater to that. Be careful of getting into specifics and brown-nosing. For example, “I saw your Twitter feed, and I really liked what you posted.”. A better way to say it would be “I saw that you are on twitter, do a lot of your teachers use Twitter for professional growth?”.
Passion beats content. There are plenty of potential teachers that know the content, principals want somebody that is passionate about teaching, learning, and making connections with students. Make sure your passion is visible in the way you talk about kids. When you talk about skills that you possess, make sure you connect them to the students and how they will affect student learning.
Take advantage of the gimmes. Interviewers often give a few slow pitches that an interviewee should be prepared to knock out of the park. The following are examples “What can you bring to our school that nobody else can?”, “Is there anything that you would like to add that we did not cover in our questions?”, “What makes you the best fit for the position?”. You need to have a stump speech, or a prepared response, but not too rehearsed so that it sounds robotic. Basically your answer needs to convey the message, I am ready to take on the position, and I’m willing to work my butt off for the good of the students and the school.
Don’t ask questions just to impress. If you honestly don’t have questions about the job or the school, don’t ask them. A good question is one that gets the interviewer talking. Don’t ask yes or no questions. A bad question would be, “Have you ever thought about doing a book study as a faculty for professional development?”. Even though I have thought about this, I said “no” because I don’t like yes/no questions. A better way to frame this would be “Professional growth is very important to me, what types of professional development do you use to grow your staff?” One of my favorite questions is “What are you looking for in a candidate for this position?”. This allows you to give a follow-up response that displays why you fit those criteria.
Nervousness is normal. If you are so nervous that it is negatively impacting your interview, address it. Say something along the lines of “I’m sorry, I’m very nervous right now.” Believe it or not, I don’t mind when that happens. I’d prefer that to getting the wrong impression of a candidate. In my past interviewing experiences (when I was looking for a job and nervous), I’d always take a sip of water when I needed a second to collect my thoughts.
Invest your effort on the front end. A thank you note is nice, but to be real, it will not change my mind after the interview is over. Instead, send a personal email to the principal once a position is made public. Once you apply online, send an email with a resume attached introducing yourself and offering anything additional that they may need. When a position is posted and resumes start coming in, it is important to stand out. A well written email will help you distinguish yourself from the pack. Make sure you spell check and have a friend proofread.