Advice for the First Teaching Job Interview

By Nick McDaniels — I have been thinking recently, as I sit in my educational administration classes talking and listening about hiring practices, about my first teaching job interviews, the questions I answered correctly and the ones I didn’t. I hope, as Marquette pre-service teachers are preparing themselves for the interview process, that I may offer some advice from a teacher that went through the same process not long ago.

Before your interview, you will need to identify the place you want to teach, find out how to apply to the district, and start calling schools. Setting up your interview directly with the principal is wise, even if it is not the district protocol. A principal can pull the strings to hire you if they really want you, whether you have followed the protocol or not. Unless you like suspense, do not add your name to a pool of applicants and wait to be contacted. But assuming you have all of this set up and your interview date is circled on your calendar, you’ll need to know what questions you will be asked and how to answer them.

So, Marquette pre-service teachers, here are seven questions you will likely be asked followed by a guide to answering them:

1) Why do you want to be a teacher?

How to Answer: Answer this from the heart. Answers like, “I have always known I wanted to be a teacher are good answers.” However, it would benefit you to mention that you really love children, that you love watching children succeed and facilitating the learning process. An even better addition to this question is to explain why you want to be a teacher at this principal’s school. Of course, you will have done your homework and will know more about this school than many of the teachers already teaching there.

2) How do you use data to guide your instruction?

How to Answer: Even if you have not used much data in your student teaching, talk about how you would use data. You should mention that you collect as much reliable data as possible to ensure that each student is getting the properly differentiated instruction that they need to succeed. You may also want to talk about how you will use data to help get a better understanding of your students needs and how to ensure, by standard, that students are successful in curricular mastery.

3) How have you moved student data with your instruction?

How to Answer: This is a really difficult question if you just finished a semester of student teaching and have not collected enough data to prove that you have helped students to achieve. It is okay to say that, but you also need to say that one of your primary goals is to be part of a team working to improve the a school’s numbers. Explain how you will use diagnostics to best understand your students needs so that you can employ a variety of strategies to help students get from one point to another. You may also want to produce a work sample from a student that has improved since you began teaching him or her?

4) How do you handle disciplinary infractions in your classroom?

How to Answer: The best answer is to say that you do not tolerate disruptions to learning, but that you are also sensitive to the fact that a quiet classroom is not always the best classroom, so you find ways to maximize learning through communication and movement while minimizing distractions. Do not suggest that you send students out of class for disrupting. While you may think this makes you look tough, you will look like someone who is just going to give the principal more issues to deal with. You need to say that you provide all of the behavioral interventions possible within the classroom, and will only have a student removed as a last resort. Also, emphasize your dedication to employing parental help for struggling students.

5) How do you plan on engaging yourself in the greater school community?

How to Answer: Be careful how you answer this one. You probably don’t want to commit to sponsoring clubs and coaching sports until after October when you really know what your job is going to be like. You might want to talk about you commitment to contacting parents as much as possible to ensure that students are receiving support both in school and at home. Talk about how your extra time will be spent trying to ensure that students succeed.

6) How do you differentiate instruction for diverse learners?

How to Answer: Here you may want to mention some strategies that you would use. Be sure to mention your proficiency in the implementation of IEP accommodations. Here is a perfect chance to talk again about how you will use data to diagnose problems and guide interventions. Data is the buzz right now. It is what principal’s are held accountable for, and something that principal’s want their teachers to understand and value. Data is so important my principal took time to ask me, “how comfortable are you with numbers?” The correct answer to this question is, “very.”

7) Do you have any questions for me/us?

How to Answer: Never say no! Ask the principal how he/she got into this position, what subject he/she taught, why he/she enjoys his/her job. “What makes this school a great place to work?” is a great question. Ask something ! Turning the interview around shows that you are interested and principals are always looking for people that want to be at their schools.

You may be asked more questions and you may be asked fewer, but I guarantee some variation of some of the questions above will be directed at you during your interview. Make sure you have the opportunity to tour the school, to see some classrooms in action, and if possible talk to some teachers. You want to make sure you are comfortable with your new situation.

I wish each and every one of you the best of luck with interviews, your last summer off before you have to grow up… or perhaps, you will never have to grow up, and you will get your summers off forever.

Please feel free to contact me if I can help you in any way as you progress through to process of interviewing for and earning your first job. You can be confident that your Marquette College of Education has prepared you to be an outstanding teacher. Trust me.

15 Responses to “Advice for the First Teaching Job Interview”


  1. 1 amanda August 7, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    This was beyond helpful. Thank you very much for these questions and suggested answers. They really got me thinking and allowed me to generate my own answers.

    Like

  2. 2 Tabitha March 25, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    Thank you! I graduate in May, and I am so nervous about the upcoming interview process.

    Like

  3. 4 sc April 13, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    This was fantastic. Thank you so very much! I am currently in the midst of preparing for an interview, and this helped greatly.

    Like

  4. 6 Brittany Beck June 10, 2012 at 7:00 am

    Would e-mailing the principal to setup an interview be as acceptable as calling? If so what should be said in the e-mail…. Or phone so that I do not sound too pushy?

    Like

    • 7 nickmcdaniels June 10, 2012 at 9:25 pm

      I would generally say that calling is better. However, some schools/principals, like many other business, put stipulations on their hiring websites that say “no calls please.” Check to make sure that there are not any “no calls” labels anywhere before calling.

      Regardless, a follow up call or email is a great idea. In the email, be sure to express a tone of excitement to be interviewed and about the prospect of working at the school. This will keep you from sounding pushy, but will encourage the hiring committee/principal to want to look at your application before all others. You can also simply call/email to ask if all of your application materials have been received. This is another non-pushy way to find out where you are in the application process.

      Good luck! Let me know how I can help more.

      Like

  5. 8 Callie June 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Nick– FINALLY some answers to my questions! I have a few more, however, are you in the Milwaukee area now or is there a way I can contact you?

    Like

  6. 10 Mithili January 31, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    Can you please let me know written task aspects of an interview?

    Like

    • 11 nickmcdaniels February 2, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      Hi Mithili,

      Unfortunately, I have never been asked to produce a written task in an interview nor have I seen it occur. Are you being asked to produce lesson plans?

      Nick

      Like

      • 12 Brittany Beck February 2, 2013 at 7:49 pm

        Just wanted to let you know I did find a job at a fantastic school! Thanks for the input! I had to produce a written task too! I had 2 prompts and went in a room for 30 minutes to complete it. The first was how do you use expectations to drive students? The second one they gave me student data and asked me how I would differentiate my lesson.

        Like

  7. 13 Krystin April 24, 2013 at 8:45 am

    What if you’ve heard of a teacher retiring at the school but they haven’t posted the position yet? Do you think it would still be okay to call the principal about the job even if it’s not official?

    Like

    • 14 nickmcdaniels April 26, 2013 at 10:38 am

      Hi Krystin

      I would call the principal and inquire about openings. If she says she doesn’t know of any, then be persistent about the fact that if there are any retirements or other departures that you would like to interview for the position. It is risky to put yourself in a situation of special knowledge because it makes it seem like you work outside of the normal procedure. Nevertheless, you can’t certainly use that information to your advantage. You want to create a situation whereby any vacancy makes the principal think of you.

      Like


  1. 1 So, you’re looking for a teaching job? 6 Tips For Your Search « The Marquette Educator Trackback on June 26, 2012 at 8:11 am

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