Once you've sorted through stacks of resumes, narrowed your options and made the calls, it's time to meet your teaching candidates face to face -- for a job that's as deeply hands-on as teaching, you can't underestimate the importance of the interview. Whether you're recruiting for a K-12 or higher education position, you're bound to approach the interview with your own style and tailor the questions to your own institution. While there's no “right” way to interview a teacher, you can use some educator-tested guidelines as your jumping-off point.
Cover the basics first. Open up the interview by allowing the candidate to tell you about herself; her background, experience, education, teaching philosophies; and her endorsements. Once you know the basics about the teacher, you can refer to them later in the interview.
Explore the teacher's relationship with students. Ask her what she thinks the typical student at your institution is, and mentally compare that to your own perception. Find out what your interviewee expects of students, how she evaluates them, and -- above all -- how she plans to communicate effectively with the types of students she'll be teaching, as well as their parents.
Delve into the logistics. Ask the teacher how she would create and implement a lesson plan, and how that lesson plan incorporates pressing issues at your school, whether those issues be improving reading levels or featuring more technology in the classroom. Identify what makes the teacher's lesson plan or style of teaching unique or worth pursuing in the eyes of your institution. Once she has a lesson plan, ask the teacher what her strategies are for managing time and disciplining students -- ask yourself if this person seems capable of maintaining control in the classroom. Finally, find out how the teacher plans to individualize her lesson plans to each student, and how she'll make each student feel comfortable and included in her classroom.
Get specific. Ask the interviewee why she wants a position at your school in particular, and what interests her in teaching a specific grade level. If you have concerns about how the teacher might approach specific situations, ask her for examples of how she's dealt with those issues in the past. Gauge the teacher's level of passion throughout -- it goes a long way in keeping her a productive, innovative and engaging educator for the long haul.
Think on the fly. As an administrator, you know what sort of teacher your school needs -- don't be afraid to go off script if you think it'll help you find out relevant info. Steer the focus back to how the teacher would fit in to your school if you stray into other topics. For instance, if you start talking about her hobbies, ask her how those experiences will inform her abilities in the classroom.
- Always ask for examples. An interviewee might tell you she's great at getting through to reluctant learners, but you need to know the “how” that backs the statement up.
- Get to know the teacher as a person. Ask her about the last book she read, or what she likes to do in her free time. Remember, students will be spending hours every week with this person -- it's up to you to get a feel for her personality and determine how successfully that personality might translate to the classroom.
Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.