You've completed the education and student teaching needed to land a teaching job and now you have at least one more important hurdle to complete: The job interview. You've worked hard to get to where you are, so don't let your guard down now. Even if you live in a place where the teacher job market looks promising, you have to bring your best when you go to a job interview. This means being prepared and avoiding some of the common interview pitfalls.
Don't ever come to an interview without knowing something about the school's practices. Research the school and position as much as you can ahead of the interview. Check out the school website, the district website and newspaper articles to get information on the school culture and philosophy. Talk to teacher colleagues to get inside information on what it's like to work there and who the key players are. School administrators want to know that you will fit into the school culture and be willing to follow its philosophies, and you'll lose major points if you don't have at least some knowledge of the school's methods.
Review your portfolio to find examples of work that may apply to the teaching position at hand. Your portfolio is the most concrete documentation of the work you can do, and you should use it to your full advantage. Don't hesitate to take the initiative at some point during the interview, pointing out how your past work demonstrates that you have the background knowledge and experience necessary for the job.
Prepare a lesson that's relevant to the job in case the interviewers ask you to do a mock teaching session. Find out what core standards the students will be learning, if any, and then come up with a basic lesson you can do on the fly. This is a great way to demonstrate any special skills you may have; maybe you use your guitar to help students learn multiplication tables; maybe you integrate art in a special way to teach social studies lessons. Show the interviewers what is unique about you -- though don't let the novelty of the special skill overshadow the important content of the lesson.
Don't make up answers to questions you don't know. If you're a new teacher, chances are there are many things about the school or the profession that you're not yet aware of. Principals and other hiring staff understand that, and they don't expect you to have an encylopedic knowledge of everything. Show humility and a willingness to learn and ask the interviewer to clarify anything you don't understand -- or simply state that you have to look into that question. When you're actually in the classroom, you may find that you'll be doing a lot of that.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.