On the other side of the interview table

Discussion in 'Job Seekers' started by chuckie, Sep 10, 2009.

  1. chuckie

    chuckie Rookie

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    Sep 10, 2009

    I just got hired mid-August as a special education teacher. On Tuesday I had the surreal experience of sitting on the OTHER side of the interview table with some colleagues to interview candidates for a new opening in our department. It was quite interesting to say the least. You definitely get a unique perspective on things when you've heard 10 candidates answer the same questions. You'd be amazed at the variety of answers (and quality of answers)!

    I thought I would share some things that sent up red flags that we factored into our decision process. Please keep in mind this was a special education position at the kindergarten level.

    The following things were not well received by the committee when the candidate:
    - could not clearly explain what drew them to the field of education or gave the "because I love kids" reason.
    - did not seem enthusiastic, did not smile, did not seem to have a passion for education
    - did not have any recent workshops, training or classes or had not, at least, recently read any books on education - we wanted teachers that are willing to stay current and keep learning themselves!
    - answered a "how do you feel about...." question with "i'm fine with that" or "it would be no problem" without giving specific examples
    - there was a question like "under what circumstances would you initiate communication with your colleagues" and several people mentioned only examples about talking when a problem had arisen when we were really looking for someone who intended to have continued daily communication with colleagues.
    - said their biggest weakness was being a pushover or too nice
    - when asked why they applied for the job, said they applied for hundreds of jobs (i guess we wanted the illusion that they really wanted THIS job.)
    - had no questions to ask us - it conveyed a lack of interest.

    I know some of you are discouraged about the interviewing process - I was there too for a while before I got my job - but you HAVE to keep up your enthusiam and try your best to express your love for the profession or it will show through to your interviewers!

    Hope this helps someone!
     
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  3. emmakate218

    emmakate218 Connoisseur

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    Sep 10, 2009

    How quickly you were able to venture to the other side of the table!

    Thanks for the info!
     
  4. katrinkakat

    katrinkakat Connoisseur

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    Sep 10, 2009

    Thank you! That was very helpful information! :)
     
  5. ahodge79

    ahodge79 Companion

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    wow great experience! I wish I could do that because you'd learn so much from the process! Thanks for coming back to give us these great tips!
     
  6. McKennaL

    McKennaL Groupie

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    I have problems with the questions for them...whatever their answer about the curriculum ...I want the job. No matter what they provide for professional development...i want the job. It just hasn't seemed as if they WANT to answer (well) when asked anything anyway.

    But if it would look like i lack interest...i'll come up with SOMETHING.

    ***

    I'd also be interested in some of the OTHER things...what was said about:

    Portfolios?

    Attire?

    Age?

    What is "a good fit"?

    Was any consideration GIVEN to the cover letter? resume? Letters of reference?

    I know all places are different...but this is my ONLY glimpse (so far) of what happens on the other side of the table.
     
  7. Kangaroo22

    Kangaroo22 Virtuoso

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    Sep 11, 2009

    Thanks for the information!
     
  8. Simba

    Simba Comrade

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    Sep 11, 2009

    Great information!!
     
  9. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Sep 11, 2009

    Thanks for sharing!
     
  10. blessedhands

    blessedhands Comrade

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    Sep 12, 2009

    Appreciated that!:thumb:
     
  11. McKennaL

    McKennaL Groupie

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    Sep 12, 2009

    There was one interview that i had this summer...

    I am going to assume that the committee/panel had discussed one answer that they HATED hearing...I THINK. Because they asked something (I can't even remember the question) and I started my answer with a statement...and one member laughed and two made some sort of look...and slowly, i could see them pealing off after that...losing interest. I figured it was like the very old Groucho Marx quiz show, You Bet Your Life. I had said the magic word. But instead of winning the jackpot...i lost the job.
     
  12. SCTeachInTX

    SCTeachInTX Fanatic

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    Sep 12, 2009

    Being on an interview team many times, I have never see a cover letter. On occasion I will see a resume, but sometimes not. We used a point sheet. The person with the highest points usually won. I was the keeper of everyone's recommendations and we very seldom "discussed" a candidate in great length. The prinicpals at all three schools wanted unbiased opinions and did not want anyone swayed in their initial response. I have been on teams that included several grade levels and a specials teacher as well as an administrator. I have been on interviews with myself and the prinicipal. I have been on 3 person interview teams with myself, the principal and a the guidance counselor. The smaller committees were easier to manage. We had more rapport with the candidate. But honestly when an interviewee has that special something we ALL pick up on it right away. It might be a vast knowledge and experience with children and an obvious LOVE of what they do. It might be an infectious personality and an enthusiasm for wanting to teach. It might be a combination of the two. My previous two staffs had many really young, energetic teachers and the principal started hiring experienced teachers after our first year. I guess both principals saw a void that he wanted to fill. Dress WAS important, don't let anyone fool you. If a person came in over the top dressed - full suit, high heels, french twist... it was a bad thing, but from what I saw they were almost having to overcome the image they were evoking. They were sitting in a room with a casually dressed team. Yes, dresses and skirts and professional but, certainly not a suit by any stretch and unless they were well spoken, humorous, knowledgeable, and seemed genuine, I think the impression was that they were not a fit for an educational setting. Now, normally interviewees are so nervous by nature that they let their true personality show and we can see the teacher beneath the clothes. By the same token, if someone comes in too casual or worse yet, with flip flops for an interview, they have almost no chance of a recovery. Also, hair is important... we have had interviewees that have extremely short or long hair and without fail the team would score them lower. And when I say short, I mean the spikey inch long hair. This must be some kind of unspoken bias. Long hair too seems to be a detriment since I had to compile the results and one particular year we had a turn-over rate of 25 teachers. And then at my next school we had 20 new positions to fill and I have opened two new schools, so I have been on MANY interview teams. I think it is true about the common answers people give like why they choose teaching. If I heard, "I believe all children can learn"... one more time or another favorite is, "I have been wanting to be a teacher since I was a little girl." Ugh, and yet, I forgive them their faults because for some that might be true. And for many, they are saying what they think is expected. Candidates that stood out were usually:
    PROFESSIONAL
    KNOWLEDGEABLE
    FRIENDLY
    HUMOROUS
    RISK TAKERS
    TEAM PLAYERS
    COMPASSIONATE
    and maybe not in that order. I hope that helps.
     
  13. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 12, 2009

    When I was department chair, I did preliminary interviews. So I looked at the cover letters and resumes, then decided who to call in. After the interview with me, the candidates then itnerviewed with the AP and Principal.

    Some things that mattered to me:
    -Professionalism. Around here, that typically means a suit. But it's more than that. Some things were definite turnoffs: gum, low cut blouses or skirts that were too hight-- the things that I'm hoping we would all think of as obvious no-nos.

    - Genuine answers. In this day of internet access, we can assume that everyone has (or should have) done their homework. So a canned answer full of buzzwords simply does not impress me. I would much rather a concrete answer than one straight out of an education class textbook.

    - The impression that you can handle yourself and kids. This one is a whole lot harder to describe, but not too hard to identify. I had one candidate who was such a sweet young man!! He was sincere and knew his math. But he was so incredibly soft spoken and gentle that I suspected the would get eaten alive in a class of 35 high school sophomores. (The person we did hire was leaving a local Catholic grammar school. When I called to tell him he didn't get he job, I mentioned that they should be having an opening-- he was probably a better fit there.)

    - Subject matter knowledge. Someone who can't name a favorite topic in Algebra or Geometry-- any favorite topic-- probably has LOTS of work to do before they can actually teach it. It's not a valid means of accessing knowledge, but it's a start.
     
  14. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Sep 12, 2009

    McK-I have 13 years teaching experience and have sat on my (very competitive) district's hiring committee for a few years. I will ditto some of the tips/impressions from the OP and ALL of what Alice said above....We also wanted enthusiasm, passion, knowledge of 'current thinking in education'-(talking about multiple intelligences is not really that current)- we liked when people talked about the workshop approach, collaboration, response to intervention....we didn't particularly love when someone was tied to one way or one packaged program as a way to teach content
     
  15. McKennaL

    McKennaL Groupie

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    Sep 12, 2009

    This is very interesting... thank you.

    I think I followed MOST of it... but see hints in which I could improve.

    Thank you Again!

    ***
    Just wrote a novel of a comment...but then erased it. Sometimes it's good (at least it is for me) to write out my frustrations, get them on paper, and let them go.

    This was something I had to do this morning. I feel so much better when i do. But it was WAY WAY too much information on THAT one.

    Just thank you for inspiring the introspection.
     
  16. mikel

    mikel New Member

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    Sep 12, 2009

    The thing i hate is the lack of feedback from the people asking the questions. They sit there stone faced when and answer is given. I want feedback to see if this position feels good for me. Do people resonate with my answers. I have walked away with no feelings from the group and wonder if I would fit in. I ask questions but they usually give some standard plain jane type of answer that does not reveal anything about them. This standoffish attitude makes it real hard to break into this field.
     
  17. ahodge79

    ahodge79 Companion

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    why is it that interviews are like oral tests? I got to study study study! Not that there are any jobs.
     
  18. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I think it best not to 'study'...just be your best self.
     
  19. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    I agree... though perhaps studying the curriculum a bit would help... that's the only studying I do before an interview... I want to make sure I have a good idea of what outcomes I would be teaching if I got the position so I can use specific examples. Apart from that, czacza is right.
     
  20. ahodge79

    ahodge79 Companion

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    well you got to be yourself while also having the "correct" answer to "whats differentiated instruction" "whats balanced literacy" "tell me about current trends" "how do you teach..." you have to get your answers ready for and remember your philosophy, good moments, bad moments, parent issues, etc etc. I've got a huge list going from the upper posts of all the interview questions. You have to be ready so you don't stumble.
     
  21. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    True. But what czacza meant was that a canned response is easy to spot a mile away. And it's a definite turnoff.

    If you don't know what "differentiated instruction" is without studying, the interview probably won't go all that well anyway.
     
  22. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Sep 12, 2009

    That's exactly what I meant!! :)
     
  23. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I've always done well on interviews. (Part of that is assuredly the fact that I teach math, and there isn't the kind of competition for jobs that there is in many other subjects.)

    But it's been the rare interview that hasn't gotten me a job offer.

    And I've never studied a thing for an interview. Sure, I've learned about the school, but I've never had to really study.

    As to my philosphy: it's what I belive. I don't have to study it, I just have to explain it.

    I've never experienced an interview that wasn't conversational and pleasant. Maybe I've just been incredibly lucky. But if I stumble, I smile, admit the error, and correct it... no big deal.
     
  24. ahodge79

    ahodge79 Companion

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    yes I can understand that it shouldn't sound "canned" be friendly and of course I know what all those things are, but I better think about how I best do things in the classroom. I hate those lulls. What are the most innovative techniques you have... well it might take awhile to think of the best examples. I especially have a hard time thinking of "negative" examples because you don't want it to be really bad and need to show how you overcame it. I think you do need to throw in some of those key words too so you sound like you know what you're talking about.
     
  25. TiffanyL

    TiffanyL Cohort

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    Sep 13, 2009

    You are correct, Ahodge. The more prepared you are, the better. While practicing, try to think of how you would truly answer the question if you were conversing with peers. Often, interviews make us nervous because we are looking for that "right" answer rather than our own answer (what we truly believe).

    Analyze your thoughts on discipline, parent communication, teaching reading and more. Think about your own philosophies regarding these topics. If you are nervous, your mind will go blank and you will have nothing to say even with simple questions (or you will stumble or ramble on and on). :)

    The more you delve deep into your own philosophies, the more prepared you will be. This comes naturally to some people but not to all people, particularly newer teachers. Good luck!
     
  26. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    Sep 13, 2009

    I find most interviews fairly stress-free, actually... I attempt to use examples wherever possible... I can tell my philosophy, and use nice big words that make it sound like I know what I'm doing, but if I can give an example of a time where I demonstrated a particular skill, it comes across as something I truly believe, and not something I'm just saying because it's the "right answer"... not that anyone here doesn't actually believe the answers that they are giving, but, the interviewer perceives it differently.
     
  27. ahodge79

    ahodge79 Companion

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    Sep 13, 2009

    yes thank you. Giving real life examples is the best advise. I'm usually super nervous in the time before the interview... my heart gets going really fast! But once I'm there I feel totally comfortable! But I still need all that info and reflecting done before the interview, so I guess thats the studying. I know I'm a good teacher who is passionate about my work but you have to stand out among the other hundreds who are applying. Luckily I'm not totally desperate for a job as my two little ones aren't in school yet... just keeping my eye out for something thats a good fit.
     

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