Many educators are now about to apply for new positions in the field or are already deep into the hiring process. I receive many questions about applying for jobs, as well as conducting the process. I decided that it would make sense to put this post together with some of the links that I have shared with others in the past (at the bottom of this post) and some quick points for those in either the position of holding interviews or being the “interviewee.” Of course, every school and district has its own procedures for conducting this process, but I wanted to share some of the ideas I have learned from my own personal experience. I hope this can help you in some manner now or in the future!
1. Look for people that will add to your school/district culture.
I applied for a job years ago, and it is was really unlike anything that I had gone through before. The posting was for a “middle years” teacher (grades 5-9) and wasn’t really anything more specific than that. It didn’t have a subject area or specific grade level, which was not something I would normally see when I was applying.
The “interview” was also very unique (I will get more to this in the next point) in that it was more of a conversation than anything. When I asked if they were looking for a specific position to fill, the administrative team had shared that they wanted to find the best people they could hire and see what strengths they could bring to improve the school culture. They weren’t looking for someone to just “fit into” the staff, but they were more interested in finding people that could help build strengths and do things that they might not have been able to do without that person.
In short, they wanted to find the best people for the school and shift jobs to them, rather than have a unique position and try to fit someone into a particular job.
2. Help bring out the best in people in your interview process.
To find the best people, it makes sense to put those same people into a situation where they can excel. Many of the interviews that I have been a part of in the past had a large panel of people that would ask a list of pre-determined questions, not say anything back to you, and write whatever you said down on a piece of paper. Going through that type of interview myself had made me extremely anxious and had left me feeling worse walking out than I felt walking into the room. If you think about that type of interview process, that doesn’t seem to be a usual interaction you would have on a school team, unless maybe, you were in trouble.
The interview process that I shared in point one was unique in their goals and delivery. I was asked to show up about 30-minutes before the interview to go over a list of questions and topics. There were about 15-20 topics, and I was asked to speak to 5-10 that I was passionate about. That led to a conversation with colleagues, and I remember laughing, crying (not kidding), and feeling both affirmed and challenged in that process. Wouldn’t that make a great staff setting? I walked out feeling invigorated by the conversation I had, and no matter if I got the job, I felt terrific about the conversation.
If you bring people into an interview, make the process a) make them want to work with you and b) leave them better off than when they entered the room.
This leads to my final point.
3. Make every person better from the process, whether you hire them or not.
When I was hiring for my own staff, we would typically interview 4-6 people, knowing there was only one position available. Obviously, more people would not be hired than would get the job, but ALL of the people would be entering the profession in some capacity at some point. My focus has always been to help students, which is not limited to only the students in my school and classrooms.
With each “rejection” call, I would spend time sharing feedback with the participants that might be helpful to them not only in an interview but to be successful at another school. I remember one time, in particular, I had a phone call with a candidate who didn’t get the job and went over some things for them to consider, and we had an hour-long conversation. A week later, she contacted me and shared they had received a job with a different school, and she felt that if it weren’t for my feedback, she wouldn’t have been successful. That made my day, and I have watched her thrive to this day because of the “rejection” phone call.
Not every person who applies for a job with your school or organization will get the job, but they can all leave better, no matter the outcome.
1. Present yourself for the job you want, not the job you have.
I was applying for an administrative position years ago while I was still teaching in the classroom. I had asked my current principal what advice she would give me when I applied. In Alberta, Canada, where I was applying, they had a “Teaching Quality Standard” (TQS) and a “Principal Quality Standard” at the time, which described the expectations for each position. Although there was overlap, specific things were being looked at for an administrative role that was not listed in the TQS. She told me to look at the standards for principals and then identify how I am already meeting the “leadership” standards in my current role. This way, I could prove that these were standards that I might meet in the future, but they are standards I could meet, no matter my position.
I put together a portfolio based on those standards, and going through that process based on her suggestion not only prepared me for the interview but my future job.
2. Continuously focus on key points that bring out your best in the interview process.
I discuss this concept more in-depth in my article, “5 Points to Get Across in a Teaching Interview,” but I would love to share it briefly here. Before any interview, think about the five most important points you would like to get across in an interview. No matter the question, can you bring those points to the forefront in your answer? For example, if one of your key points is that you believe relationships are central to the work you do in education, and you are asked about a curriculum concept, how do you weave relationships into your response?
Ensure that the people know the gifts you bring to their school or organization, no matter the questions you are asked in the process.
3. Closed doors often present some of the best opportunities for the future if you are willing to embrace them.
“Everything happens for a reason.”
As much as I have hated that advice, it has shown to be true more often than not. I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher so bad when I first started in education, and my first interview was for that very position. Out of that interview, I was offered a high school technology job. That is a LONG story that I choose to share another day, but that started a domino effect that has positively impacted my career to this very day.
After that specific interview, I was contacted and told that I wouldn’t be hired for the job, although they thought I was a strong candidate. I accepted the rejection, but I still a) wanted a job and b) wanted to get better. About two weeks after that call, I called the district and asked to speak to the superintendent, who led the interview process. He took the call, and I shared that I was new to the profession and wanted to get better, so any advice he might have would be greatly appreciated. He had shared that he thought I was a great interview and that there was the potential for a high school technology position if I was interested. He saw strengths in my interview and my initiative in making that phone call, which would lead to my first job.
I have been rejected for many opportunities, but I have done my best to learn from them and apply them to my next steps. I sometimes think the best moments in my career have been because of jobs that I didn’t get because it led me to what I am doing today. Learning from failure is much more important than the failure itself.
In conclusion, no matter which side of the interview you happen to find yourself, focus on growth.
How can you bring out the best in the people in the process?
How do you bring out your best and learn from both failures and successes?
How do we elevate the entire profession through hiring, not just our own school?
Learning from this process can lead to incredible opportunities for our staff, colleagues and a great way to model for our students.
For further reading…