Teacher Interview Questions to Determine Expertise, Collaboration, and Fit

Over the course of the last week, I have had the honor of participating in several teacher interviews for my district. It has been a fascinating process for me, because the principals I was observing had such an interesting style of doing interviews. The principals had concocted this interview protocol rubric, that had each of the interviewers asking a series of questions that aligned to the OTES (Ohio Teacher Evaluation System) rubric. This style is so smart, because it ensures you ask the interviewee questions that get at the root of why you need a teacher in the first place.

The questions for the interview revolved around the OTES, meaning there were interview questions about Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment, Classroom Management, Collaboration, Working with Parents, Special Education, Differentiation, and the Standards. The interviewers did not just ask surface questions, but asked pointed questions to see if the applicant’s thinking was aligned to the process.

We saw several teacher who were on point with each questions. They knew what to say, because they had been teaching for years. After they interviewed, though, I wonder how much they KNOW what good practice is, and how much they actually DO the strategies in their classrooms? Some teachers came in with their portfolios, ready to detail the evidence of the practice in their classrooms. I saw one portfolio that blew me away! It was in a three ring binder (not a 1 inch binder, but one of those mega-jumbo 4 inch binders – WOO!!!) and it made me want to go make one of my own. This teacher was a pro!

And then I participated in another interview where the applicant was straight out of college. She had only student taught. Of course she wouldn’t have the mountain of evidence that the first applicant had. But she did show she was coach-able, mold-able, into the kind of teacher that we want. She was a star athlete in college, so she talked about bringing some of the leadership on the courts into the classroom. Her energy was high, and you could tell that she would fit so well into one of our grade band teams.

At the end of each interview, the whole team would sit down and do a rubric and fill in a rating system. They would start with the first applicant, look at all the evidence, and then rate them. Obviously, the first candidate was the top candidate. Then, after the second interview, we would say, “OK, who brought more evidence, and had better answers? The first interview did better, so they are number one, and the second candidate is number two.” Then, after the third interview, we re-arranged the order, to see who was our top. And so on, and so on. Finally, after nine interviews, we had the applicants arranged from top to bottom. The two top candidates would be sent to the superintendent for final approval. Then, we could also say to the candidates “We didn’t choose you for this teaching position, but there is another position we’d like to see if you are interested in?”

I loved this interview model, because it was so thorough, allowed for demonstration of critical thinking by the applicant, and challenged them to really think outside the box. Real problem solving. I found that the best interviews were the ones that left me thinking about my own practices, my own beliefs about teaching, and how we examine good practice. Hearing what the other principals thought made me about how I’d almost like to have them interview me (but not really, I’m glad I already have an awesome job :). They did not just “have a conversation.” They really looked at how this teacher was a professional, and how they would become part of the team.

There are two other interesting parts of the interview process – how Googling can either hurt or help you as an applicant, and what would the interviewer find if they looked you up on Facebook? You need to find out what the interviewer could find out about you online!

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