Here are four tips for conducting strong teacher interviews and making top candidates choose your school.
If you work in education, we probably don’t need to tell you that the United States is in the midst of one of the most severe teacher shortages K-12 has ever experienced.
According to a recent study, nearly half of all schools in the United States have at least one teaching position still open, with many having more than that.
With fewer teachers looking for positions and more positions open, supply and demand simply aren’t lining up for many schools across the country.
This is why it’s incredibly important to cast a wide net when looking for teachers. And also why it’s important that your hiring and interviewing process make teachers feel like your school is the best place for them.
I reached out to a few teachers to see what they had to say about the interview process — and to learn why they said YES! to their school.
Interview Tip 1: Offer a Personal School Tour with a Personal Touch
Eliza, an elementary school teacher, shared that a personal tour pushed her from a “maybe” to an enthusiastic acceptance.
After her interview, the principal took an extra 15 minutes to give her a walking tour of the school.
She stopped by a few classrooms and introduced her to some of the teachers she’d be working with. The interview was scheduled during their summer school session, so there were some students in the building as well. The principal knew the students all by name and introduced Eliza to them as well.
It left her with a feeling that the school was a warm, welcoming community. She was excited to accept her offer as soon as it came in!
A personal tour is the best way to sell your school’s culture to a prospective teacher.
If you’re serious about the candidate, this is a great way to make your interview memorable and highlight the things that make your school special.
Make sure to personalize your tour to whatever the teacher’s subject matter or interests are, like taking your literature teacher to the library or making sure that a teacher who is interested in coaching wrestling gets to see the weight room.
A simple 15-minute tour can go a long way toward turning a candidate into an employee!
Interview Tip 2: Connect as People
Carol, a 20-year teaching veteran, shared that she still remembers her first teaching interview clearly because she was so nervous!
The principal she met with set her nerves at ease by chatting with her as a person first and a candidate second.
Carol shared that her principal asked her what her weekend plans were, who was her favorite teacher as a student, and, as she was endorsed in reading, what her favorite book to teach was.
These questions established a personal connection first, making her feel a lot more confident and at ease during the interview itself.
When interviewing teachers, it can be easy to forget that you are looking for talented educators, not talented interviewees.
While there can absolutely be overlap in some of the traits that make both a great teacher and a great interviewee — like clear communication or enthusiasm — there are a lot of excellent teachers who are nervous about doing an interview!
The best thing you can do for these teachers is to slow the interview down with some easier get-to-know-you questions first in an attempt to genuinely and authentically connect with the person sitting across from you as more than just Math Teacher Candidate #3.
Interview Tip 3: Keep it Small
Abby, a third-year Kindergarten teacher, shared that during her first teaching interview she was surprised to find that it was one on one. A lot of her peers had told her that they had a panel interview where six to seven people sat on the opposite side of a huge table and peppered them with questions.
Abby was so relieved to sit down for a casual interview with her principal, just the two of them. It took a lot of pressure off and allowed her to focus on one person rather than trying to remember to make eye contact with everyone.
It also gave her the opportunity to ask any questions that she might have been too intimidated to ask during a larger panel interview.
While panel interviews are useful for getting a lot of feedback all at once, they can be unnecessarily stressful for the candidate and cause significant scheduling delays.
By keeping interview panels as small as possible, you reduce the risk of one person vetoing an otherwise great candidate, and you also allow your candidate to be authentic and ask genuine questions.
If you must do a panel interview, make sure the candidate has time to sit down one on one with the person who would be supervising them, either at the end for a recap or for a school tour.
This way they can get a feel for the management style and how well they might work together without the pressure of a large panel.
Interview Tip 4: Be Enthusiastic and Timely
I’ll end by sharing an experience I had while interviewing for my first high school teaching job.
Obviously, I was nervous. I was a new graduate with limited experience, but I grew more and more confident during my interview. The principal and assistant principal were really encouraging and chatted with me like I was already a member of the team.
They ended the interview by letting me know they wanted me on their team and that I would hear from them very soon.
True to their word, I didn’t have to wait long. I had a phone call from the district with an offer by the time I made it back home! I took a few minutes to freak out in my car and accepted the offer.
Because this school really wanted me, they didn’t make me wait by the phone, jump through hoops, or do “one last thing” to make sure I was the right person. They made their decision, and it was me.
By contrast, two or three weeks later, the dream school I interviewed with a month prior called with an offer, which I immediately declined. Not only had I already accepted the other offer, but I also felt like an afterthought.
If this school didn’t want me enough to reach out with an offer for almost two months, was I really their first choice?
Teachers are in demand. If you don’t make them an offer quickly, someone else will.
By giving feedback right away and not “holding out for a better candidate,” you’ll have greater success at getting the candidates you really want to join your team.
Do whatever work you need to do on the front end to be ready to make an offer as quickly as possible.
Even if you have processes and procedures that may take some time, communicate that with the candidate. Let them know that you really hope to make them an offer and that you want them on the team!
This way, when another offer or interview request comes in, they’ll think of you first!
So What Does This All Mean for You?
As a hiring manager, it means you need to put your best foot forward with every candidate interaction.
From scheduling interviews quickly to giving candidates the red-carpet tour, every step of the interview process needs to be clearly communicating “this is a great place to work, and we want you here.”
The teachers I spoke with made one thing abundantly clear: the interview is what sold them on the school.
Whether it was a great school tour, a positive personal interaction, or a well-planned interview experience, these experiences say a lot about your school, its culture, and how you treat your team.
The message you send when you make an authentic effort to woo and welcome interviewees can turn a “maybe” into an “absolutely yes. When do I start?”
SchoolMint Can Help You Recruit Teachers with Social Media Ads
Your school might be the best place to work in the world, but if you’re not getting enough applicants to interview, who can you tell about it?
If you’re looking to reach candidates with your message about why your school is an amazing place to teach, we can help!
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