What Are Hiring Managers Looking for When Interviewing Teachers?

If you’ve never been in a teaching interview before—maybe you’re changing careers or just starting out in the education space—there are common themes hiring managers tend to look for in qualified candidates, no matter the specific role or workplace:

  • Teaching skills: Unsurprisingly, a candidate’s teaching skills—how they work with students on a group and individual level—are crucial. “Do they know how to have an effective classroom where all kids are learning and engaged?” says Dan Swartz, Managing Director at Resolve Talent Consulting, LLC, a firm that specializes in education recruitment.
  • Data proficiency: In today’s modern school system, says Swartz, data is also incredibly important: “Have you been able to master or are you proficient at the use of data?” To go a step further, he wants teachers to give him examples of how they used data to learn or improve upon something—whether they looked at specific test scores or overall class performance metrics.
  • Subject matter expertise: While being a great influencer is key for succeeding as a teacher, so his expertise. Swartz notes that candidates have to show that they’re adequately knowledgeable about the content area they’re looking to teach. “[A lot] of times there are state standards. So in some way incorporating in your interview response just how much you know about the standards or how much you can use the standards for your instruction, that’s another big piece,” he says.
  • Teamwork: “Everybody’s interviewing for teamwork,” says Swartz. “And I know that’s kind of cliché, but it is really, really important.” Being a team player when it comes to working with other teachers, administrators, aides, and staff means you’ll not only allow students to succeed but also help the entire school thrive.
  • Organization and accountability: “As an administrator, I need to know that I’m going to be able to get lesson plans from you,” says Rob Sheppard, an ESL teacher who started his own online English school, Ginseng English. Candidates that are on top of deadlines and can meet classroom goals will go far.

When planning out your responses to these questions, don’t just think about what you’re going to say but also how you’re going to say it. “I always look at body language first,” says Calvin Brown, Senior Recruiter at Alignstaffing, an education staffing firm. When someone looks frazzled or caught off guard by a basic question or behavioral question—those questions that often start with, “Tell me about a time when”—he says, “I start to question, okay, can you really handle that kind of population or have you handled this kind of situation before?”

“If you have a situation or a story with a great outcome, absolutely share [it],” says Brown. Stories are also great ways to highlight your expertise and skillset if you don’t come with a traditional background in education. Swartz adds, “Even if you’re not a teacher with experience, you can still highlight how you go about your work by giving past examples and scenarios of engaging” others.

And when you go to tell a story or answer a question, “It sounds obvious, but [your] response needs to be relevant to the job that you’re applying for,” says Sheppard. Make sure you’re considering what this role entails and the mission or values of the school and tailoring your dialogue accordingly. If your experience and passion aren’t at all related to the job, you’re not going to get anywhere.