As an administrator, doing our best to hire staff members that are a good fit for the school and position is a big step in building and cultivating a phenomenal team and a positive school culture for everyone. If we hire someone who isn’t a good fit, no one benefits, and it can lead to some difficult conversations and create challenges that could have been avoided. That said, interviews are hugely important.
The team we build and cultivate affects every aspect of the life of a school. Of course, other factors, like how we manage, encourage, and support that team (or how we don’t manage, encourage, and support) also have a huge impact. Additionally, sometimes we have a small pool of candidates (or even just one!), an offer isn’t accepted, or someone has to bow out, and we make the best choice we can.
While hiring can be one of the most difficult parts of the job, it can also be one of the most rewarding. There’s nothing like hiring someone and watching them flourish in their element, love their work, and positively impact those around them. I’m no longer an administrator, but I can say– it’s an awesome thing to watch unfold. And what an honor it is to be a part of the hiring process. Right? Even thinking about some of the fantastic, beautiful people I’ve had the privilege of hiring gives me the warm fuzzies to this day.
The Importance of the Interview Question
Let’s face it. As administrators, we do everything we can in an interview to gauge a teacher’s skill level, culture fit, team fit, values, and more, and it all boils down to the questions we ask and the answers we receive– and of course, references.
Here are four tips I’ve found useful for interviewing:
- Ask your current team what questions they’d like asked. They might offer up some fantastic questions you’d never have thought of and questions that give you insight into what they value in a colleague.
- Look at the CV and cover letter in advance. Mark it up. Highlight it. Make notes on it. Get to know the candidates!
- Choose questions ahead of time. Decide what you want to know based on the CV and cover letter. Hone in.
- Don’t be afraid to throw out the plan. Let their answers guide your questions. If an answer concerns you or didn’t give you the information you wanted, dig deeper with questions that might not be on your list.
In the spirit of hiring, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite interview questions. Naturally, interviews are fluid, adaptive, and conversational, so you can’t always go through a list. And nobody has all day! But a mixture of the following questions has been good to me over the years. I hope you’ll find them beneficial, also.
Classroom and Behavior Management
- What behavior management strategies have you used in your classroom previously?
- How often and in what ways do you communicate with parents/guardians/caretakers about behavior?
- What is your philosophy on behavior management?
- Give an example of how you have managed a disruptive student in your classroom.
- What does culturally responsive mean to you?
- How are you a culturally responsive teacher?
- What role does social-emotional learning (SEL) play in the classroom? How do you incorporate SEL?
- Tell us about a time when you successfully managed disruptive behavior and a time when you felt unsuccessful.
- How have your previous administrators supported you with behavior management?
- What are some procedures and routines that you put in place to help your classroom run smoothly?
- Have you ever had conflict or disagreed with a colleague? Tell us about that.
- Has there been a time when you’ve disagreed with an administrative decision? How did you approach this?
- How do you build relationships with students’ parents/guardians/caretakers?
- What tools have you used to communicate with families?
- How do you form a bridge between the classroom and home?
- How do you build relationships with your students?
- Tell us about a time when you’ve had to have a difficult conversation with a parent/guardian/caretaker? What about a colleague?
- Have you ever had an experience with an angry parent/guardian/caretaker? How did you manage that situation?
Instruction and Pedagogy
- What research-based strategies and methods do you regularly use in the classroom?
- In what area(s) do you feel you need professional development?
- What are some of the best professional learning experiences you’ve had in the past?
- How do you track student progress toward learning goals? What assessments do you use?
- How do you use assessment (formative and summative) to inform instruction?
- Can you give examples of how you’ve differentiated instruction for students in your classroom?
- What is your experience with special needs students or students who need accommodation?
- What types of accommodations have you employed in your classroom?
- Tell us about a lesson or unit you’re really proud of.
- What are some examples of curricular tools you’ve used in the past?
- What could I expect to see if I were to visit your class during a _____ lesson?
- Give an example of project-based learning you’ve implemented previously. Cooperative? Collaborative?
- How do you plan for student groups for workshops, collaborative learning, cooperative learning, etc.?
Technology and Digital Skills
- What devices and digital tools have you used previously in your classroom(s)?
- What role do you believe technology plays in the classroom?
- How comfortable are you with learning new technology tools?
- Have you used technology for accessibility, differentiation, and accommodation?
- Talk with us about digital citizenship. How do you incorporate this in student learning?
Collaboration and Teamwork
- What does collaboration mean to you?
- What do you expect from colleagues on your team?
- Have you ever worked with someone who wasn’t collaborative? How did you handle this?
- Give an example of how you’ve collaborated with colleagues in the past.
- What do you feel you would offer your team in this role?
Reliability and Organization
- Talk about your process for class preparation/planning.
- What is the most challenging part of preparing/planning for you?
- Do you have any preferred systems or tools you employ to help you stay organized?
- How do you prepare for a substitute?
- How do you approach deadlines?
- How do you prepare for meetings or conferences with parents/guardians/caretakers?
- How do you prepare for team and department meetings?
School Community and Involvement
- How have you been involved in school life outside of the classroom?
- Have you led/been involved in leading any schoolwide events, activities, or projects that you’re particularly proud of?
- What school and school community events have you enjoyed in the past?
- Have you been involved in any committees previously?
- Talk about what is important to you in a school culture/environment.
- In what ways do you feel you impact school culture?
Preferences and Values
- What do you find frustrating in a work environment? How do you handle or manage this frustration?
- What about this work has caused you the most stress in the past? What brings you the most joy/energy?
- What is your dream role/favorite grade level(s) to teach?
- What role/grade level(s) would you not want? Why?
- What are you looking for in a supervisor? How can a supervisor best encourage/support you?
- Give an example of how you handle constructive feedback.
- What brought you to apply for this position?
- What boundaries do you set for work/life balance?
- Do you have any concerns about the position you’d like to bring up?
And last but not least: Do you have any questions for us? Did I miss any questions that you absolutely love? Please feel free to add your favorites in the comments!