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Dos and Don'ts: Tips for Your Next Teaching Job Interview

Published on Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016

Teacher in Hong Kong is a highly sought after job. With so much competition, it’s absolutely crucial that once your resume gets through the screening process with a school’s hiring manager, you make a positive, lasting impression with the interviewer. By standing out amongst the crowd of applicants during your interview, you’ll surehave a greater chance to land that coveted teaching job. 

Unfortunately, having a great interview is easier said than done. Those who fail to practice their interviewing skills because they think that they can just “wing it” will find themselves facing a long journey ahead to land a good job. With it being so significant to your future success, here are the key dos and don’t’s for your next teaching job interview. 

DO come prepared. Practice your personal “elevator pitch” so that you have it down solid. Your personal pitch should encompass your skills, background, and inform the listener on what your goals are. Keep in mind though, that this elevator pitch will need to be tailored to what the role is and what the role is meant to fulfil. While you may think you know how to describe yourself, and can customise your elevator pitch on the spot, practicing it over and over until you remember to include all the necessary points in a fluid and cohesive manner is going to leave a far better impression. Practice giving your pitch to a family member or close friend. See if there’s anything unclear about your statements. If so, revise and improve. Finally, make sure it sounds natural and not rehearsed. There is nothing worse than a robotic pitch that sounds like it’s been repeated ten times before. The school needs to know that their students will be in the hands of a teacher who can learn and adapt, not simply do the same thing over and over.

DON’T forget to be professional. No matter how casual a school or interviewer may seem, it’s never okay to show up to an interview in casual clothing. Although you may not necessarily be required to wear a suit and tie or a tailored dress to work as a teacher, for the interview, first impressions really do matter. If you show up in jeans and a hoodie, you’re not presenting yourself as a strong candidate for a teaching position. Dress professionally for your interview and you’ll make a good impression that will stay with your interviewer. More importantly, however, make sure you conduct your interview in a professional manner. For instance, chewing gum during an interview is not acceptable and neither are inappropriate comments or jokes. Answer every question in full, use a courteous and formal tone, and leave the slang at home. This will also help demonstrate your communication skills, which will be critical for a teaching role. 

DO have a sample lesson plan prepared. Not every interviewer will ask you for a sample lesson plan, but it is not uncommon for interviewers to ask prospective teachers for tangible samples of their classroom experience and skill. Find a lesson plan or specific example that allows your teaching skills to shine, particularly those involving lesson planning and performance-oriented activities, and be prepared to share it with your interviewer. Make sure you prepare a plan or demonstrate an example that is relevant to the role you are applying for. Most importantly, make sure you have done your reading about the school, its curriculum and resources so that you can create a sample plan that integrates well with the school. 

DON’T bad mouth other schools. Your interviewer will most likely ask you why you’re looking for a new position at a new school. No matter how bad the work environment may have been at your previous school, it’s never in good taste to speak negatively about other schools or past colleagues, including principals, teachers, or students. 

In addition, it is customary for the interviewer to ask the applicant how they have handled conflict in the past. While this seems like a straightforward question about your capabilities, you will most likely have to refer to a past instance of a conflict and give an example. Be very careful how you outline the details of the conflict and the people involved, and explain it in the most professional way possible, wherein you preserve the reputation of your past employer and team.

Of course, you should not fabricate any details. Rather, be honest without giving away all the negative details including the names of those involved. The best way is to state that your teaching styles or opinions differed and you are looking forward to a new environment to contribute to. Speak truthfully, but also tactfully and professionally. Your interviewer will respect your diplomacy and integrity. 

DO your research. Having a strong interest in your employer is a good way to make a positive impression. Before walking in for your interview, be sure to read up on the school and your interviewer. Find out if the school is rolling out a fresh curriculum or having success with a new initiative. Ask questions to demonstrate your interest and ingenuity. If there is something you found interesting, state it and add your two cents.

Don’t forget to research the interviewer(s). If you discover that you share something in common with the interviewer, bring up the subject in conversation as a way to connect with the interviewer and help the interviewer remember you as a more than just another applicant. 

DON’T be the only one talking. An interview is a stressful experience and oftentimes it’s easy to ramble on and on about oneself.Unfortunately, if you’re the only one doing all the talking, it’s a sign that the interview isn’t going well. Engage the interviewer in conversation. Be interested in what the interviewer is sharing with you. Ask smart and relevant questions to continue the dialogue. While some teaching interview tips and articles typically suggest candidates ask 2-3 questions in every interview, there is actually no magic number. And as with the number of questions, there is no set of questions that these sites can tell you to ask. When you research the school, its curriculum and teaching staff, make sure you note down any questions you want to clarify. As the interview happens and they tell you more about the school and the role, clarify anything that is unclear. Remember, the interview is not only for the school to decide if you are the best fit for them, it is also for you to decide if the school and the role are a good fit for you. Lastly, don’t forget to ask when you can expect to hear back from them around the second interview or their decision on the role. 

DO go the extra mile. This is something that cannot be defined. It may be showing how you helped one student in particular excel in class, or how you created a different lesson plan that engaged your students more than ever, or how you initiated an extra-curricular activity in school. The point is to project your passion and personality clearly to your interviewers. They need to see that you are there to do more than work the hours and go home, and that you are looking to contribute and achieve the best that you can for the students and the school. One good example would be to identify an aspect of the school that you believe could be improved and give suggestions on ideas to make it better. This will prove to the interviewer that you are not afraid to take initiative and want to contribute to the success of the school overall.

You may feel tremendous pressure to perform well at your next interview, and that is normal. Everyone feels intense pressure before an interview. However, clear your head and focus on the task at hand. At the end of the day, an interview is simply a conversation between the interviewer and you. Your job is to simply tell them everything they ask about you clearly and honestly and ensure you ask them all the questions you want answered about the school. 

By keeping in mind some of these key tips, we’ll help you ace your interview and make a lasting impression that’s sure to help lead you toward your next job as a teacher in Hong Kong. Good luck!

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