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Greg Carroll

One of my favourites is - "the most interesting people make the best teachers; what makes you interesting to children?"
Always throws people a bit and I do believe that people have to have lives outside the profession to bring to the classroom. Good to see how people cope with something a bit different too....

Jon Becker

Dave, mostly out of curiosity, how, if at all, do you assess a candidate's attitudes, thoughts, ideas about 21st Century teaching and learning?


My principal has shared with me that in the process of deciding on teachers, he always asks himself "would I put my own child in that classroom?" We want the best teacher for every student, but when I put it in the realm of parent, it hits a different part of me. Just a thought.

Bob Smith

A couple of thoughts. First, I am not an administrator, but a classroom teacher who might like to be an administrator in a few years. So I have never been on the "interviewer" side. Only the sweaty palms side. One question I would ask, and I am not sure exactly how I would word it, would be something along the lines of, "are there any people in the education field whose books, journals, or blogs you read that have had positive influence on your teaching?". FOR ME, I would say, "oh yes, I am a fan of the books by Alfie Kohn and Herb Kohl, here's why,...I also read several blogs by principals and teachers such as Leadertalk.org and such and such dot com, etc.". For me, if I was an Administrator, that would show me (or at least hint) that this is more than a job for that person. They are open to new ideas. That they might actually spend a moment or two at home, on weekends and read leadertalk.org, or any number of the fantastic blogs of folks that contribute to this site. It also might give me an insight on their POV. Trust me, if they mention a blog I haven't heard of, I'll check it out. Heck, maybe they blog themselves! Extra bonus.
On a related note. I have had many interviews in the past. Who hasn't? Here is how it usually unfolds.

2:05PM walk into the office for my 2:15 interview. Stand awkardly at the desk for someone to assist me.

2:07PM inform secretary, "Hi, good afternoon, my name is So-and-So and I am here to meet with Mr. Principal for an interview". Secretary tells me to have a seat (curtly), she'll inform Mr. Principal I am here.

2:09PM still waiting

2:14PM still waiting

2:16PM a man with a suit and tie on walks briskly past me. Looks like a principal. "Hey" I say to myself, "maybe he's coming to see me!?!". No such luck.

2:17PM Principal looking person walks into the office that says, "PRINCIPAL". Sits down at desk. Shuffles papers.

2:22PM: Secretary reminds Principal I am here. Principal looks annoyed. Looks at watch. Principal greets me, not-very-politely and tells me they are gathering up the interview committee in the conference room. Keep waiting.

2:35PM: Secretary brings me back to Principal's conference room. I sit down. Interview committee looks annoyed, : disheveled, distracted, and unorganized.

2:36PM: Interview begins. Lasts 30 minutes, Principal is called out of office 3 times, other staff gets up and leaves. One returns with soda. Pops it open right there and then.

2:59PM: Interview ends, I leave the room, get lost trying to find main entrance. When I get to my car, I find out I am locked in the parking lot. Go back in school, wait for custodian to unlock gate.

3:00PM Call wife. Get asked, "So, how did it go?".

Next two weeks: Wait for follow up. Send emails, call Principal to ask "so, did I get the job?". Give up after three weeks. Principal never even has the professional courtesy to even send me a rejection letter. Get the picture, folks?

One of the biggest mistakes Principals make in the interview process is that they forget that while they are interviewing the potential teacher, the potential teacher is also interviewing them. And their secretary, and their security guy, and the math department head,... I wonder how many principals have been turned down by candidates because they said, "who wants to work with that guy!? What a piece of work".

Here are a few pieces of advice in no particular order:

1.) Be courteous. You've been in that boat before. If you are running late, take 10 seconds to introduce yourself to the waiting candidate. He/she will forgive you.

2.) If you have an interview committee. TRAIN THEM. Have practice sessions. Prepare questions ahead of time.

3.) Sell yourselves. The poor candidate isn't going top get the job anyway. No use beating him up. I had one interview, and I kid you not the FIRST thing that came out of his mouth was, "if you are the type of teacher that is going to come in late, take lots of sick days, not use planning period appropriately, leave at 3PM sharp everyday, we don't want you here!". OK there. One other Principal only made eye contact once during the whole interview, and it was for a split second only. Who wants to work for those clowns?

4.) For Pete's sake, follow up. Even if the candidate doesn't even get interviewed and the resume is rejected, let the poor sap know. Return phone calls, reply to emails, show some human decency. And spare me the, "I'm too busy running a school with 17,403 students to type a rejection letter" nonsense.

5.) Word of mouth travels fast. "Hey, you are a teacher, do you know anything about Spiro T. Agnew Elementary School?". The candidate may be a potential customer, and may influence potential customers.

I hope you principals out there are listening.


First, Jon B. has a good question, but I would extend to get ideas of how to evaluate content in an area you aren't familiar - Physics, Spanish, Band, etc.

Second, vejraska hits a key point - if you aren't a parent, think of a sibling, cousin, etc. If you aren't doing this type of caring, you aren't evaluating the candidate.

Third, Dave nails it in getting a good person first and a technical person second - I like the 20 minute option of WHO they are before ever talking content. I'm going to use that concept.

Fourth, Bob emphasizes the two-way interview. The employee probably has other opportunities too remember. The key here is to be honest about how you do business. If your daily thing is what Bob describes, then a teacher looking for a family environment won't be interested, but the straight forward "do and leave" person will be (I certainly hope we don't have many if any of these remaining, but I'm sure we do). Putting a true picture out there instead of what we think the other side of the interview wants to see is essential for finding the right fit. Be true to you.

Last, the advice that isn't included above (sorry). The TOUR is key. It's a building! They don't really care much about it except the potential room and the condition that they can see in 45 seconds. Do the tour first to get to know the person, then to show the facility. Grab a soda, coffee, etc. and "chat" with them. You will see more of the person this way, and that person you see will be more like the one in the classroom than the interviewee in the office.

David B.

Dave: What great advice, collecting questions in content areas, this is why I like to blog! Also agree with the thought that the first thing to look for is a child centered and caring teacher.
Marshall: Another great idea, tour first not to tour but to get to know the individual. This is more relaxed and you might notice things not noticed in a formal interview.
Question: How do you handle an interview between an in-house candidate and an out of district candidate. Tour may be irrelevent, get to know you seems irrelevent. How can you make the interview process fair for both applicants. How do you handle the post interview process?
Next question: Have dealt with career applicants who are polished at the interviewing process but totally vacant in all others needed for a teaching position. Any tips on recognizing them before a contract is issued?


Good questions.
For the first, you probably have a better sense of this than me. A big piece for me is simply to be professional and yet honest. Telling too much is probably worse than telling to little to your in-house. Have done these interviews, and it really boils down to what I am looking for in the candidate. In-house you may have a better feel for the person, but that just meens you can more specifically say whether they match the need or not. Think of it like a scattergram or a shooting target. You have 1000 points/shots to determine the accuracy of an in-house, but only 50 from out of district. Both may be near your "ideal" but the reliability of how close they are varies greatly due to the number of points/shots available to each.
Second question - tour. This is exactly why I do it - the personality comes through when you talk about kids and interests. You can talk theory and really get into it instead of that stiff feelin of most interviews (and most people would not consider me stiff in an interview either). The tour is not scientific, but this is where most of my red flags will go up. Remembering that it is NOT scientific is a big key, but I make more reference calls on the ones I feel less comfortable with on the tour.


Dave S (or anyone, for that matter)
Do you have examples of some of the questions you ask to "tease out" those intrinsic qualities?

I like Greg's question - those tend to make candidates think a little and brings out truer answers than general questions they have either heard a hundred times or have been able to anticipate or rehearse.


Some of my favourite questions include:

- Before you leave here today, what is the most important thing that we should know about you?

- If I asked a child in your class to tell me about what you are like as a teacher and as a person, what would they say?

- When phoning a referee, I always ask them if they would be happy for their child to be in that persons class - why and why not.

I think the tour idea is useful – it gives you an informal context for finding out about this person. Some principals I know will also go and observe a potential staff member in their class. I have not made up my mind about it, but they swear by it as a highly useful tool.

I guess at the end of the day it is all about getting someone who will fit the team and ethos of your school – I agree the technical stuff can come later. A successful teacher is not always the one whose content knowledge is largest – in fact, a successful teacher is one with a myriad of skills and attributes – someone adaptable to the situation. Oh, and who actually likes kids – that’s got to be at the top of our list!


Amazing that you include that they should "like kids" here AND NONE OF THE REST OF US DID. Not sure we can assume this any more. It shocks me how people can be in education and make me wonder if that is their true feeling.

The observation of a potential teacher is also something that I have wondered about but never done. I think you could get some good information if you have to decide between several (or maybe just two) candidates that are "equal" at the time. Also, this is hard when you are hiring on, say, June 12th... or they are currently in another state, etc. as they sometimes are.


To turn this slightly on its head, in this new Teacher Magazine article, some veteran teachers share their thoughts on what they'd like to tell the new principal, if he or she would only ask:


Kristian Still

In the last few years, more and more student councils are now involved in the hiring process here in England. Our students have proven to be very perceptive, critical and honest.

Tina K.

Marshall, I would not agree that observing two equal candidates would be a way to choose between them. Yes the scheduling would be a nightmare,(school is out where do you get the kids and how do you get them there). How do you observe a teacher who is not familiar with the school, classroom, students, etc. doing his/her best. Maybe a video tape of them teaching in the classroom they currently have but what if they do not have a classroom or can not get the parents to sign off, blah, blah, blah. I once observed a teacher who had driven for five hours for the interview and when it was time for the mock lesson you could tell she was tired. She did not get the job.
Sounds like a good idea to observe but in reality not so.

Jack Melfi

I will be in my first interview as a principal tomorrow, so thank you all for your comments and suggestions. The question that I always liked to ask when I was interviewing was "What will District ABC do to improve me as a teacher?" This gave me a sense of what professional development and support system they had in place for the veteran teacher who was looking for a new position.

Mary Holtorf

I ask the candidates-
Who is a role model for you and why? This gives me an interesting perspective on the person's values.

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