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Interview Preparation

Teach in Ontario

Once you have been invited for an interview, you will need to focus on preparing for the interview. Use your self-inventory and your research about the employer to write out and think about how you are a perfect fit, whether it is a board level interview to get on the eligible-to-hire list, or if it is an interview for a specific position. Identify common interview questions and practice them. Some of these questions can be found below.

You want to be confident and calm in the interview as you give your answers, so practice, practice, practice! Creative ways to practice and get feedback include using the mirror or self-recording (whether audio taping or even using a small digital camera). Can a friend, family member, colleague, or mentor give you a mock interview and some feedback? You could also record the mock interview and evaluate how you feel you did.

It is important that you arrive for your interview professionally dressed, well-groomed and on time. You may be interviewed by a school team consisting of the principal, vice-principal and one or two staff members, or you may be interviewed at the board level by a panel of interviewers. In both cases, questions may be asked by one or more persons. It is important to make eye contact with each member of the interview team as you answer questions. The interviewers may take notes during the interview. Don’t let this alarm you. Interviewers may be interviewing a number of candidates and need the notes to refer to when decisions are being made.

One key to a successful interview is a positive outlook. Many of the questions may ask you to describe ways in which you managed difficult situations. In your response to these questions, maintain a positive focus on what you did to contribute to a positive outcome.

Throughout the interview, you should aim to convey poise, professionalism and inquisitiveness. It is very important that your answers reflect your interest in students and their needs and that you hold yourself responsible to provide opportunities designed to improve their social and academic achievement. The interviewer will be listening for the consistency between what you are saying and what you submitted in your cover letter and resume.

List of common interview questions

Personal/General Questions

(from Wally Moffat, Getting the Job you Want!)

Board Level Questions

School/Position Level Questions

Sample interview questions with suggestions for the answers

You will need to have a format for answering interview questions. An example of a successful format contains:

Sample #1

What are the components of a balanced literacy program?

An example of an opening statement is, ”Strong literacy skills are the foundation for educational achievement. It is very important that I provide a variety of literacy experiences in the classroom. A balanced literacy program provides variety and supports strong literacy skills.”

Supporting statements should address:

  1. The components of a balanced literacy program

    • Teacher reading and writing models appropriate reading and writing strategies
    • Shared reading and writing provides guided large-group practice
    • Independent reading and writing allows independent practice for pleasure
    • Guided reading and writing allows the teacher to work with groups of students with similar needs as determined by assessment

  2. Assessment and evaluation strategies used to determine needs of students and achievement as it occurs – be prepared to discuss diagnostic, formative and summative assessment strategies to determine needs and learning achieved, particularly for guided reading and writing groups.

  3. Classroom management – be prepared to discuss strategies for ensuring that small groups are able to work independently while you work with one small group of students.

The closing statement should summarize the importance of understanding how to effectively create a balanced literacy program and should relate to the opening statement.

Sample #2

Why have you applied for a teaching position with this board?

Begin with an opening statement about the mission statement and programming available in the board, and how they mirror your beliefs about what is important for student achievement. This indicates that you have researched the board, are familiar with board priorities and know how you can fit into this vision.

Supporting statements should address:

  1. Your philosophy of education and especially how your philosophy corresponds with the mission of the board.

  2. Examples of efforts you have made in your work experience that reflect the priorities of the board.

  3. Your personal experience with the board through volunteer work, employment as a lunch monitor, parent of a child who attends school in this board, etc.

  4. Your lifestyle interests (e.g. I want to live in a diverse urban neighbourhood).

End with a closing statement that references your opening statement and sums up how well you fit with the vision of the board. Aim to convey poise, professionalism, interest in young people, inquisitiveness and your educational philosophy. The interviewer will be listening for consistency between what you are saying and what you submitted in your cover letter and resume.

Sample #3

If I were to walk into your class, what would I see happening? What would you be doing and what would students be doing?

Your opening statement should reflect your knowledge of student-centred learning, engaging students in active learning and the value of critical thinking and student inquiry.

Supporting statements should reinforce the opening statement and provide examples.

Points to consider in this answer:

Closing statement summarizes and refers to the opening statement.

Resources that may be used when preparing for the interview

Getting the Job You Want! by Wally Moffat has some helpful hints for interviews that are specifically directed towards teachers. There are, however, many general resources that can help you become familiar with the expectations for interviews in Canada.

The Toronto Public Library’s Career Bookmarks has a Market Yourself section. Click on Interview Techniques to find lots of online resources, as well as some helpful books listed at the bottom of the page. Looking at examples of answers to tough questions, for example, can help you better understand the culture of Canadian job interviews. Here are two of the many books, including their annotations.

Hawley, Casey Fitts and Zemke, Deborah, 100+ winning answers to the toughest interview questions. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series, 2001.

This book provides tips that apply to all interview questions, like giving answers that ring true, answers that are direct, and answers that don’t wander, but speak precisely to the questions the interviewer asks.

Interview power [videorecording]/ produced by National Video Profiles & Tom Washington. Seattle, Wa: National Video Profiles: Distributed by Wehman.

This 70 minute video is useful for both beginning and experienced job searchers.

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