Why Do We Interview Teachers?

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Why is it that when we hire teachers (and most other professions), we interview them? Will the interview process help us understand how they interact with a classroom of students? Will asking questions about practice actually teach us about their practice?

A quick google search reveals the “five most common teacher interview questions” are:

  • Why did you decide to become a teacher?
  • Why do you want to teach at this school?
  • What can you bring to our school that makes you unique?
  • What frustrates you the most in a classroom?
  • What is your teaching philosophy?

These questions are great for understanding a person’s motivation in entering the teaching profession and also for getting a sense of personality and purpose. Ultimately, though, these questions do not touch on most, if not all, of what the teacher will be doing: teaching a classroom of students.

Of course, most educational institutions ask future educators to perform a model lesson, but that usually does not happen until after the interview. So, if we are going to continue to require interviews before the model lesson, how can we ensure that those interviews are productive?

  • Incorporate role play. While many people can find role play in interviews uncomfortable they reveal a lot about the interviewee. First, they allow you to see the flexibility of the candidate. And second, and more importantly, simulating an interaction between a teacher and student helps you see the candidate practice their craft.
  • Walk through a lesson. Give the candidate a text and a set of possible activities to go along with the text. Then, ask the candidate to walk you through how they would go about preparing a lesson on the given text. This will give you insight into his or her creative process and also help you understand their teaching style. As some people might need time to prepare their lessons, you can always give the candidate the materials in advance. 
  • Interview in tandem. It’s best to have more than one person interviewing the candidate. For starters, teaching in a school is rarely a one-on-one activity. If the candidate struggles with two interviewers, this does not bode well for the classroom. And more obviously, two people will inevitably create a fuller picture of the candidate based on their different perspectives.
  • Check references. This one is a no-brainer but is often a step taken after a person comes in for an interview or model lesson. Calling a reference or two before the interview can be incredibly helpful in giving context and insight to the interview itself.

Are we arguing that we schools should get rid of interviews completely? No, as interviews are an important part of most job hiring processes and reveal much about a candidate’s ability to work within a system. However, we must work to create interviews that help us understand the candidate as a teacher, and not just as a job applicant.

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