September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

What Should I Do? Part 2 – Preparing for the Interview

Posted: Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

by Rick Pomeroy

The phone rings, you don’t recognize the number, but it’s job search time and you take the call. “Hello, this is Pat Admin, and we would like to interview you for a science opening at Purfect High School in the Adreem Unified School District.”

So what should you do? If you are interested in Purfect High School (PHS), thank them very nicely, say yes, and begin preparing for the interview.

Prior to applying to Adreem Unified School District (AUSD), you should already have done some background work. Based on that work, you should have a good sense about PHS, for example, how many science teachers they have in the department and a sense of the classes that they offer. You should know a little bit about student activities and the demographics of the school. You might even know a little bit about parent and community involvement. If possible, read the school’s on-line bulletins and announcements the week before your interview. This will give you a sense of the most recent events on campus.

Prepare an interview portfolio that you can leave with the interviewers. This is not your large, fifty-page compendium of your work as a student teacher – no interviewer will have time to review such a massive tome. Instead, prepare a short, five to seven page interview portfolio that highlights some of the key things you want them to know about you and you will leave it with the interview team at the conclusion of the interview. There are many different thoughts about what it should contain. My list includes:

  • An updated resume, specific to the position you are interviewing for.
  • A sample set of lesson plans where you engage your students in active learning. It should be aligned with NGSS with clear connections to how you would implement it. Pay particular attention to the Science and Engineering Practices, as these are possibly the biggest changes that schools will be grappling with.
  • A succinct description of your teaching and management philosophy. Administrators understand that you are still an emerging professional so it is good to be able to explain in detail what your beliefs are and how you have handled a difficult situation.
  • Samples of formative and summative assessment you have used. If possible, include one or two student work samples (with names redacted). The artifacts you include should be examples of your best work and might stand alone if someone were to scan the portfolio after your interview. More importantly, these are things that you should be able to refer to in your interview as you answer some of the typical questions that they will ask.

Next, think about the interview questions. You can review lists of the most popular questions for science teachers simply by searching for them online; anticipate that you will be asked at least some of these, and think through your answers in detail well before your interview. Find someone to randomly ask you some of the questions so that you can practice articulating your answers clearly. Remember, most interviews are about 30 minutes in length and will probably include approximately 10 questions. You should practice your answers enough to appear prepared and knowledgeable, but no so many times that you sound rehearsed. You should not memorize your answers.

On the day of the actual interview, don’t eat a big meal before your appointment. Arrive in the community early. Plan for any traffic, weather, or travel glitches that might cause a delay and leave early enough to arrive with plenty of time to relax and compose yourself. When you arrive, it is best to check-in about fifteen minutes before your interview time (unless the interviewers have given you other specific instructions). Introduce yourself to the receptionist. Remember, your informal interview starts the minute you walk in the door –the receptionist will definitely form an opinion of you from your first interactions. Though not part of the formal interview, the interview team might later ask those opinions, for example, to give context to your formal interview responses.

Choosing what to wear is also an important part of preparing. I recommend that you talk to the teachers in the science department where you are student teaching to ask what they recommend. You might also schedule an appointment with your school administrator to get some background on their views of the interview process and appropriate attire. If all else fails, you want to be dressed professionally. Be sure that your clothes are clean and neat and that your shoes are appropriate for the rest of your attire.

At the end of the interview, when the interview team asks if you have any questions, make sure that you have something to ask. Do not ask about salary or benefits. Think of something from your school research that will show the interviewers that you’ve done your homework and that you are truly interested in this as an opportunity. Before leaving, thank each of the members of the panel.

On the same day, after the interview, be sure to follow up with a hand-written and hand-addressed thank you card. It is OK to include your cell phone number in that card as a way of indicating that you are very interested in the job. If you do, make sure that when a future employer calls, your voicemail message is professional and adult. You may have enjoyed a fun and fanciful voicemail greeting while you were in school but now, you want to present an image of an emerging professional. Be sure to return calls as soon as you can and by all means, don’t say yes to an offer if you are not sure that it is what you want.

The interview is the second major step in the getting a job process. Be sure to allow yourself sufficient time to prepare. Time spent now preparing will pay off when that interview phone call comes.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis and is a past-president of CSTA.

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