Monday, May 11, 2015

10 Tips for Teaching Interview Success Part 2

Welcome back to part 2 of my series 10 Tips for Teaching Interview Success. If you haven’t read part 1 ofthe series, which includes tips for writing your resume and finding the right references, you can find it here.

This part of the series includes tips for filling out an application and designing your portfolio.

3.    Apply Online and In Person 

Welcome to the technology age! Many districts, especially the larger ones, now have an online application process to pre-screen their applicants. You will need to complete and submit all your information online first, before you ever hear from an actual person. My own district’s online application runs to more than thirty pages, not including attachments.

While this may seem intimidating at first, it can actually be a relief for applicants. Since no one will see your application until it is finished, you are free to complete each section of the application at your own pace. You can even work on it at home, while sitting on your couch, in your pajamas. If you find you need to gather further information for the forms, you are free to save your work, then continue at a later date and time. With an online application, there is no need to go down to the district’s central office to add more information, so there is no need to dress up in interview clothes to submit additional paperwork.

Sample Instructions for Filling Out an Online Application on a District Website

Please note: if your target district does NOT have an online application process, you will need to either mail them to the human resources department in one mass, or else dress up in interview clothes to deliver the papers in person. You never know when you might run into a prospective principal when you enter the district office, and you always want to make sure to make a good impression.

Even if your target district does have an online application process, they probably also have a job fair once a year. Especially if you are planning a move from another state to your new district, it is a good idea to attend the job fair. Bring your resume, with a small picture of you attached at the corner. Many schools from the district will attend the fair, so that the administrators can personally meet the prospective applicants. It’s usually crowded, and it might seem like a cattle call, but it’s totally worth the opportunity to meet the administrators of the various school sites.

Job Fairs Are Worth Attending

If a site administrator is favorably impressed with you at the job fair, even if they have no current openings at their site, they will keep your resume, and you, in mind for future openings. I am a firm believer that they more often they see your name in a favorable context, the more likely they will be to call on you when they start the interview process. If you are a special education teacher, you might even be hired on the spot.

Make a Cover Letter

For everyone else, you need to note your interests on the district’s jobs board. If the district application process is NOT online, you will probably need to submit a cover letter to the district for every job opening in which you are interested. You will also want to contact the principal of the school by email or phone call, if that is allowed.

If the district application process is all online, however, you will simply need to frequently review the online job postings and click “Apply for This Job” on the listings for which you are qualified. The affected principals will receive an automated list of all interested applicants, which they will then review at their own discretion.

4.    Prepare Your Portfolio

Like it or not, the job market for teachers is highly competitive in many districts across the country. You know you’re a fabulous teacher, your friends, co-workers, and administrators know you’re a fabulous teacher, so why should you have to create a portfolio?

The answer is simple: competition. There may be between 200 to 700 teachers applying for the position you want. Your qualifications and references may get you as far as the final 10 to 20 teachers who are chosen to be interviewed. If you don’t have a portfolio, and someone else does, you might lose your dream job. Consider the portfolio as another tool to help you get noticed and make a lasting impression on your future boss.

If you don’t yet have a portfolio, create one. Brand new teachers are required to create a portfolio as part of their university’s teaching program. They have spent countless hours preparing their portfolio, and are anxious to show it off. If you don’t have one, there are many different ways to create one. You can create a PowerPoint, YouTube video, photo album, or CD. The style is up to you, but here are some Internet resources to help you get started. 

The easiest type of portfolio to produce is the photo album or scrap book type. Simply go to your local stationery store, pick out a professional looking album, and add pictures from your ideal classroom environment (if you're new to the profession), or from your own classroom. Add simple captions to explain anything that might need explaining, but keep it simple. Your interview panel will not have the time to read lengthy descriptions, but might ask you to explain something they find interesting.

Don't have time to cut and glue pictures into a book? Consider going to a local big box store and getting a photo CD made. You can choose your own digital pictures, and personalize the background theme and music from a specific list they provide. I use this technique at Open House every year, and administrators love the use of technology. You could even use try a free online scrapbook maker, such as SmileBox, which has beautiful background templates. Just be sure not to overdo it. 

SmileBox is an online scrapbook generator.

If you are a teacher and don't yet know how to use PowerPoint, then I highly suggest you learn how, right now. You can even download a free trial, to see if you like it. Once you are in the program, it is super-easy to add photos and text to virtual slides, which become part of electronic presentations. As you become an expert, you can even add sound clips and visual effects, which will make your presentation stand out from the others. You could also decide to have the PowerPoint relate to a lesson you are teaching, which shows prospective employers how you will use the technology in the classroom.

I hope you have enjoyed reading part 2 of my series: 10 Tips for Teaching Interview Success. I hope you will take a moment to leave a question or comment down below. Please join me next time for part 3, when I will give tips for submitting a sample lesson and how to research the “right” answers to typical interview questions. Part 4, here, includes tips for knowing your audience and practicing for the interview. Part 5 includes tips include how to show your professionalism, and how to continue your job search after the initial interview. Thanks for visiting.

“See” you next time!
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