03/26/2015 by Carney Sandoe Staff |

3 Small Steps to a Better Interview

Older man and woman interview a younger redheaded woman

If you’re like most people, your interview preparation probably consists of scouring a school’s website, practicing your most eloquent resume summary, mentally reviewing your highlight reel of accomplishments, brainstorming the questions you’ll inevitably need to ask your interviewer, and making sure you’ve made all necessary trips to the dry cleaner.

All that is excellent prep work—and you’ll need to be poised, articulate, professional, and quick-thinking to assure a successful interview. But don’t let yourself get so bogged down by the big picture (i.e., Did I mention that I spearheaded my school’s 1:1 iPad Program?  Shoot—what’s this school’s service learning curriculum like? Will I look stupid if I ask such-and-such question?) that you forget the details. Take a mental break and make sure you’re doing these three easy things that will lead to a better interview.

1.  Listen

You might be inclined to skip this step—of course you listen during interviews. They’re dialogues, not soliloquies, after all—you know that. But don’t laugh this one off—are you sure you’re being a good active listener when you’re being interviewed? If you’re so attached to the script you’ve prepared, you might miss important clues from your interviewers about what they want to talk about or what they value. If you’ve just finished answering a tricky question, you might be so relieved that you fail to listen fully to the next question or statement. If your mind keeps turning over what you need to say next, your conversation will have an artificial quality to it that might make you seem disengaged or, worse, self-centered. Listen and react to what your interviewers are saying: as a teacher, you’ll need to adapt constantly to curveballs your students throw you. Calm down, open your ears, and show your interviewers that you can adapt like the best of them.

2.  Put away your cell phone

A small detail can have a huge impact on your job search. When you walk into any school to interview, your mind should be focused on one thing: that school. Tell anyone who might call that you’ll be MIA for a few hours, and put your phone away. Expect the unexpected and silence your ringer—there are few things more annoying than an interruptive ring tone or loud and persistent vibration in the middle of a conversation.

If you’re interviewing all day, can you check your phone during a break? If you need to send a quick email to a coworker or check in on your child, let the interviewer know in advance and apologize for the interruption. Don’t take out your phone and idly scroll through your texts or Facebook page while on a “break,” however. When you’re on campus for an interview, you’re being scrutinized all day long.

3. Smile

The feel of a conversation is only partially determined by the words that are exchanged. Body language, particularly during an in-person conversation, is also incredibly important. If you’re answering questions like a pro, sharing your expertise, and offering thoughtful contributions to the conversation, that’s great—but if you’re doing so in a monotone, without appropriate gestures or facial expressions, your words will fall totally flat.

If you’re nervous about an interview, your default expression might be a frown or grimace. Avoid looking so stern, and crack a smile. You’ll be more interesting to look at, and you’ll appear more confident. You might just trick your brain into thinking you’re having fun, which will reflect in your disposition and conversation. Your interviewers want to hire people who would make good colleagues, with whom they’d enjoy having a casual as well as professional conversation. Don’t do yourself a disservice by appearing grumpy or too inward-focused—smile!

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