It’s that time of year again. As a school principal, April was always the month where interviews were happening more and more. Sometimes I already knew positions I was going to need to fill and sometimes I was interviewing just to be ready to snap up a applicant when one potentially did open.
As I talk with educators across the country, I hear the countless anxiety and nerves over “interview season”. What if I say the wrong thing? What things to do I need to look out for? How will I know if I did well? and so many more questions.
And from those who are leading interviews there are always a broad range of ways they’re organized.
So I figured, why not write a blog post for both those groups? And that’s JUST what this is! This post will give those who are heading into interviews a few of my favorite tips and tricks. But it will also give those who are leading the interviews a few more of my favorite reminders! I’m definitely not perfect by any means, but this at least gives you a place to start!
Pointers for those heading into an interview…
Heading into an interview is a stressful experience, I don’t care who you are. We all have a desire deep down to be liked. And we fear, when walking into that interview room, that they won’t like us and we’ll be crushed. These are a few of my tried and true tips that I keep in my mind, and share with educators all the time. These were things I was always looking for when I interviewed potential people to hire.
- Smile – I mean, we might as well start basic right? This may seem like a no-brainer, but when we’re heading into a room and very stressed about an interview, sometimes our face doesn’t show how happy and thankful we are to be there! Walk into the room with a smile on your face. Greet everyone. Thank them for asking you to come in. And remind yourself throughout to smile again and again. People don’t want to work with Oscar the Grouch.
- Avoid one or two word answers, but don’t ramble – When you interview multiple people in a day the ones who stand out were the ones who had fleshed out (without rambling on for hours) answers. I can’t tell you how frustrating it was to interview someone and then they would only answer with a couple words. Be personable. Don’t be afraid to share little pieces of your heart throughout. I’ve been asked, “but how do I know when I’m rambling”….my answer to that is by looking at your committee. If they’re totally checked out (you can ALWAYS tell), then it’s time to stop talking and let them get to the next question!
- Love kids, Love adults – I always said, “I can teach someone how to teach, but I can’t teach someone how to love others”. What do I mean? When hiring people I was first looking for people who I could tell had a true passion for working with others (kids or adults!). So when you go into that interview use that time to really show where your passion for being an educator comes from.
- Put your picture on your resume – ok, this one tends to get controversial in some circles. But let me tell you, when I was interviewing 10-15 applicants in a day (YES this actually happens) they start to blend together after a while. But I LOVED when someone would hand me their resume and it had their picture in the top corner. Lifesaver! This one is not a make or break thing, but it meant a lot to me.
- Bring Questions – At some point in every interview the final question tends to be “do you have any questions for us?” and it was always shocking to me when applicants would say “no”. WHAT?! How could you want to work with us and you have NO questions?!?!? In the moment, your brain may not be working right with all the stress. So don’t be afraid to write questions down that you may have before you even get in the room. Bring that notebook/paper with you. When the time comes, pull it out and read from it! No one will look down on that.
- Thank them later – It was always impressive to me when an applicant would send an email or write a note (!!) a day or two later thanking me for the interview. Talk about a nice touch and shows that you go above and beyond!
There are many other ones I could give you, but if I was thinking of my Top 6, those would be it! Check out this printable to keep with you.
Click HERE to access.
Pointers for those leading an interview…
I can’t tell you how many questions I get from people who have never organized an interview before. I really don’t think THIS skill is taught enough. Over the course of my years as principal (when you have to staff an entire school your first year!), I’ve done over 500 (!!) interviews! Phew. It wears me out just remembering. So below are a few tips I’ve learned along the way that really helped me out….
- Create an interview team – Why oh why did this take me so long to learn? For a while I conducted all the interviews with my admin team. It felt efficient and easy! Then I finally reached the understanding of how powerful it was to empower members of my staff to join the interview team (yeah, I can be a little hardheaded and some lessons take longer than others!). Who did I invite? Well there were always two groups of people I invited. 1) those who were natural leaders and always volunteering to help out and I knew I could trust their opinions and 2) those who were incredibly intuitive about others, but were more introverted and didn’t always see how valuable their voices were. Most important I chose people who I knew had values that deeply aligned with where we were wanting to head as a school. And then, after we got comfortable there were also times I invited students to be on the committee! Talk about powerful!
- Make it comfortable, smile, share – this was a lesson I learned from my buddy Jimmy Casas. The people you’re interviewing are stressed when they enter that room. So make it as comfortable as possible for them. You want to see them at their BEST! Lighting, seating, the way people are organized, all matters! But you know what also adds a special little touch? Having a small bottle of water for ready at their seat. Also, for goodness sake please smile. Be personable. Welcome the person in, be inviting, and make sure you let your interview team know they should be doing the same. Make sure everyone in the room introduces themselves and is friendly! And finally, share the question load. Plan ahead with your team and spread out the questions so everyone gets to ask something. Yes, as the principal I led the interview, but I also allowed everyone to ask something.
- Questions Matter – So if you’re someone who has sat in or been to a lot of interviews you know that it seems like everyone pulls their questions from the same book. BORING. I learned very quickly that there are “professional interviewers” out there who do GREAT in an interview but are actually terrible teachers! So how did I try to weed them out? Well I asked many of your typical questions (that they often had very rehearsed answers for), but then I tried to ask questions that would hopefully let me get to know them a little deeper. What were some of my favorite “different” questions?
1. If you were to write a book about your life/career so far, what would you title it and why?
2. What is the biggest adventure you’ve ever been on?
3. What would you bring to our team that would make us better as a whole?
4. What are you doing to make yourself the best overall person you can be?
5. When life gets stressful how do you cope? What are your favorite ways to decompress?
- Take Notes – it may seem like a no-brainer but I take a ton of notes during interviews. I tend to use my computer because I can type faster than I write. But I always let them know, “you’re going to hear me typing a lot when you’re talking, but I love taking notes to remember you by, so don’t be worried!”.
- Contact even the denials – oh man. This frustrated me so much as an applicant. When you’d interview and NEVER hear back. Please, please, please, even if that person totally bombed the interview, always give them a call or email and let them know you won’t be moving forward but you appreciate their time.
- End the interview when necessary – this one may be a little controversial but here goes….there will always be some applicants that you know right away after the second or third question, aren’t going to be a good fit for your team. My personal opinion was that there is no need to drag out an interview and ask every question on your list. If you know quickly that they are not going to be a fit, don’t waste their time. Ask 4-6 questions, thank them for their time, and let them head on their way. You can call them later that day/evening and let them know they aren’t a good fit. But my personal opinion is that there is no need to waste everyone’s time on an applicant you KNOW isn’t going to be selected.
There are many other tips I could give you, but if I was thinking of my Top 6, those would be it! Check out this printable to keep with you.
Click HERE to access.
Is this post and lists all inclusive? No! Will you agree with all of them? Probably not! But these worked for me and I wanted to share with YOU!
What’s something I left off? Share in the comments below!
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