Teachers who start and end a 30 plus year career in one school are a rare type of breed. Most teachers will have moved within their district at least once. To a lesser extent, many teachers give up their tenured position to obtain a teaching job, one that provides a better teacher salary, at another district, private, or charter institution. Then there are teachers who have no choice, and must look for teaching jobs online, after being “pink slipped,”, i.e., dismissed due to a reduction in the teaching force. Whatever the reason may be for your need to land your next teaching job, I have seven strategies that will make you one viable candidate easy for any Principal to select.
I interviewed over a hundred prospective teachers in my ten years as an assistant principal and the ones with the following attributes almost always got the job:
- An impressive application. Do not confuse having a robust resume with having a robust application. The two are not the same. Unfortunately, many prospective teachers do the minimal amount when completing their online application. They shortchange themselves by not adding previous employment unrelated to teaching (veteran teachers). They respond to online questions (the ones with text boxes) poorly, and sometimes write as little as one paragraph. There’s no need for an essay, but at the same time, you must write so that the reader (the Principals sifting through all of the applicants) is drawn to your voice and places your application in the “interview” pile.
- A resume full of active verbs. What have you done? You will want to write not only about your responsibilities (e.g., Taught 10th grade World History…) but also what you did that helps you stand out from the interview pool. For example, “Organized a field trip for all of my classes, including advocating for my trip to be approved by the Assistant Superintendent.” Be sure to include whatever projects you completed for your previous Principal and state the outcome: “Piloted a STEM program at the request of my Principal, and had 10 students successfully submit a prototype for a state contest.”
- Know the school. Know the leaders. It boggles my mind how many teachers I’ve interviewed who knew very little about the school. You must go online and do your research. Also, Google the Principal and see if you can find positive info you can use at a key point in the interview: “Before I get started answering your first question, thanks for selecting me for this interview, and congratulations on starting your third year here at Valley School, Principal Snow. And how is the school-wide literacy initiative going?”
- Work on yourself prior to the search. If you know you will be looking for a teaching job at the end of the year, start learning something new and potentially beneficial for a school, as soon as possible. Sign-up for Spanish at the local Junior College. Start your M.Ed. Seems risky but the competition is fierce today.
- Answer the questions! If you’ve ever watched politicians in a debate, you’ll want to erase the memory from your mind. Do not answer questions like politicians, circling around the target, shifting the attention to your agenda. Focus on the keywords of each question, or ask for the question to be repeated if you have to. Also, be succinct and confident (not arrogant or hesitant) with your answers.
- Enjoy the moment. Your energy during the interview will either add to the panel’s already crushed and tired spirit or liven it up. So smile, make a couple of jokes, and let the panel know what you’re about (your personality) as much as possible.
- Get amazing reference letters. Although writing a masterpiece cover letter is important, even more important is what others say about you. Many teachers make the mistake of settling for whatever their references decide to write about them. Many don’t think to reply with suggestions when they are emailed a draft version. Always reply. If your Principal or department chair has written a cookie cutter reference letter about you, suggest how to make it more particular about you. You don’t have to be made a saint, but if your reference letters are blah, blah, blah, they will do nothing for you.
With these seven strategies, you are sure to, stand out from the hundreds of other applicants competing for a teaching job, get in the door for an interview, and land that teaching job. Also be mindful that sometimes school leaders go with candidates that best fit the department’s and school’s needs, not necessarily ones that have the total package, so to speak. Good luck!