Teacher Interview Questions that Work
Dr. Todd Whitaker says, “The best thing a principal can do to build parent relations is to ensure every student has a phenomenal teacher.” To do this, we can start by hiring the right people. Even before this, we must prepare purposeful interview questions that help draw out an applicants’ philosophy, knowledge, and so much more.
I have been in administration for 10 years and I have been asked by many to share my interview questions. I decided to take a moment to provide just a few questions that reveal much more about a candidate than just how skilled he/she is at interviewing.
On a few of the questions, I will provide an explanation in parenthesis as to the purpose behind such a question. Other questions you can determine for yourself. It’s important to dig deep by asking questions that paint a true picture of what the classroom and more importantly, learning will look, sound, and feel like.
If you are an applicant, I encourage you to read, practice, and respond to these questions before attempting an interview. It will cause you to think more deeply about why you do what you do. My hope is that you will reflect honestly and build confidence in talking about your own pedagogy.
Note: I have determined that the most effective interview questions are the content specific questions. I have shared several examples towards the end of this post.
Philosophy of teaching and learning
1) Do you have a passion for your subject matter? If so, how would I know if I observed your class?
2) If you could create the perfect space for students to learn, what would it look like? What skills and knowledge would teachers need?
3) What is the number one factor that contributes to student learning?
1) Describe how you have used technology to go beyond your classroom walls and tap into outside expertise?
2) Describe how your students have used technology to raise awareness, start conversations, change minds, drive change, or make a difference?
3) When planning for technology integration, which comes first, the curriculum or the technology?
1) Do you agree with this statement? Giving a student a zero teaches responsibility. If so, explain why? If you disagree with this statement, explain why?
2) Think about your own classroom and list your top two purposes for taking grades.
1) List three ways you provide specific feedback to students during the time of the learning.
2) How do you embed formative assessment and quality instruction simultaneously?
1) Think about a recent lesson in which you planned, prepared, and executed differentiated instruction. Describe the differences in the student outcomes.
1) What was the best question you asked your students during your last lesson taught?
2) Think about a recent lesson. When you were moving around the room, what did you hear your student’s say or do that demonstrated understanding of the learning goal?
1) A student begins being somewhat disruptive and interfering with other students’ ability to learn during your instructional delivery. How do you respond?
Part B) Three minutes later, the same student begins disrupting again. How do you respond?
Part C) Five minutes later, the same student begins disrupting again. How do you respond? (By painting a picture of real classroom challenges, the interviewee can learn how many effective strategies a teacher possesses regarding classroom management.)
2) Describe the last five minutes of your class?
1) “Kid’s Can’t Learn From Teachers They Don’t Like” Rita Pierson Explain why you agree or disagree with this quote.
2) If I were to ask your most challenging student to describe you in three words, how would they respond?
1) Effective teacher collaboration goes beyond friendly cooperation and the informal exchange of ideas and information. What must effective teacher collaboration include?
Continuous Professional Growth
1) Describe an example of when you implemented a new instructional strategy. How did you learn the new strategy? Describe the timeframe between the time you were introduced to this new idea and implementation.
2) What have you read or studied recently that led to a change in your classroom?
1) State three different reasons you have contacted a parent this semester.
1) What role have parents played in your classroom?
2) Think about a student who struggled in your class. How did you motivate the parent to become involved in their child’s education? Be specific.
1) What does it mean for students to “own their learning?”
2) How do you create conditions for simultaneous interaction among your students? How do you sustain this interaction?
Content specific (Upper elementary examples… easy to tweak for any grade level)
Is 3.5 and 3 r.5 the same? If so, explain why? If not, explain your reasoning. (Believe it or not, this will cause many 5th grade math candidates to think critically. The way in which they demonstrate their reasoning will provide a window into their instructional delivery.)
Describe your top two intervention strategies for promoting student reading fluency? (Many teachers will struggle thinking of one effective strategy, however, great teachers will struggle listing only two.)
Because vocabulary knowledge is critical to reading comprehension, describe your most effective method in helping students gain a deep understanding of vocabulary related to your subject matter. (Copying definitions from the back of the book is not what I’m hoping to hear, therefore, a candidate who understands how students learn will crave such a question.)
Describe a science lab you would use with your students to demonstrate the differences among conduction, convection, and radiation. Be specific. (Any applicant can say they believe in inquiry based learning, however, any 6 th grade science applicant who understands inquiry based learning will be more than specific in responding to such a question.)
What historical figure do you believe to be most influential in the winning of the revolutionary war? Explain why? (Most social studies candidates will respond George Washington and his effective leadership; however, great teachers with strong content knowledge might just surprise you!)
How do you get your students to think like a historian or scientist or mathematician or author or etc., during the process of learning? (Relevant and authentic learning is critical to instilling a passion for learning. Only the best educators who actually incorporate this type of learning can answer such a question.)
Questions that reveal much more than the candidate might think!
1) If a teacher could choose their class size and were paid $3000 per student, what would your class size be? What was your reasoning? (Many teachers choose 33 because it adds up to $99,000. Great teachers (on average) have responded 15… because I am most effective teaching 15 students. This question reveals: Is the candidate more interested in dollars or making a difference?)
2) Who do you believe to be most responsible for student learning? A) The student B) The teacher C) The parent? Explain your reasoning. (I have experienced a combination of all three. However, the explanation of reasoning will many times reveal how the candidate sees their role in student learning.)
3) How do you feel when a student does not meet a deadline? (By asking the candidate to describe a specific emotion, the candidate will reveal much more honestly than simply asking, do you believe there is a deadline for learning? in which most candidates respond without much thought…. no.)
I hope these interview questions sparks your curiosity and causes you to think and even want to design even better questions. Conducting an interview is an important and serious act. If the interview results in a recommendation for hire, the impact on student learning will be significant one way or the other.