Thursday, July 7, 2011

Profile of a Job Seeker - Applications and Interviews

This week I heard from a job seeker who interviewed for two positions: middle school mathematics teacher in one district and high school mathematics teacher position in another district. He graduated in May 2011 with a degree in secondary education and mathematics. He shared his experiences with applying for job and interviewing. And, he provided some helpful advice for other job applicants.

When comparing the experiences, I noticed similarities and differences in the districts' application processes and interviews.

Here are several similarities:
  • Both were non-urban districts.
  • Both hiring committee contained members with similar roles (e.g., principal, vice principal, math curriculum coordinator or department head). There were no parents, community members, or students on the committee.
  • The application requirements were similar: cover letter, résumé, letters of recommendation, and transcript. There were no essay questions, proctored writing samples, or demonstration lessons.
  • Scheduling of interviews occurred about two weeks following submission of application.
  • The committee provided similar opening and closing interview questions.
  • Both committees asked interview questions focusing on classroom management, technology, and parent-guardian communication.
  • Although not required, the job seeker’s printed and electronic hiring portfolios were used.
  • Both interviews lasted ten-minutes longer than originally scheduled.


Here are several differences:

  • The districts were in two different states (Rhode Island and Massachusetts).
  • The districts used different types of applications (Middle School: paper; High School: online-electronic).
  • The districts scheduled different length of interviews. (Middle School: 30 minutes, High School: 40 minutes).
  • The committees asked different interview questions. (Middle School: 7; High School: 11)
  • The committees differed in their interest in the job seeker’s hiring portfolio. (Middle School: committee asked to view his portfolio; High School: committee did not ask to view)


Below are details about the two positions, hiring processes and the job seeker’s responses to my questions:


MIDDLE SCHOOL MATH POSITION

Application Deadline: June 10, 2011
Submitted Application: June 6, 2011
Selected for Interview: June 21, 2011
Interviewed for Position: June 29, 2011
Offered the position: Shortly after June 29, 2011. The offer is contingent upon passing the state teacher exam in July.


What was the application process?

I mailed paper applications to the district office on June 6 (deadline was June 10). I submitted the application, a cover letter, résumé, three letters of reference, and a transcript. I was invited to a 20-minute interview on June 21. The interview was scheduled on June 29th.


Tell me about the interview for the position.

The interview lasted 30 minutes. I interviewed with the principal, vice principal, and mathematics curriculum coordinator in the principal’s office. I met with the department head after the interview for a brief, informal conversation and tour of the building. This was the only interview. The interview did not include a demonstration lesson or proctored writing sample.


The committee asked to view my hiring portfolio and passed it around the table. I also used it multiple times. When I was asked if there was anything I would like to point out, I mentioned the award I won in my undergraduate career. When asked about parent communication and involvement, I opened to my parent/guardian communication section containing specific examples where I communicated with parents during student teaching. I also provided the committee with a CD and a sheet of paper containing a link to my web-based hiring portfolio.


Later, on the phone, the principal told me that she viewed my electronic hiring portfolio and was very impressed.


The smaller, three-person committee made it easier for me to balance the face-to-face interaction with each interviewer. They also really liked the magnets clips with a personal brand (logo) I created to clip together the cover letters and résumés.


What interview questions did the hiring committee ask?

1. Is there anything you'd like to point out in particular on your résumé and why are you a good fit for our school?

2. Describe your strengths and weaknesses as an educator.

3. Discuss methods of discipline and classroom management within a middle school classroom.

4. Discuss how you will involve and communicate with parents and guardians and why this is significant.

5. How do you use and implement technology within your classroom to enhance learning?

6. What questions do you have for us?


What would you have done differently during the interview?

I could have discussed in more detail how educational technology enhanced student learning. My response to question #5 (above) morphed into a list of technology used within the classroom and how it was used. I did not explain how it enhanced student learning. Also, a few of the examples I discussed throughout the interview related to my high school student teaching placement. While I’m sure each employer is interested in my entire educational experience, most of my responses should have been geared towards my middle school experiences and passion.


What advice do you have for those who are applying for teaching jobs?

Letters of Reference

Secure letters before you leave your student teaching placements. You never know what may happen. Your CT’s could go on vacation or have a family emergency.


For this job application, I was forced to wait until the last minute to submit my materials because my middle school cooperating teacher had not yet provided a signed letter of recommendation. Although she submitted a letter of recommendation on SchoolSpring, she did not provide me with a signed printed copy. Since this was a paper-based application for a middle school position, I really needed her recommendation. Unfortunately, I could not contact her. Consequently, I submitted a different letter of recommendation with my application.


Networking

Make connections! I found out about this out-of-state position because the principal at my high school student teaching placement was formerly the principal at this middle school and currently serving on this community’s school board. The principal at my high school student teaching placement observed me twice during student teaching and developed very high level of respect for me. I never imagined he had such powerful connections with another district, especially a district that is really phenomenal and would be a pleasure to work in.


Teacher Exams

Prepare for the job search by taking required state teacher exams in surrounding states before graduating and submitting job applications.


HIGH SCHOOL MATH POSITION

Application Deadline: “Posted Until Filled”
Submitted Application: June 10, 2011
Selected for Interview: June 19, 2011
Interviewed for Position: July 5, 2011
Offered the position: No decision at this time


What was the application process?

I submitted an online application at SchoolSpring.com on June 10. I submitted a customized cover letter, three references, and letters of recommendation included. SchoolSpring showcases your entire profile for the employer, so the high school received my basic information, résumé, transcript, Praxis scores, certifications, languages, and extra-curricular activities. I was invited for a 30-minute interview on June 19. The interview was scheduled on July 5.


Tell me about the interview for the position.

The interview lasted 40 minutes. I interviewed with principal, assistant principal, mathematics department chair, and a mathematics teacher in a conference room. I met with the department head after the interview for a quick informal conversation and tour of the building. This was the only interview so far. There will be one more interview with the Superintendent before a decision is made. The interview did not include a demonstration lesson or onsite proctored writing sample.


The committee did not ask to view my hiring portfolio, but I used it multiple times. When asked how I differentiate instruction, I opened to my unit planning section and discussed the multiple activities to address a variety of learning styles. I also opened to my lesson plan section when asked about technology and shared a graphing calculator activity I taught to my AP Calculus class during student teaching. When asked if there was anything else I would like to share, I opened to my résumé and mentioned the award I won in my undergraduate career. And finally, I provided the committee with a CD and a sheet of paper containing a link to my hiring portfolio.


I used humor as an icebreaker and the committee loved it. They were laughing and having a good time. They also really liked the magnet clips (with personal branding – logo) I created to clip together the cover letters and résumés.


Out of the seven interviews I have been on, this was my best interview. The school had a very relaxed feel to it and the interview committee was in “summer attire” which made it less intimidating. Also, since the school was not at the top of my priority list, this helped lower the stress. The stakes weren’t as high.


What interview questions did the hiring committee ask?

1. Describe a lesson you’re particularly proud of.

2. We don’t use books in our math department, as we prefer to think out and plan units based on core concepts. Have you worked without a book? Explain.

3. Highlight one of the most important things you learned from your student teaching experience.

4. This department is a team. We share resources and expertise. We have teachers that provide business or science expertise or expertise in reaching students who are a little rougher around the edges. What strength would you bring to this team?

5. Give a few examples to illustrate how you have differentiated instruction in the classroom.

6. Give a few examples to explain how you have modified instruction or created lessons for students with ADHD.

7. What technology (e.g., graphing calculators, geometers, sketchpad, internet sites, student island as a follow up) have you used in your teaching experience.

8. Briefly describe your classroom management strategies.

9. What techniques would you use to create or maintain on-going communication with parents?

10. Is there anything else you’d like to share with the panel that was not covered in the questions?

11. Do you have any questions for the panel?


What would you have done differently during the interview?

When I was discussing how I differentiated instruction, I gave only one example and elaborated on it. I could have shortened my response and provided a few additional examples.


What advice do you have for those who are applying for teaching jobs?

Although the committee may not ask you to view your hiring portfolio, there are opportunities during the interview to use it as additional evidence or a concrete example.


NOTE TO READERS

Email me (mkniseley2@gmail.com) your success story! Provide the following information:

1. What was the application and hiring process?

2. Tell me about the interview for the position.

3. What interview questions did the hiring committee ask?

4. What advice do you have for those who are applying for teaching jobs?

5. Indicate the title of position (grade/content area/specialty) school, district, community, and state.