Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Profile of a Job Seeker: Application and Interviewing

A May 2011 graduate shared her experiences of winning a special education (severe and profound) teaching job in an elementary school. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and teaching concentration in special education.

Here are her responses to questions related to the application and hiring process experience:

What was the application and hiring process?

I submitted an application towards the end of my third student teaching placement (February 2011). The paper application packet included a cover letter, a résumé, transcript, Praxis test scores, three letters of recommendation, and copies of my certifications. The application was not for a specific position or subbing. I wanted to be sure they had my information on file in case a position opened that I was qualified for. I continued to make follow up calls to human resources to keep up with posted openings as well as jobs that may not have been posted. The district invited me to an interview at the end of June. I interviewed on July 5. This was the only interview in the hiring process. The interview did not include written essays, a demonstration lesson or proctored writing sample.

Tell me about the interview for the position.

The interview lasted 45-60 minutes. I interviewed with the assistant special education director and the school principal in the school principal’s office.

The interview began with these questions:

“What are your strengths?”

“What is an area of weakness for you?”

“What experience do you have that qualifies you for this position?”

Since I completed all three of my student teaching experiences in this district, many questions were based on situations encountered during student teaching and included interactions with parents.

Towards the end of the interview, the assistant special education director asked if I had any questions for him. I asked “How will the district work their mentor program with the new State Department of Education induction program where mentors from the state meet with Step 1 teachers? “Will I get a teacher as a mentor from the school department?” Although he did not have an answer for me at that moment, I learned later that I would only have a mentor from the State Department of Education.

Did you use a hiring portfolio during the interview? If so, how did you use it?

Yes, I used my hiring portfolio (printed binder). I referenced my portfolio throughout the interview. The assistant special education director also looked through my portfolio during the interview. Before leaving the interview, I provided each of the interviewers a folder with a CD e-portfolio, my résumé and cover letter.

What worked particularly well for you during the interview or other aspect of the hiring process?

I felt over-prepared. Before the interview, I worked with a teacher from another district who has sat on many teaching job interview committees. We developed questions and detailed answers to typical interview questions. We worked together for almost four hours. We created a study sheet and role-played. She provided feedback on my practice interviews and helped me understand what worked well and what I could improve. Overall, I understood my material and I was up-to-date on current State Department of Education evaluations and policy. I knew specific “buzz” words that pertained to the district. I knew teaching strategies used in the district’s special education program.

Was there anything you wished you had said/done during the interview or other aspect of the hiring process?

No. To show my capabilities, I brought other work samples created for other severe/profound classrooms where I have worked previously. I explained the materials and why they were created for those specific students. I felt confident in my answers, my portfolio and my materials.

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

Go into an interview feeling over-prepared. I had so much more confidence going into this interview than I felt in previous interviews. Know the position you are applying for so you are able to tailor your portfolio for that position. It is crucial to do your research. Scour the school and district website, know the population, meet with people who may know “inside” information about the district. And, use those “buzz” words throughout your interview. Show what you know about the school and district. It’s not only impressive but also demonstrates that you prepared well and that you did your homework. Also, don’t be afraid to sell yourself. Explain every experience you may have had in your field and use those experiences as examples to demonstrate what you know and what you have learned.

How did the course and guide “Winning a Teaching Position in Any Job Market” help you?

I truly feel the course helped me to win this teaching position and gain more experience in my field. I was able to develop professional materials such as my résumé, cover letter and, hiring portfolio. My physical portfolio (printed binder) wowed every interview committee member with whom I have had the pleasure of meeting. I received quite a few compliments on the CD e-portfolios that I provided to interview committee members before I left the interview.