This Monday, I will be presenting to a group of Education Undergraduate students at the University of Lethbridge, as part of a workshop series developed by the EUS (Education Undergraduate Society), focusing on the topic of how to make the successful transition from student to teacher and secure that first teaching position. As a principal, I have been involved in a number of teacher interviews and hirings, as well as perused hundreds of resumes. There are a ton of resources out there regarding tips for the resume, interview and portfolio (in fact I was just tweeted a great blog today from Shannon in Ottawa regarding Interviewing Tips for New Teachers) but I wanted to point towards some things I’ve experienced that may not be conventional but that have left an impression on me as a principal. Here’s what I’m considering sharing with the students (I will post up a link to my presentation following the workshop, as it is still being developed). Let me know what you think!
1. Start building an educational digital footprint…now – throughout their pre-service program, Education students are engaged in fantastic collaborative work, producing high quality assignments and involved in some great educational discussions. Find a way to get that online now! Comment on blogs, twitter your thoughts, starting building a PLN…building that positive digital footprint is important in schools today. When I narrow my search down to the short-list and do a quick Google search, I’m just as disappointed to find nothing than I am to find something inappropriate. How great would it be to discover how that person has grown over the course of their education and the impact they have already had in schools, as well as see their technology adeptness first-hand!
2. Build the blog…now – very closely related to my first point. Not only does this support a digital footprint, this is proof of a reflective educator, as well as someone confident enough to be sharing their thoughts online. I have a student in their first year of education who has developed a blog (Reflections from a Future Teacher) who is going to have a lot of “educational matter” present by the time she graduates. What a great way to supplement a professional portfolio!
3. Make the resume unique – when I’m looking at 50+ interviews for a position (and the trend is not showing any decrease in that level of competition), a resume that stands out from the norm always catch my eye. I would give a very long second look to this resume just based on its appearance (and may even consider the interview based on the design alone – anyone capable of putting together something this unique may have something really special to bring to a school!
4. Get reference letters…from more than teachers – I may get in trouble for this but the reference letters that people would include from their cooperating teachers never held that much weight for me. This is someone the student teacher has worked with, developed a relationship with and most teachers are going to write a glowing reference for that person. However, if a principal wrote a reference or a professor, I know that something must have stood out for them. I also put more stock in what another principal has to say as they will often include a statement like “I would hire this person for my school if I had a position…”.
Prior to the Interview
5. Email the Principal – once “the call” has been made and the initial euphoria of getting an interview subsides, email the principal to say “I’m really looking forward to meeting you on _________. I’m sending along a link to my (insert blog, statement of beliefs, some kind of online content). I never get a chance to really look at a portfolio at an interview (and when I do it’s usually just a courtesy for the hard work I know has gone into it) but usually will have time to look at something prior to the interview. Dropping off the physical copy of the portfolio rarely happens…
6. Get to know the school – visit the website and get to know the mission, vision, how many classes there are, what’s coming up, etc. I’m always impressed in an interview when someone sneaks in a comment “you must be excited about the ______ happening on Friday” or something similar that shows they have found out about the school. Finding a sneaky way to slip it into the interview is always good (I’ve had it happen twice…and I hired them both).
7. Have questions…written down – nothing disappoints me more in an interview when I ask the question “Do you have any questions” and the person has nothing or pauses to eventually say “nope, I think you answered them all”. On the flip side, I am always impressed to see a person respond to this question by pulling out a piece of paper with questions already prepared. This shows me someone who is organized, who has been thinking about the position and is really wanting the position. I then get blown out of the water if they ask me a difficult question such as “what do you feel are the three most complimentary things your staff would say about the school?” or “what is your greatest area of improvement that the school is currently addressing?”. I once was asked “what would you see in a classroom if the school was accomplishing its mission?”…and that person also became part of our staff!
8. Prepare handouts – when I interview now, I create “mini-portfolios” to hand out to the interview team (finding out how many will be interviewing beforehand and making enough plus two to bring with me). In this, I include a resume, statement of beliefs, personal highlights (in point form) related to the position, a few reference letters and my most recent evaluation. This gives everyone at the table a chance to look at who you are (bringing the one professional portfolio that gets passed around isn’t always that effective) and then you’re able to reference it in the interview (“you may notice in the reference letter from Professor X that I am able to develop meaningful lessons with clear outcomes”, for example). Again, it also shows someone prepared and organized.
9. Highlight evaluations and reference letters – whether using those handouts, a professional portfolio or an online portfolio, use a highlighter to draw attention to the key points made about you. As an interviewer, my eye will travel instantly to something highlighted and makes these lengthy (and sometimes numerous) documents easier to navigate if looking through quickly (and often interviewers need to process a lot of information at one time.
Following the interview
10. Send a thank you note – I once had someone who I interviewed send a thank you note following the interview (they actually didn’t get the position), thanking me for taking the time to meet with me and share that they were honored to have been short-listed for the position. I can still remember the name of that person and it left a real mark on me. If I ever did (or do in the future) come across that name again when hiring, that single act will heavily influence my decision. I also passed that resume on to two other principals following that, remarking that “you wouldn’t believe what I got following their interview”. An incredibly classy move that shows a lot about a person’s character and would definitely influence any future hirings.
So those are my top 10 unconventional thoughts…as mentioned, there are tons of websites, books and articles that share other elements of the job acquisition process but hopefully this raises a few “I never thought of that!” moments for people.
Would love to hear your feedback!