Teacher Interview Questions that Work

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 8.24.15 PMDr. 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?

Technology Integration

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?

Grading

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.

Assessment

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?

Differentiated Instruction

1)  Think about a recent lesson in which you planned, prepared, and executed differentiated instruction. Describe the differences in the student outcomes.

Instructional Effectiveness

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?

Classroom Management

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?

Teacher-Student Relationships

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?

Teacher Collaboration

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? 

Parent Communication

1)  State three different reasons you have contacted a parent this semester.

Parental Involvement

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.

Student Engagement

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 6th 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.

Something to think about, Shawn

48 Comments

  1. Steven Dopheide said:

    I love this! Thanks so much for sharing.

    April 7, 2015
    Reply
    • Shawn Blankenship said:

      You are welcome Steven! I hope you were able to take something away from the examples.

      April 7, 2015
      Reply
  2. J. Range said:

    Wow, these are great questions that will help flesh out the thinking of candidates. I can’t wait to tweak them for my own purposes and use them in my next round of teacher and substitute interviews. I am also going to use some of them in my evaluation and goal setting sessions with teachers, as it gets them thinking and reflecting on their own practice. Thanks for sharing them.

    April 7, 2015
    Reply
    • sblankenship said:

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m glad that you recognized the benefit of using such questions with your current teachers to spark their thinking. Cognitive coaching is a skill I have been working very hard at improving and incorporating with my teachers after observations. It has really helped me in designing purposeful interview questions.

      Good Luck J. Range and happy interviewing! Stay connected, Shawn

      April 7, 2015
      Reply
  3. Brian Downing said:

    Great questions here! Thank you so much for sharing. I’m always looking for ways to improve our interview and hiring process. Thanks again!

    April 8, 2015
    Reply
    • sblankenship said:

      Thanks for reading and commenting Brian. Never stop improving! This is how you and your team will become great.

      I also want to share a quick tip that I didn’t include in the post: When asking such thought provoking questions, it’s important to allow wait time (just as we would with our students.) Candidates may be nervous, therefore, providing wait time can allow the applicant to think and process the question and lead to an explicit response. You may want to pause and come back to the question, but never let the candidate off the hook.

      Good luck Brian

      April 8, 2015
      Reply
  4. Andy Hart said:

    As a prospective administrator, I see these questions as a great resource to use when I begin interviewing candidates for teaching positions. Any prospective interview questions available for future administrators?

    Thank you

    April 8, 2015
    Reply
    • sblankenship said:

      Hi Andy,

      William Parker provides some here: http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/11438

      I have not interviewed any candidates for an assistant principal or principal position in several years. However, my questions would be geared toward, how do you foster a culture of learning? I would hope to reveal how “what’s best for kids” is at the forefront of every decision. Before the candidate exited the room, I would hope to know and understand not only what exactly his/her vision would feel like, but also if the candidate could make it a reality.

      Tip: I always end my interview with a short digital window that articulates exactly what my vision looks, sounds, and feels like. A few years ago, I left this lasting impression of opening a new 5th/6th Intermediate School.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbJ7_TZciGE#t=15

      I was offered the job!

      Good luck and stay connected, Shawn

      April 8, 2015
      Reply
  5. Last year my interview committee put our questions on 4X5 notecards and asked the candidate to follow along as the question was asked and to flip the card each time we asked a new question. This helped the candidate to relax and we were able to stop repeating full questions or phrases.

    April 8, 2015
    Reply
    • Shawn Blankenship said:

      Thanks Kevin for sharing. That’s a great idea. When creating conditions so that a candidate feels comfortable can better lead to an accurate and explicit response. I had an interview once in which the employer handed me the questions about 15 minutes prior to the interview. As I was waiting in the front office, I was able to get my thoughts together and think about specific examples that I could use to validate my response. As a result, I felt comfortable and confident.

      Thanks again Kevin and stay connected.

      April 10, 2015
      Reply
  6. Donna Hulbert said:

    Great intuitive questions that I definitely will use!

    April 9, 2015
    Reply
    • Shawn Blankenship said:

      Thank you Donna for commenting. Please comment and share your experience once using these (or similar) questions. I would love to hear your takeaway from the interview.

      Stay connected, Shawn

      April 10, 2015
      Reply
  7. Rebekah Linton said:

    Hello! I am a student in EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. I think this is a fantastic post for interviewers and those who are on the side of answering these questions. Going through these questions really made me think about what kind of things I should be focusing on as a build my career as an educator. This will definitely be useful in the future!

    April 9, 2015
    Reply
  8. Shawn Blankenship said:

    Rebekeh, thank you so much for responding to this post. You made my day! My intention for this post was much more than simply providing questions for interviews. My hope was that aspiring teachers would read, think, and reflect on each question. That they might think to oneself and honestly answer each question from within. Remember, a reflective practitioner always questions their own pedagogy .

    Thanks again and good luck! Shawn

    April 10, 2015
    Reply
  9. Wayne said:

    At the risk of sounding negative, although a reality, why do some administrators and school boards go through the interviewing and questioning process when the vacancy has already been politically pre-selected! Why waste peoples’ valuable time and resources.

    April 24, 2015
    Reply
  10. Sung Lee said:

    Hi Shawn, I enjoyed reading your article and the well thought out interview questions. I would like to invite you onto my education podcast “Inspiring Educators” to further discuss and share your thoughts and experience. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks and keep up the good work! -Sung

    May 1, 2015
    Reply
  11. […] It’s May, which means that school districts across the country are seeing a shift in their staff. Some teachers are retiring or resigning, some new positions are being created and filled, and in unfortunate situations, other positions are being eliminated.  As a Supervisor of Mathematics for a high school and its two feeder middle schools, I have the privilege and opportunity to interview many candidates for these open positions.  If you’re interested in what I’ve found to be a great set of questions for teacher interviews, read this post from Connected Principals. […]

    May 14, 2015
    Reply
  12. Cynthia Gordon said:

    These are great questions that allow administration to see if potential candidates can apply knowledge of teaching practices and strategies. In Ontario, hiring is heavily influenced by seniority and the interview process occurs often in our board. Teachers need to be able to think on their feet and adapt and a good interview can show what the applicant is capable of.

    May 22, 2015
    Reply
    • Shawn Blankenship said:

      Thank you for commenting. I believe ‘seniority’ alone is not enough. I believe the best organizations, sports teams, businesses, and schools who are highly successful, puts the best person for the job above all else. A person that will exceed expectations, is extremely knowledgable, will dedicate his/her full potential, and is willing to learn, grow, and improve is more important than time served. Of course if you hire well and retain outstanding professionals, then seniority may be the best candidate.

      I believe the best candidate will be revealed by asking the right questions during an interview.

      May 29, 2015
      Reply
  13. Thanks Shawn, I also follow Todd’s advice when hiring. I really like the question regarding receiving money per student. Very interesting. I have also asked, “someone in your department is continually coming to you complaining about leadership or your colleagues, how do you respond?

    June 24, 2015
    Reply
  14. Kelsey M. said:

    I was recently asked some of these questions during an interview. I did not accept the job offer as it turned out to be a one year appointment and required relocation. (Had it been a more permanent situation, I would have leapt at the opportunity.) Fortunately, I am interviewing somewhere else tomorrow and was doing some last minute preparation for the Q&A session of the interview and came across your post. The questions are thought provoking and good preparation as I am trying to be concise with answers while demonstrating my knowledge. Thanks for the post.

    July 28, 2015
    Reply
  15. Sue Connelly said:

    After being a teacher for many years, I always look for new ideas and questions that lead to opportunities. I am going to print these to share with my team. Self reflection is a great tool for personal growth. Thank you! Great growth mindset questions for all!

    March 5, 2016
    Reply
  16. Jennifer Brockwell said:

    Excellent questions! The hiring process is so critical and can be difficult to know for sure if what they say matches what it looks like in the classroom. I have brought candidates back for a second interview to teach a lesson in the classroom, that has been effective. Thank you for sharing!

    March 13, 2016
    Reply
    • Shawn Blankenship said:

      Thank you Jennifer for taking the time to comment. Anytime you have the opportunity to have a candidate teach a lesson, do it! There is not a better way to reveal what a candidate knows and is able to do. If you don’t have the opportunity, it’s always a good idea to present a content specific concept and ask the candidate to pretend the interview committee are their ‘students’ and to teach the concept as if they had never heard it before. Strong candidates with content expertise will jump on such an opportunity. Stay connected!

      March 14, 2016
      Reply
  17. Heidi Cook said:

    Thank you for sharing these great questions. I think they will help us this hiring season as we try to find the truly great teachers among the many qualified candidates. I followed the link from your recent post “How Great Teacher Candidates Interview Differently,” which I highly recommend to candidates!

    April 3, 2016
    Reply
    • sblankenship said:

      Thanks Heidi for reading! You are so correct… they’re so many qualified candidates out there. The trick is to design the right questions to determine whether a candidate will be the right “fit” for our school. Great teachers make great schools. Let’s find them!

      April 4, 2016
      Reply
  18. Lynn Chow said:

    Hi Shawn, What a great resource you have provided! I read both of your articles this morning on Teacher Interviews and Interview questions. I will be sharing these with the teachers I support in our Clear Credential program. With reference to the interview questions, I would like to add that teacher candidates across the nation need to show knowledge and skill in working with English Learner students and Special needs students that are also a part of every classroom and school community. Students learning English need teachers that are both aware of these students, and skilled at integrating appropriate strategies into every lesson to ensure they are grasping the content and applying it. I’d like to offer some questions related to finding highly qualified teachers for the classrooms of today’s diverse communities:
    * Language Supports: How do you use measures of English language proficiency to make instructional decisions?
    * How do you support your students’ development of academic language and English language development?
    *In what ways do you differentiate instruction based on your students’ culture, levels of acculturation, proficiency in English, and/or prior schooling?
    * Inclusive Environments: In what ways do you support students from all ethnic, racial, socio-economic, cultural, academic, and linguistic backgrounds; gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation?
    What instructional materials and resources do you use to instruct special populations, including advanced learners?

    April 4, 2016
    Reply
    • sblankenship said:

      Wow!!! Thanks Lynn for sharing and I could not agree more! The well-designed questions that you included within your comment are extremely important in every school this day and age. I will definitely be adding them to my list. I am so glad you shared your comment. Many times this type of questioning is overlooked and it’s time we make it a priority.

      My favorite comment so far!!! Thanks Lynn

      April 4, 2016
      Reply
  19. Jeanine said:

    I wish I had these questions a month ago when I was interviewing. I will definitely file them away for the next interview!

    April 4, 2016
    Reply
    • sblankenship said:

      Thanks Jeanine. Please comment and share your experience in incorporating these questions. I would love to hear your feedback.

      Stay connected, Shawn

      April 4, 2016
      Reply
  20. Taajah said:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article and look forward to using this to prepare teacher candidates!

    April 4, 2016
    Reply
    • sblankenship said:

      Thanks for commenting Taajah. Follow me on twitter @blankenship_s and contact me anytime if you would like for me to Skype in and share from a principal’s viewpoint.

      Stay connected, Shawn

      April 4, 2016
      Reply
  21. Alecia Beck Cobb said:

    Thank you for the interview questions. I have passed them on to the administrators that I work with. It is so critical to get the best candidates possible. These questions get responses from the heart and not just the usual set answers that we get from interviewees. It is a must to know if the applicant can build relationships with students, teachers, and parents.

    April 6, 2016
    Reply
    • Shawn Blankenship said:

      Thank you for commenting Alecia. I agree, building strong relationships with students, colleagues, and parents are the foundation to an effective educator. It’s so important to ask the right questions to expose the right information to ensure a teacher candidate is the ‘right fit’ for any school’s culture.

      April 10, 2016
      Reply
  22. Kasey said:

    I will be interviewing soon and these are great to see. I am interested in how you would like the questions answered about a challenging behavior that reoccurs after 3 and 5 minutes.

    April 20, 2016
    Reply
  23. Kris Cody-Johnson said:

    We just used your “student is disruptive… five minutes later… and five minutes later” question. This was an excellent question because the third layer of response did indeed discriminate between candidates. I also found the specificity you suggest— “Think of last week’s lessons”– powerful. Thanks so much for sharing! Since we are high school level, we had students on the panel and noted who addressed them at all, and who specifically asked them questions. Thanks for a great discussion start for our committee!

    April 27, 2016
    Reply
    • Shawn Blankenship said:

      Thank you for sharing your experience and I am pumped that some of the questions worked for you and your committee. I am impressed that you have students on the panel! Any time you can involve students (interviews, professional development, strategic planning), I believe you are on the right track. Who better to listen to than our students? Keep up the great work!

      Thanks again for sharing, Shawn

      May 2, 2016
      Reply
  24. CHRISTEL AULD said:

    Nice writing ! For my two cents , if your company needs a Residential Lease Agreement 2 , my company filled out and faxed a fillable version here https://goo.gl/fFKsUF.

    October 9, 2016
    Reply
  25. SUSAN T. APAREJO said:

    Sir,
    Thank you for this questionnaire. I am asking permission to use this questionnaire as part of my soon -to-be study about teacher’s collaboration with parents in school activities. Will you permit me to use this some item of your questionnaire?
    Hope a positive respnse from you. Thank you very much.
    Please reply to my email address.

    Susan

    November 6, 2016
    Reply
  26. John said:

    Mr. Blankenship,

    These are some of the best interview questions I’ve heard. Thank you for sharing them. I’m a new teacher looking for a teaching job in New York City for this coming Fall. I’ve had a few interviews but no job offers as of yet. I have an interview coming up Monday the 21st of August. Maybe my last chance for a teaching job. I’m going to try and master the answers to all these questions before then. There are a couple that I wish the answer, or a general idea of the answer, was provided. In any case thanks again for the useful information.

    John

    August 16, 2017
    Reply

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