Applying and Interviewing

Learn more about applying and interviewing for jobs in a private school. Here we'll cover everything from cover letters to interview questions. Get tips on common application mistakes, how to ask good questions during your interview, and marketing yourself.
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Let's think about the employment process from the point of view of your making me want to hire you. Here are some points to ponder.

The premise
First of all, let's assume that I am the head of school at a private school in the suburbs of a major American city. We serve students from Prekindergarten through Post Graduate year. We offer a fairly traditional college preparatory program in our high school. There are esentially three schools within our community: a lower, a middle and an upper school. While the academic programs have their own distinctive components, we share facilities and staff across the curriculum as needed. We offer an extensive range of clubs and extracurricular activities which are guided by our faculty. Our sports program is professionally directed but faculty are expected to assist with sports they have played or coach a team where we do not have a professional coach.

Now why should I hire you?
For starters we have received well over 150 applications for the position of English teacher in the high school. Was your application submitted on time? Was it submitted using the format which we specified? Does it have the names of three professional references which we can contact after we interview you? My administrative assistant will look for those things as we receive applications. Any applications which are missing required information will be put in a secondary group of applications. Meaning, we will review applications which are complete and select
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Every interviewer appreciates being asked questions. Just remember that you will be judged, as indeed you are being judged constantly, on the quality of questions you ask. So, what would be considered good questions in a private school job interview situation?

First of all, let's get the bad questions out of the way. That will help you focus on the good questions.

Bad Questions
Never ask questions which impute anything negative about your present or former schools. The private school community is small. Everybody knows everybody. It just doesn't make sense to speak ill of colleagues, even though what you say may well be true. Any display of negative energy will be a potential red flag in your interview. Too many red flags will eliminate you from further consideration. A single red flag, no matter how minor or insignificant, could still be something your future employer might ask about when he checks your references. You certainly don't want to unleash a torrent of criticism from your old boss when he is asked why you disliked the faculty meal arrangements.

Do your homework carefully before asking any question which could even remotely be considered negative. That means you need to find that trusted friend or mentor who helped you with your interview attire and did some role-playing with you. Ask him those questions which you aren't sure about. See if they sound negative to him.

Avoid questions which are irrelevant to the position which you seek.
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Part of any private school interview process is answering questions which you know will be asked. Having said that, you need to prepare for your interviews with the same care and attention as you might give your lesson plans. Think through the entire interview. Imagine the questions being asked. Imagine your answers. Remember: not only does the content have to be the best it possibly can be but also the style and delivery which you use must present you in the best possible light.

Some of the more obvious questions include:
 
  • Why do you want to work at St. Swithin's?
  • Why do you want to leave St. Hilda's?
  • What is the most enjoyable part of your teaching day?
  • What books have you read lately?
  • When do you plan to finish your master's degree?
 

Regardless of what the actual questions are or the precise wording is, you must try to figure out why the interviewer is asking the question in the first place. Let's use the questions listed above to give you an idea of the sort of thing an interviewer might be looking for.

Why do you want to work at St. Swithin's?

This question or some variation of it generally is used by interviewers to determine what you know about the school. In other words, you need to have done your research about St. Swithin's, its philosophy, its mission and its accomplishments. The school's website is the place to start. Just about everything you might need or want to know
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If you are one of the thousands of teachers who have been let go because of budget cuts, you are probably looking for another teaching job. Teaching is what you know. Teaching is what you love. After all, you sacrificed greatly to earn your degree. You could have gone into another profession or into business and made much more money. But your idealism and sense of service to your nation's future got the better of you. You became a teacher.
 
Unfortunately finding a new teaching position can be a very unsettling experience. Nothing is the same as it used to be. Years ago you became a teacher, went through a probationary period of several years then were granted tenure, generous benefits and a pension.
 
Then the economic meltdown of 2009 hit. And hit hard. School districts came to grips with budgets slashed deeply because of declining tax revenues. Suddenly thousands of teaching jobs were eliminated. Your job was one of them. It is a phenomenon which has struck just about everywhere. What is even worse is that the teaching jobs which are available often don't come with the kind of generous benefits and tenure which we all had grown accustomed to. That's pretty much a thing of the past in most parts of the country.
 
Use the following video and ones like it to begin to refine your interviewing techniques. You have to have the competitive edge even when interviewing for a teaching job.
 
 
The irony is that
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An employment application is no place for half-truths. You have to understand that private schools have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients. They cannot afford to hire somebody who might jeopardize the school's reputation or, worse yet, cause harm to students. That is why it is so important to answer all the questions on an employment application truthfully.
 
Background Checks
 
Most private schools will use a service to do background checks on any potential new hires. They will not run the background check until they have interviewed you because background checks are expensive. That's another reason why you need to be truthful about anything in your resume which will arouse probing questions and nix your chances of even being interviewed. Here is what is involved in a background check.
 
 
What the background check really examines is your criminal and credit history. If you were charged with a criminal offence or have bad credit, that will show on your background check. Take the offensive and point out that your credit was destroyed by huge medical bills as a result of your mother suffering from Alzheimer's. Don't be creative. Just tell the truth.
 
Expect a drug test at some point in the hiring process. Since views about pot and even alcohol vary widely from one part of the country to another, make sure those tests come out clean. If you have been prescribed a controlled substance which will show up in a drug test, mention it proactively and file a
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Applying and Interviewing