Let's think about the employment process from the employer's point of view. The person who will interview you has a list of reasons why she might want to hire you. Your task is to convince her that she can safely check all the boxes and report to her superior that you are ideal for the opening. To make that happen, here are some points to ponder.
First of all, assume that I am the head of school at a private school in the suburbs of a major American city. Our school serves students in grades Prekindergarten through Post Graduate year. There are essentially three schools within our community: a lower, a middle and an upper school. We offer a fairly traditional college preparatory program in our high school. We currently have 16 Advanced Placement courses. 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; however, we expect our faculty to assist with sports which they have played or to coach a team where we do not have a professional coach.
Note: You should be able to discover all of this information from the school's website. It is relatively easy to discern the main features of the various programs at that source. Do this as part of your preparation for the interview. You will be able to ask better questions, as well as offer informed answers about the school's programs. For example, you might have been an AP Exam Reader for many years. While that fact should be listed in your resume, it behooves you to bring it up during the interview.
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. That large number of employment applications requires us to screen submissions as we receive them. To that end, 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. We file any applications which are missing required information in a secondary group of applications. Meaning, we will review applications which are complete and select the top five to come in for an interview.
There are several answers to the scary question "Why should I hire you?" This video illustrates one response.
When you turned up for your interview, my assistant said that you were late and that you seemed distracted while she was showing you around the upper school. Would you mind telling me what that was all about?
I enjoyed your answers to my questions about teaching English to teenagers. You were right on the money when you stated that good writers aren't born. They are created by writing copiously. That's one of the reasons why we insist that our students write across the curriculum. I am glad that you are on board with that concept. I was also pleased to hear that you plan to complete your master's degree within the next year or so. It will complement your bachelor's degree in English from Bryn Mawr. I was fascinated by your developing an iApp to help students with homonyms. We want our students to use technology effectively.
A common interview question is "What are your greatest strengths?" This video from Carnegie Mellon University suggests some responses.
I hope that our badminton team will improve under your tutelage, if, of course, we were to offer you the position. Your experience producing musicals will be most helpful as well. We do have several faculty members who are proficient in set design and the musical aspects of our annual productions. But we have never had an experienced producer on staff.
Now, why should I hire you?
I contacted your references, one of whom I know personally as well as professionally. We spoke at length about your education and how you would fit in with our community. The answers which I received convinced me that we should offer you the position of English teacher.
I am asking you and one other applicant to come in to meet my academic dean and to have lunch with us. I will make a decision following that.
Now, why should I hire you?
Well, the point of all this is simply to remind anybody seeking employment in a private school that there are many factors which come into play. A successful outcome depends on how all of these factors mesh.
How you present yourself and how you answer questions are certainly two of the most important aspects of the process. That's why you must do your homework and prepare for your interviews as though your life depends on it. Do some role playing to prepare for the interview. Preparing for interviews is even more important if you have not interviewed in a while. Have somebody review what you will wear. Take your wardrobe cues from photos of faculty on the school's website. When you see the male teachers wearing khakis and blue button-down shirts with rep ties, mirror that look, even if jeans and a tee shirt are more your style.
Here are some suggestions about what men could wear for a job interview.
Know as much as you can about the school, its mission, its history and how it operates, and even where it and the building where your interview takes place is located. All of these points are ingredients for a successful employment interview. They show interest. They demonstrate that you are willing to fit in. Get these and all the other parts of the process right, and you will hear not "Now why should I hire you?" but rather "I'd like you to be part of my team."
I assume that you will be fortunate enough to secure several job interviews. It is critically important for you to treat each opportunity individually. A 'one size fits all' approach will not work. Adapt your cover letter to each institution to which you apply. Be prepared for a different emphasis and even different questions in each interview. That is as it should be, as private schools are unique.
Questions? Contact me via Twitter. @privateschl