Interviewing Tips for Teachers


I recently responded to a question posted on HubPages.  The person who posted it wanted to know what the most common interview questions where for teachers.

Common Teacher Interview Questions

If you preparing to interview for a college teaching position, you may be asked some of the following questions:

Why do you feel you are qualified for this position?

This is a pretty standard type question that you must be well prepared to answer concisely.  Your inclination may be to relate all of your educational background, teaching experience and related professional experience.  Don’t!  They know that from your application.  Make brief reference to what you provided on your application and highlight what you feel are the most important of your qualifications.

If you have little or no prior teaching experience, you will need to identify transferrable experience.  In what ways have you trained or assisted others?  What in your background demonstrates your ability to speak to a large group of people?  Which of your character traits will help you relate to students?

Why did you apply for this job?

If you are a career changer, rest assured that they will want to know if you applied out of necessity or because of your true love for, and commitment to, teaching.  I call this the “twinkle in the eye” factor.  No twinkle, not job offer.

Why did you apply at our college?

You have probably applied at other colleges, and they know that.  You need to convince them, based on what you know about their school, that it is an ideal institution for you.  Of course, you must be sincere or they won’t buy that.

Describe your ideal teaching position.

All I can say is good luck.  Hopefully your ideal aligns with their reality.  Don’t dwell on trite things like “One where I can contribute,” or “One where I can be part of a team.”

What do you like most about teaching? Least?

Almost anything you say that meets the “twinkle in the eye” test is good.  Hopefully, you find teaching personally rewarding and can communicate that.  Have an answer ready for what you like least.  Some of the better ones are “Grading” and “Caring more about some of your students than they seem to care about themselves.”

What would you students tell us about you?

They will listen between the lines.  What you do not tell them may speak more than what you actually say.  And if you have a teaching background, check to see if your students have posted comments about you on sites like Rate My Professors.

What would your colleagues tell us about you?

Obviously, you are only going to say positive things.  The responses to this question will give them some indication of your personal values.

If you were to get this position, what do you think the major challenges would be?

Do not tell them that you will hit the ground running and are certain you will excel in all aspects of the job.  To admit no challenges is to admit that you don’t know much about the position you say you want.

What has been your proudest moment as and teacher and why?

This is a good question to answer even if they don’t ask it.  In answering another question you might say something like, “… which reminds me of the time I gave a student a D.  He came back to me several years later to tell me that was his wakeup call and he had just completed is doctorate.”

What has been your most discouraging moment as a teacher and why?

You can talk about the times you had to give students failing grades.  But don’t be afraid to talk about a failure of your own if it is something that helped you grow as a teacher.

Tell us about you teaching style.

You should be familiar with learning-centered or student-centered learning.  You should demonstrate you knowledge in these areas and illustrate how you apply that in the classroom.  If you are required to give a teaching demonstration, it is extremely important to show them your teaching style.  If you claim to use techniques to engage students, you better use one or two of them in your demonstration.

Tell us about your experience working with diverse student populations.

You should come to the interview with prior knowledge about diversity at that institution and any particular issues related to it.  Give specific examples of your experiences with similar populations.

What if you know there many Asian students at this school but you have little or no experience working with or teaching Asians?  Do not avoid the topic.  Demonstrate your knowledge of Asian culture as it relates to teaching and learning.

How to you accommodate diverse learning styles?

You need to demonstrate your knowledge of how people learn and give examples of techniques you use to accommodate each of them.

What techniques do you use to motivate students?

This is somewhat of a trick question.  If you do not have a background in educational psychology, you may trip up.  Many experts will tell you that motivation is intrinsic.  Give an answer that explains how you help students find their own motivation.

What is your definition of learning-centered [or student-centered]?

I wrote a short article on what learning-centered means.  The Texas Collaborative for Teaching Excellence provides an excellent reference on Student-Centered teaching.    The terms are closely linked.

Tell us about your use of technology both inside and outside the classroom.

Sorry, in most case in today’s colleges and universities it’s no Luddites allowed.

How do you see yourself contributing to our institution outside the classroom?

Except for some high level teaching/research positions at universities, you may be expected to contribute in ways that do not relate directly to your teaching.  Examples might include advising a student organization, serving on a committee, or doing community outreach.

Are you familiar with [our courses, curricula, our facilities, etc., etc.]?  If so, do you have any suggestions for improvements?

You should have done a good bit of research about the institution before your interview.  Don’t do like applicant whom I interviewed over the phone.  She responded, “I tried.  How can you find anything on that website of yours?”  (Believe it or not, that is a true story!)

Avoid criticizing what is in place. They really want to know you qualifications to develop new courses and curricula.

Preparing for the Interview

The following pieces of advice may seem obvious. So, why don’t all college teaching candidates follow them?

  1. Dress for Success – Were stylish business attire even if you will be teaching welding in blue jeans if you get the job.
  2. Learn Everything You Can – Almost everything there is to know about the institution where you have applied can be found online.  Check it out.
  3. Arrive Early – Unless you are familiar with the campus, give yourself time to get lost once or twice.
  4. Scout the Territory – If you can walk around campus a few days before your interview, do so.  Otherwise leave yourself time to explore before your interview.  Check out common areas like the student union, the book store, the field house.  Try to find the building in which you would be teaching and take a careful walk through it.
  5. Don’t Walk Into the Wrong Restroom – I had to get a bit silly, but this tip is based on a true story.  One of the most highly respected instructors at my college inadvertently walked in the women’s restroom shortly before his interview.  As luck would have it, he came face-to-face with a woman whom he would soon, more formally meet.  She was a member of his interviewing committee.  So what is the moral of the story?  You are going to be nervous.  Don’t obsess over it.  If you do something silly, laugh it off.  Clearly, the instructor of whom I made reference did just that.

I hope this advice helps. Now go get that new teaching job!

© 2012 Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

March 10, 2012


About Dr. Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

My name is Paul Hummel, and I often introduce myself to others as a recovering engineer. If you are familiar with the Dilbert cartoons, let me simply say that I lived all of that. I started my college saga at Illinois Institute of Technology. Eventually, I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management. I worked for many years in industry, and during this time I did some college adjunct teaching. During my career I held several managerial positions in industry, the last as Director of Technology of a division of a Fortune 500 corporation. Then, in 1996, with minimal planning or forethought, I found myself working as a manufacturing consultant on behalf of Elgin Community College (ECC). My career in higher education began to take shape. I fell in love with ECC and with the mission of community colleges in general. I worked fulltime and occasionally taught college courses for my institution and two other colleges. After a couple years I set a goal to move over to the “credit side of the college” and eventually become a college administrator. In 2006, having earned my doctorate in education, I achieved that goal. I was hired by Waubonsee Community College as Dean for Technology, Mathematics and Physical Sciences. I have had the great fortune of working at two excellent colleges. The insights I want to share are drawn from the various college positions I have held. At ECC, in addition to my consulting role, I coordinated non-credit professional development training programs for three years and spent four years advising students in the TRiO Student Support Services program. That position helped me understand college education from the perspective of today’s college students. After seven years at Waubonsee, I retired April 30, 2013. I now devote my knowledge and skills to upgrading and expanding the websites I created beginning with Adjunct Assistance. I have three other websites: College Teaching Tips, Keys for College Success and Lighthouse for Learning. A lot of work lies ahead for me in terms of upgrading and expanding each of these websites, but I could not be more excited about fulfilling the vision I have for helping college instructors and their students succeed.


Interviewing Tips for Teachers — 1 Comment

  1. Differentiated instruction is about using teaching strategies that connect with individual student’s learning strategies. The ultimate goal is to provide a learning environment that will maximize the potential for student success. The important thing to remember is to hold on to the effective teaching strategies that lead students to positive learning outcomes and to make adjustments when necessary. It’s about being flexible and open to change. It’s also about taking risks and trying teaching and learning strategies that you would have otherwise ignored. It’s about managing instructional time in a way that meets the standards and also provides motivating, challenging, and meaningful experiences for school age students who are socialized to receive and process information in ways that require differentiation of experience. These are very exciting times for the teaching profession, we are faced with a generation of learners who are challenging us to think about how we deliver instruction.

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