The truth shall set you free
The hiring process is something most people are never taught.
Our knowledge of interview etiquette, how to prepare for one, or even what constitutes a good cover letter are based on myths picked up from the internet, folk wisdom, or word of mouth.
Before becoming a teacher I was a recruiter for a chain of international English language schools and I witnessed first-hand how damaging these beliefs can be to an applicant’s job prospects.
After interviewing over a hundred teachers, here is what I found to be the most commonly held misconceptions about job-hunting:
Myth #1 – You should apply to lots of schools
When looking for a role, the number of jobs someone has applied for is often held up as a sign of their dedication. But applying for teaching roles is not like spinning a roulette wheel in the hope you’ll eventually win big. Just like you wouldn’t kiss everyone in the club hoping to find a suitable partner, you shouldn’t be spamming dozens of schools with applications in the hope that one takes a shine to you. It’s not a numbers game. Show some discrimination and be selective with where you apply.
Myth #2 – You really need this job
Believe me, there are plenty of roles out there you really don’t want. Not all schools have good intentions when recruiting, dropping teachers into departments that are struggling, so pay attention and trust your instincts.
At interview, do the questions you’re being asked seem well-thought through? I was once asked, at the age of 30, how I felt my university degree helped me as a teacher. Their assumption I was a recent graduate showed how little they had even bothered to look at my application.
Does everyone on the interview panel seem invested in who gets hired? I once interviewed with a Head of Department who told me that he’d been asked to ask me some questions and didn’t know what so wondered if I had any questions for him instead.
Did you actually get interviewed? I was once offered a job after a brief informal chat with the headteacher. I don’t even recall him asking me a question. He just talked at me for a while about the school’s troubled finances. When he offered me the job I thought I had gotten lucky, but what I walked into proved to be a nightmare from day one.
As stressful as they are, you want the interview to be rigorous because that’s how you know it’s a decent school – it’s the velvet rope that keeps out the riff-raff.
Myth #3 – Not getting the job is the end of the world
Unless you’re currently barefoot pulling your possessions along in a shopping trolley outside Morrisons, it’s not that big a deal if they don’t offer you the job. Really.
I get it – no-one likes to feel like they’ve been scrutinised and found lacking, but it’s worth remembering that you’re not going to be to everyone’s taste (you never have been) and that’s okay. Schools that take recruitment seriously won’t just be looking for a teacher, they’ll be looking for the right teacher for them. That means some will love you. Some won’t. But for some schools to really want you, you have to accept that there is another side to the coin: others are going to be eager to turn you down. And that is a blessing in disguise.
Myth #4 – You shouldn’t be honest
The best advice I could give anyone before a job interview is to tell the truth. To some this may sound naïve, but you’re not doing anyone any favours by lying.
If you’re afraid that the interviewer is going to discover that you’re basically Homer Simpson, you have worse problems than how to approach a job interview. I’m assuming here that you moderately competent, or at least striving to be so. And so long as that’s the case, you have nothing to hide.
It always surprises me to hear that some people script responses to anticipated questions in advance. I’d steer clear of this. It will make you sound robotic and unconvincing. And there’s a good chance you’ll default to this mental cheat-sheet and not actually answer the question you’re being asked.
Be yourself. Don’t put on a showy performance. Don’t tell the interviewer what you think they want to hear. On the contrary, be as authentic as you can (even if it leads to you not being offered the job!). The interviewer’s only task is to get an accurate read on who you are and what you stand for – not to pass judgement or to make you feel inferior – but so they can hire the right candidate. Not necessarily the best teacher or the person who wants the job the most. The right candidate. And you won’t know who that is, so stop trying to second guess it.
I don’t know anyone who likes job-hunting. It’s frightening and worrisome. Not to mention lots of work.
Be choosy, manage your expectations, and stay truthful.
You won’t go far wrong.