What DO Those Interview Committees Want?

Yesterday, I had the privilege of being on an interview committee. The school I teach in was hiring a new choir teacher, and my principal wanted to bring me into the fold. It was a very enlightening and enjoyable experience. We saw some excellent candidates and I came away with a few insights into the interview process. Our interviews involved about 30 minutes with the committee followed by a 20 minute teaching demo.

  • Show us your passion. The candidate who was eventually offered the job showed a lot of passion during both the interview and the teaching demo. We wanted to hire somebody who loves what they do, so you can not be afraid to show that in front of a committee. Plenty of people might want to be a little more conservative in the interview, but you need to be excited about what you do. It can really set a candidate apart from the rest.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A candidate asking good questions gives us good insight into their personality. Are they curious about the other teachers in their department? Then they are probably a willing collaborator. Are they asking about musical things other than performances? Then they want to create a well-rounded program. Asking insightful questions tells the committee that you are likely an organized and pensive person. That’s a good thing.
  • Be comfortable, be confident. This can be a very tough thing for candidates if they are naturally nervous during interviews. Try to see the interview as an opportunity to talk about music education with a group of colleagues. We’re rooting for you to have a good interview, so we’re going to try our best to ask questions that get you engaged and sharing. The most impressive interviews we had were ones that took on a more conversational tone as opposed to a candidate facing a firing line of questions.
  • Make it student-centric. This seems like such a simple thing, but it gets overlooked. Make sure that the committee knows that you are there because you love teaching and you love kids. The first thing out of one candidate’s mouth was, “I just really love working with this age group. Middle school kids are fantastic.” This was one of the best things we heard all day, and that set the tone for the rest of the day. On the flip side, if you don’t mention kids once, we are going to question why you applied for the job.
  • Build rapport. If your interview involves a teaching component, this gives you an excellent opportunity to show us how you interact with kids. Introduce yourself to them, and make an effort to learn as many names as possible in your short teaching demo. Something as simple as addressing a student by name can really help develop a connection. Same goes for the interviewing committee. A nice, firm handshake and a, “Thanks for interviewing me, *insert name here*” is a simple but nice gesture.
  • Be prepared. This should go without saying, but unfortunately some people overlook it. If your thoughts are scattered, or if your teaching demo doesn’t really go anywhere, we might questions how you would prepare for your daily classes. Do some mock interviews beforehand, test out your teaching demo on some friends, and get feedback.