International School Community Blog

Lesson 3 at International School Hiring Fairs: “Interview questions make the interviewer.”

“Nine Lessons Learned” taken from The Wonderful World of International School Hiring Fairs article by Clay Burell’s blog Beyond School.

1. “Interview questions make the interviewer.”

“By the end of the first of my four days of interviewing, it struck me how different interviews are based on the questions asked (and not asked) by the interviewer. Some of them seemed as stilted and scripted as the worst end-of-chapter questions from the worst textbooks (redundant?). They felt less like interviews than exercises in checking off the questions boxes. It wasn’t quite “schooliness,” so can we call it “interviewiness”?

The best interviews, on the other hand, were more free-flowing and responsive, characterized by give-and-take expansiveness as one party or the other heard something no script could predict.”

There are reasons that international schools use a list of questions to ask their interviewees.  On the other hand there are reasons that interviewers don’t use a list of questions.  Is one way better than the other, I am not for sure.  I was just talking with another international school teacher today and she was saying that using a list of questions can help you compare the different candidates equally and that it helps you determine better if that candidate is meeting or not meeting the criteria you have set out to find.  I can see how that can be beneficial, especially if there is a group of people interviewing the person versus just one administrator doing the interview.  However, I must admit I myself much prefer to to have more of a “give-and-take” where the school is asking you questions to further what you were just talking about and to naturally move to the next topic of discussion organically and naturally.

International schools though only have a limited amount of time during the actual interview session with the different candidates at the recruitment fair.  Because the candidate before inevitably goes longer than he/she should of and because the interviewers themselves sometime need a break between their back to back interviews, the time you actually get to talk with the school is so limited.  It doesn’t work well if they are only asking those few specific questions and seeing you sometimes squander to figure out an answer; that just might waste everyone’s time.  And when you do state your answer, that the time you have to talk is so limited because they need to get through to the rest of the questions instead of thoroughly listening to you.

Sometimes schools hold 15-minute initial interviews at international school teacher recruitment fairs to help them find out who their final short list of candidates to interview are.  Most of the main interviews last around 30 minutes.  Some people think that with using the list of questions idea is that maybe that it is not exactly showing who that person is as a teacher, it is more about how fast that they can think on their feet.   Also, I suppose if you are asking the same questions over and over again you might forget if you had asked that question already as I’m sure the interviews themselves tend to blur a bit.  Finally, given the time constraint on you when you only have a limited amount of time to let the school know the things you want them to know.  Sometimes an interview using “the list” doesn’t allow for you to show you teaching portfolio or whatever real things that related to your real teaching and teaching experiences.

Always remember though, at international school teacher recruitment fairs, you are also interviewing the school.  You have your list of questions as well I suppose.  Sometimes you don’t get the chance to have them all answered; though some of them might have been answered during the beginning part of your interview anyway.  Don’t forget that you have a say during this stressful time at the fair.  It is easy sometimes to get caught up with the idea that you want to like all schools that you are interviewing with and to have the schools like you back.  However, deep down, that is most likely not the case.  If the interview process of one school is giving you an impression of being stilted and scripted, it is possible that means you indeed might not be a good match for that school as you would need to be directly working with these people eventually.

It is important to note though that most schools are not using a list of questions during the sign-up/round robin sessions which is usually only 2-3 minutes maximum of interaction…and that might be stretching it.  Another question I have is if the international schools really think about the different set of questions for the type of position they are looking to fill.  Additionally, are they using this same list when they are interview people over Skype, telephone, in person at their school, etc…

List or no list, definitely try your best to be well aware of how the administrators are using it or the style they are implementing to replace it.