Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hiring Season

According to the New York Times, New York City is experiencing quite a run on teaching positions. They cite things like "3,620 applications for eight positions" and other large, frightening numbers. How in the world can someone coming out of a school of ed compete with that many new and veteran teachers? I might not know everything, especially since I'm not a principal, but here's what I've got in terms of advice.

General Tips


This should be one of the neatest-looking, concise, and descriptive documents you have ever created. It should make you sound as amazing as possible without sounding boastful, and it needs to be honest. While somewhere between a tenth and a third of people lie on their resumes, don't be one of them. Have several people read through your resume before handing it out to potential employers. If possible, find a current principal you won't be interviewing with or a former principal to check it out.

Pound the Pavement

I was told to fax my resume to the principals I wanted to interview with. That was a terrible idea. I spent $40 on faxes and never heard from a single one of them. Faxing might not have been the problem, but if you do call to follow up and perhaps send a copy via email. I'm always surprised to hear how defeated people are when they're not called back once they've submitted a resume or application (whether it's for a teaching job or a job at Target). Make it known that you really want the job and that you want to know your status with the school. Also don't assume that you're such a rock star that they'll be dying to call you back the second someone in the school even glimpses your resume. I may have been guilty of that, at least in part.

Mock Interviews
If you have access to a current or former administrator, for the love of pete use their expertise. Ask them to conduct a mock interview with you so you get used to answering the type of questions you will be asked. This might help to solidify or even get you started thinking about many of the things you will be asked to do as a teacher that they did not teach you in the school of ed. You may become more comfortable with the high-pressure situations as well.

Approaching the Interview
Show up to your interview early, polished, shaven (guys), well/appropriately dressed with plenty of resumes in hand. You should have learned everything possible about the school at which you are interviewing. While not necessarily the custom in the wide world of education, it's extremely important to show the principal or hiring team that you are interested in their school, not just a school. If you showed up to a decent job interview in the private sector and knew nothing about the company you were interviewing for, your chances of getting the position would bottom out. You need to be able to explain why you want to work at that school.

Be a Professional
In order to get the job you want you will need to have left college behind. Unlike professions like medicine and law you do not have the luxury of spending three to four more years after undergrad getting the partying out of your system, expanding your professional wardrobe and simply growing up into your mid-twenties. It is time to be an adult. Period. Without question. If your potential employer catches a whiff of your late Friday and Saturday night keg-stands or the fact that you have a tough time rolling our of bed at 9AM, the guy standing behind you with two years experience under his belt is going to get the position.

As much as we tell our students that hard work, ambition, and intelligence will get you places, we all know that is only true in part. In education it can be more about who you know than in the professions to which we generally attribute the phrase. If you did not make any "connections" while in the school of ed and you are now looking for a job, it's a bit late in the game but it is of course never too late to start. While my principal gave the go ahead on my hiring, it took my connections with my academic adviser as well as someone at the central office for the NYC Department of Education to even get my foot in the door for the interview I had at my school specifically.

Aces in Your Sleeve
You're young, you're ambitious, you're probably in your early twenties and perhaps determined to save the entire planet in one fell swoop. That eagerness and drive will work to your advantage. If you're a traditional ed student right now, you probably grew up immersed in technology and while you may not know how to implement it in the classroom, you should feel more comfortable with the very idea of it. While you don't want to exaggerate your abilities to work with them, let them know you are very interested in exploring the use of new technologies in the classroom. It's still a major advantage over many veteran teachers. I talked all about podcasting and blogging in the classroom at my interviews, though I'd just begun to figure out how to use those things in any way academic.

What You Do Not Have on Your Side
Experience. I tried to play up my subbing and year-long student teaching, but the reality is that I had no experience with the kind of work I'd be doing once I was hired. Don't act like you have no idea what's going on, but make it known that you are aware you are new to the field and that you are very eager to learn the ropes, follow the school leadership and grow into your position.

Your Administration
Based on my own experience and the experiences of my colleagues who have taught at numerous schools, if there is one factor you need to consider most when you are looking for a job it is your principal. During your first year especially, this is your commander-in-chief. As your life is consumed and thrashed about in that first year your principals' policies and ability to run the school and lead the staff will in many ways determine if you make it through year one ready for another helping, or not. If you do not agree with the philosophy of principals with whom you are interviewing, if you get a really bad feeling from them, or if you can tell that you simply won't work well on their staff, don't. I went through an interview last year where I liked the rest of the staff, but in my one brief encounter with the principal he was very cold, never introduced himself or asked who I was and told me I should consider working out of my certification area teaching something I knew nothing about. I'll never know, of course, but I hardly think that would have been a better working environment than the one I have now.

The Bottom Line
You need a job. That's clear. It's going to be really tough in the next couple of years as education funding is cut and as the people who would normally quit the field stay only because the economy is not producing jobs in other sectors. Chin up. Do everything you can every day this hiring season to get a job, ask for help, listen to people you know who are in the field already and don't give up.

Today's Wine: El Supremo Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. This was under $10, a bit spicy, not fruity and very drinkable.


  1. This is very good advice. I'm not an education major, but this advice can be applied for any field of study. I followed many of these tips myself in the past couple of months in order to 'beef myself up' for interviews. When I was told that my position was being eliminated in a few months I was frantic. Something that my father did was do mock interviews with me. He has been around the bloack with interviews, from both the interviewee and interviewer aspect. This gave me the idea of using my employer at the time to go over mock interviews. They were happy to oblige. This was extremely helpful. They help me soldify my answers and give me tips all the way to where to be looking during various points during the interview.

    Needless to say, I think I might have botched the interview for my current job without this practice. M

    Great Advice Nick James.

    Favorite lines from this entry.

    "..for the love of pete..."

    " Do everything you can every day this hiring season to get a job, ask for help, listen to people you know who are in the field already and don't give up"

  2. Excellent advice. FYI, here in California it's also quite difficult to secure a teaching job.