Dear Student Part 1: The Interview

A former student of mine is preparing to enter the market and is seeking a teaching position at a few independent schools. I have done the market thing in the past. It is exciting, stressful, and exhausting. I was telling her that the process, if it is done correctly, could be more of an endurance test. I have hit homers in the past during a campus visit, but like any good ball player, I have struck out too. My best advice is not to be nervous. I have found during my experiences that nerves can be a killer; I have seen my nerves force me into a state of uneasiness. Though I have not always accepted jobs that have been offered to me, my best campus visits have been for positions that I would have wanted, but was not going to kill myself for. Hence, you become very relaxed. On the other hand, there have been positions I really wanted that I did not get; often times, I tried too hard because I really wanted it. Thus being one’s natural state was difficult.

For those of you who have real jobs (non-academic jobs), the process is very interesting. From my own experiences, private schools like to test a candidate’s endurance. For example, on my last campus visit, the agenda had me interviewing with 6 – 7 people between 8:00 – 3:30: Speaking to the dean of faculty, dean of students, department chair, headmaster, and having lunch with the department is common. We, as do many schools, ask candidates to observe a class then teach a class later that day. Of course, candidates know in advance what they are teaching; the course is usually in their area of expertise. I do not know about the experiences of others, but I always hated the last part of the interview — meeting the headmaster. This takes place during the last hour of the endurance test. By this point, you have no more questions to ask. You are thinking about your flight or drive home as well as the number of bad questions you asked. Teaching a course is a must for many places, but tends to be a poor way of evaluating a candidate. Classes operate best once a natural rapport has transpired. This takes time.

Here is a description of a school conducting a national search for a candidate. My best advice dear student is this: Do not over prepare for the interview. Walk in knowing that hey if I get it… cool — but if not, oh well. I assure you it will force you to relax.

Each year, after identifying our teaching, coaching and other needs, the Dean of the Faculty along with department chairs or administrative officers will review all the appropriate resumes and schedule interviews with candidates. Interviews consist of a day-long visit to the campus to meet with all relevant school personnel (the Dean of the Faculty, the department chair, Dean of Students, Athletic Director, etc.). A tour of the campus with a student is part of the process. A class visitation and lunch with department members is scheduled. Candidates are called upon to teach a class.


12 thoughts on “Dear Student Part 1: The Interview

  1. Having just gone through several interviews for admin positions I totally agree with the idea of endurance. Funny, but my best interviews are when I’m of the mind “I’m not going to get the job, so oh well!” I tend to hit those out of the ball park. It probably has to do with the whole thing on nerves.

  2. Your description of the process as an “endurance” test is dead on. Not only are the interviews grueling (I made it to the final two for one position at an “elite” school in Houston, I had been interviewed on three different days, met with 17 people, and guest taught a class before they said: “Thanks, but no thanks”), but just the application process can take forever. My search last year was nationwide. I applied to over 50 independent schools, receiving telephone interviews for many, on-campus interviews for severals, and offers from three. Happy to have landed where I am.

  3. Pingback: Great Faculties Make Great Schools | Withering Fig

  4. I am currently being interviewed for a teaching position. This Monday will begin round 3.

    Is it possible to be “relaxed” and have a spirit of “if I don’t get it, oh well” when, in reality, if you don’t get it, you are gonna go poor because you don’t have a job!?

    So sure, I could have that kind of mindset–if I didn’t have to LIE to myself and tell myself “hey, you’ll be fine, the streets are a safe place to live.” J

  5. Matt:

    In many ways you have to lie. I have interviewed for jobs really thinking I had a chance, only to learn it did not workout. Are you open to both public and private schools? What is your field?

  6. Makes sense. Thanks for sharing.

    Well, I’m bible, theology, and apologetics, so it’s not necessarily that I’m not open to public schools, it’s probably more-so that they are not open to me. 🙂

    –Any advice? It seems like private schools, especially the smaller ones, are really hurting right now, so they are not looking to add faculty (which I understand from a financial perspective, but it’s unfortunate since I consider the Bible department to be most crucial for Christian schools).

  7. Matt:

    I visited your blog and read your background; I agree about the public school realm; however, let me say this: there are a number of big time schools looking to add a person like you to their faculty; I wish I would have come across you two weeks ago when we were looking for a person like you to join our faculty. The good Christian schools and in great shape; my campus is looking to expand its facilities and add more faculty members.

    Have you visited NAIS webpage? If not, I placed a link below. A number of secular independent schools look to bring in a person of your level to teach religion. But, I am syre you know that. A colleague of mine, Stephen Hebert, is a great conatct source too. You will find his blog under my blog categories of “Academic Blogs.” It is called Withering Fig.

  8. I’m flattered!

    Thanks for your insight, much that I hear is from a perspective of “Oh, you want to teach? Too bad private schools are a black hole right now!”

  9. Matt:

    In my circles, particularly because I am lucky to teach in an upper tier school, the response is different. I do not know if I would say they are a black hole. There are so many types. And, at least atupper tier schools, the pay can be very nice.

  10. ….(my friends tell me it’s because of the home school movement and poor economy that private schools are taking a hit)….

    As for your situation, sounds like a good place to be! With that said, the next time your school is looking to expand, you now know how to get a hold of me! 🙂

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