What to expect in your elementary teacher job interview

Miss teaching nice students, we can see five children in the classroom, three girls and wo boys, they are all paying attention as one of them writes something on the blackboardWhat questions will they ask you? How can you make a good impression on the hiring committee? And what decides the winner at the end of the interviews at elementary school?

Simply, how to prepare for this challenging experience and walk away with a new job contract? I will try to answer this question on my website that specializes only in elementary teacher interviews.

My name is Glen Hughins, I have worked as a Consultant at Educational Recruitment Agency Meridian, and I am a Professional Interview Coach, helping job seekers to get jobs in teaching and education administration. Today I will try to help you to succeed and get a job of a teacher. Welcome!

What questions will they ask?

(Click on a question (heading) will direct you to a new page with an in-depth analysis of the question, and with sample answers to the particular question.)

Why do you want to become an elementary teacher? (Why did you choose teaching? Why did you decide to study teaching?)

Show us that you want to teach, because you understand the role the teachers have in our society, and in the life of every single child they teach in the classroom.

Tell us that you enjoy teaching, that you enjoy spending time with children at elementary level. Do not forget to speak with enthusiasm about your career, so we can feel your love for the profession of a teacher. On the top of that, you can mention that your skills (listening, social, communication) make you a good candidate for teaching profession. 


Where do you see yourself in five years time? (How long do you want to work here? What are your career plans for the future?)

Teachers should love their job. They should not dream of promotion, or of other careers. Try to talk about personal goals in your interview, such as starting a family, becoming a better person, simply achieving something in your personal life.

Try to convince us that you will be happy to work as an elementary teacher in five, or even in ten years time from now. Show us that you really enjoy doing the job, and that we can count with you in a long run…


Can you name the main problems teachers face nowadays? (How would you address the challenges we face at schools right now?)

Assistant principal interviews a candidate for a teaching job. They are both formally dressed, and they sit in a small office at school.

The challenges we experience differ from one school district to another, from one country to another. In general, however, worsening level of communication and social skills, lack of respect to the teachers, broken families and children who struggle emotionally becasue of the problems their parents experience, as well as new era addictions, such as smart phone addiction, represent major challenges we face at schools (together with many others challenges).

Talk about these challenges, but try to show positive attitude to problems. Do not simply say that worsening level of communication skills is a problem we experience at elementary level of education. Try to elaborate on it, saying how you plan to address the issue in your classes, how you will try to help the children to learn to talk, and to listen to each other…


What are your strengths and weaknesses? (What makes you a good teacher?)

Good elementary teacher does not have to be an excellent manager. Nor do they have to possess excellent computer skills. Said in other words, universal strengths and weaknesses do not exist.

Try to pick a strengths that is relevant for the job of a teacher, for example high emotional intelligence, patience, understanding for the children and the problems they face, ability to solve conflicts, etc, etc.

Speaking about your weaknesses, you should always explain us how you try to improve on each weakness, in your pursuit of excellence. Show us that you can admit your weaknesses, but at the same time you strive to become a better teacher every day.


Do you think that we should treat all students equally, or we should approach every student individually, taking into account their ability to study?

young woman sits on a chair, making notes. Illustration of a scene from a group interview at school. Every school administrator, and every teacher, has their own preferences, and their own way of doing things. You do not know what they do at the educational institution of your choice, unless you managed to find the answer while researching about them.

For this reason, I would suggest you to pick a neutral answer to this question. Tell us about the approach you prefer while teaching, and try to explain why you prefer it, but stress that you’d follow the guidelines the school leaders set for the teachers


What is your opinion on information technology at elementary school? (Should students use computers? Should teachers use computers?)

Pre-interview research will help you to find a good answer to this question. Try to speak with someone from the school (it can be a child, a parent, a teacher) before your interview. Ask them whether they have IT classes, and if they use computers in other classes. This will help you to find the answer that will resonate with the people in the hiring committee.

One way or another, you should stress that the goal of technology is to help the teachers and the children, to make the lessons more interesting and engaging for everyone…


What are your hobbies? (What do you like to do in your free time?)

friendly talk fo two young elementary teachers in the staff room. Both women are blonde, and both wear black jackets. People sitting in the hiring committee are not professional HR employees. Many interviewers at schools do not know how to analyze (scientifically) your interview answers, how to tell whether you understand the teaching profession (and mission).

They are teachers, administrators, simply professionals from the field of education. And they will spend a lot of time in the same room with you. Do you have something in common with them? A mutual hobby, or a professional interest? Such things will help you to build good atmosphere in an interview, and good atmosphere will improve your chances of getting the job at the end…


How would you win the hearts of your students?

If the children like the teacher, if they enjoy their company, they will follow the rules, engage in the lessons, and they won’t make problems–at least not as much as they’d normally do.

Show us that you understand the young generation, that you know how to connect with them, on a personal level, that you can win their favor. Luckily for us, doing this is much easier at the elementary school, when we compare it to other grades of education…


Other questions (analysis and sample answers in the eBook)

  • What do you want to accomplish on this position? (What will make you happy in your daily job? What are your goals as a teacher?)
  • What characterizes a good teacher from your point of view? (What makes you a good teacher?)
  • A math teacher is drawing on a blackboard with a chalk. She is young, has blonde hair, and white blouse.How would you approach the students of the first class, on their first day at school? (What would you say? How would you prepare for this day?)
  • What teaching methods do you prefer, and why do you prefer them? (Your best and worst experience with a teaching method?)
  • How would you improve the study environment in your class?
  • Imagine that a father of a student complained about something which was untrue. How would you react? (What would you do? Did you experience this situation before?)
  • What is your opinion about foreign language subjects at the elementary school?
  • How would you handle the conflict between students? (Have you ever solved a conflict? Have you ever had a conflict with your students before? What about conflicts with other teachers?)
  • What do you consider the toughest aspect of this job? (Is there anything you hate about teaching?)
  • What games would you play with your students, and why would you choose these games, and not other games?
  • When can you start your job?
  • Do you have any questions?
  • Why should we hire you, and now one of the other job candidates?
  • ….


Building relationships in an interview

A young boy is trying to learn to work witha computer. His teacher crouches nearby, trying to teach himWe will try to assess your skills and readiness for the job with personal, situational, and behavioral questions.

Nevertheless, people sitting in the hiring committees are not professional interviewers (at least not most of them, principal counting). Therefore they will often follow their gut instinct.

If they like you as a person, if they feel good with you, if it is a pleasure to talk to you, you will have a good chance in this interview.


How to build relationships in an interview?

Pre-interview research will help you in this case. Try to learn something about the goals, visions, and achievements of the educational institution. Try to identify something they are proud of.

Talking about these things in your interview, you show recognition and respect for the people who sit in the hiring committee. That’s definitely a great way of winning them over, bit by bit. And there are many other common sense things you can do to ensure it is a pleasure talking to you in an interview.


Demonstrate your teaching skills in a mock lesson

panel interview at an elemntary school, illustration. A female job candidate sits in frnt of a panel of four school employees. Mock lessons are very popular in the interviews at elementary schools. Interviewers will give you a simple subject to teach–such as basic mathematics, or even just writing letters of the alphabet.

They will ask you to show how you’d teach the lesson, and they will observe the way you explain things, and approach the students. You should always accept to mock the lesson–if you did otherwise, complaining about lack of preparation, or about anything else, they would not hire you.

Try to be yourself when doing the mock lesson, show positive attitude, and teach as you would normally teach in a classroom. The key is to show that you can work systematically, prepare for the lesson, and that you enjoy teaching.


Specialized guide for your preparation

Success or failure in this interview depends on many factors. Your ability to sell your skills in an interview, your answers to the questions, the impression you make on the hiring committee, the mock lesson, the answers of other job candidates who compete with you for the job…

Your future is at stake, your great job. 

Glen Hughins - Interview Coach, author of the websiteI can show you winning interview strategies, and brilliant answers to twenty five most common interview questions for elementary teachers, in my Elementary Teacher Interview Guide.

Step by step, you will learn how to make a great impression, how to answer every question, and how to feel great in an interview. Thank you for looking at my eBook, and I wish you good luck in your interview!


Glen Hughins,Your Personal Job Interview Coach