Interviewing is an important step in the job seeking process. For teachers, interviews are especially critical because the position requires strong presentation and interpersonal skills which can be difficult to measure outside of a face-to-face meeting. However, even teachers who are comfortable with public speaking can find interviews stressful.
Thoughtful planning for your next interview can help you feel confident and prepared. Interviewers often tailor questions to their institution, so it is wise to consider your answers to these common questions and how they may apply to the specific school or position.
In this article, we will list several common questions asked during teacher interviews. You can use this list to prepare your own answers. Use our example questions and answers near the end for inspiration and direction on how to answer commonly asked questions.
10 common teacher interview questions
Here are some common interview questions for teachers, as well as advice on how to answer them with sample answers. Remember that the interviewer is interested not only in the content of your answers, but also, in your overall ability to be clear, approachable and engaging:
1. Why do you want to teach?
When you're asked this question during an interview, you'll have an opportunity to discuss your dedication to teaching. Every teacher will have their own reasons for entering this profession, so feel free to provide personal anecdotes in your answer. Make sure to explain your passion for teaching and any person or experience that inspired you to enter the profession.
Example: “I decided to teach because of my high school English teacher, Mr. Smith, who had a unique teaching style that helped me see the world in a new way. I struggled in the subject and was generally uninterested in school, but he personally engaged with me and enabled me to see my potential.”
2. What makes you a good fit for this school?
This question reveals whether you researched the school and district. If you're wondering how to prepare for a teaching interview, conducting thorough research about the student body, how the community views the school, test scores and other aspects of the school district shows you're serious about the position.
When answering this question, be sure to demonstrate your knowledge of both the school and its district. Explain why this information compels your interest in the institution. A strong answer could include information about recent test scores, specific programs or awards earned by the school.
Example: “I am inspired by this school’s reputation for educational excellence and for encouraging creativity through its renowned arts program. I note there has been a dip in the AP test scores in recent years, so I am extremely motivated to introduce my teaching strategies. I feel confident that I could help students improve their scores and opportunities for success.”
3. What characteristics do students want their teachers to possess?
Every teacher has a unique way of teaching, but different students thrive under different teaching styles, so it is vital that a teacher be adaptable. A good answer explains what characteristics you think are most important for a teacher to possess, how these traits benefit students and how you cultivate those qualities in yourself.
Example: “I believe that students want their teachers to be dedicated and approachable, and they can tell when a teacher doesn't possess these qualities. If students know you're working hard and want to support them as they learn, they're more likely to succeed. For this reason, I keep an open-door policy at all times and strive to build rapport with each student.”
4. How does a teacher's personality affect their success?
This allows you to express your vision of success and the tools needed to achieve it. A good answer would describe some of the personal qualities teachers need to succeed, as well as some of the obstacles to success they must overcome.
Example: “Teachers need to have flexibility, compassion, self-discipline, drive and patience to reach their students. Teachers also need to consider state and local testing objectives when devising lesson plans and making sure students understand the materials on which they'll be tested. Teachers must be able to alter their styles so that every one of their students can learn effectively.”
5. What role does discipline play in teaching and what is your approach?
Teachers will have to handle issues with discipline from time to time, and how discipline is addressed is an especially important aspect of teacher interview questions and answers in elementary teaching. Discipline is a vital part of controlling a classroom and depends on the age of the students, district policies and teaching style. To answer this question, you should carefully describe your approach to discipline and how handling discipline correctly can affect the classroom.
Example: “I believe that a teacher can't be effective without the right disciplinary approach. I prefer to explain what's expected of my students, so they're set up for success. Without discipline, there won't be respect, and keeping students accountable may be difficult. After researching several methods, I’ve found that a rewards system is the best method for avoiding bad behavior. While there are certainly still cases that need to be addressed with the school’s behavior program, using rewards enforces positive behavior and gives children a goal to strive for.”
6. How would you interact with the parents of students?
You may be asked this question to determine how you would facilitate relationships with the parents of students. Parents are vital to their child's educational success, and teachers must communicate with parents in a clear and effective way. A good answer will emphasize a parent's role in their child's education and will explain how you plan to involve parents.
Example: “A child's education depends on the support of his or her parents. I believe that engaging with parents and making sure that they have an active role in their child's success is vital. I give parents my contact information so they can get in touch and ask any questions they have about how their child is performing. I also provide updates about what my students have learned and accomplished.”
7. Have your lesson plans been affected by Common Core standards or standards at the local and state levels?
Preparing for standardized testing is a crucial part of the teaching profession, especially for those in public education. When answering this question you should describe how you incorporated different standards into your lesson plan, as well as how you develop a robust curriculum that isn't based on the standards alone.
Example: “You must take standards into account when developing a curriculum. Successfully structuring a school year depends on effectively planning a curriculum and regularly assessing students. My approach is to develop my lessons by building them around educational standards, but I don't only teach with the testing in mind. My lesson plans include more information than just what the students need to know for the standardized test. Regular assessments let me gauge how well my students understand the material, and I use my curriculum to make sure my students have acquired the skills that they'll need for the test.”
8. What do you believe is the place for technology in the classroom?
Many teachers now incorporate technology into their lessons. Your answer to this question should explain your thoughts on technology and how that translates to your teaching. Many teachers aim to use available technology without letting it take over the classroom.
Example: “I think that technology in the classroom can be a valuable tool in helping students learn. That being said, technology can also be distracting, so setting expectations for appropriately using tech is critical. Students should be able to use the technology for learning as well as to learn basic skills, so I give them assignments that require advanced use of the technology to complete the work. For example, I may include formatting requirements with their writing assignments, so they're progressively learning to format throughout the year. This allows the students to become more comfortable with different platforms and sets them up for success in their future workplace.”
9. Why did you decide to become a teacher?
Employers may ask this question to identify your motivations and understand your intentions for applying for the job. To answer this question, think back to the moment you decided you wanted to be a teacher or a moment that made you especially excited about teaching. What actions or decisions led up to that moment? What do you remember feeling in that moment? What do you remember thinking at that moment? After you’ve reflected, take some time to craft a narrative about why you chose teaching as a career and why this specific teaching opportunity and school aligns with your path, both now and about your future goals.
Example answer: “I became a teacher because of my high school algebra teacher’s impact on my life. Math doesn’t come naturally to me, but she took the time not only to explain the material in a way that made sense to me, but also helped me understand that every form of intelligence is equally valuable. There’s no job more important than teaching the future leaders of our world the information they need to know, but more importantly, showing them their worth, their potential, and their ability to form their own opinions by thinking critically and observing the world around them.”
10. Tell me about your teaching philosophy.
It is common for employers to inquire about your teaching methods and philosophies to understand whether you’d be a good culture fit for their school. Many schools may already have established ways of teaching, and it's important that you express your openness and confidence in your own cultivated opinions about the best ways to teach.
Example answer: “My teaching philosophy is to make my lesson plans relatable. In many cases, when a student can’t identify with the material, it’s harder for them to gather meaning. As a literature teacher, my goal is to help students empathize with characters, places and concepts, especially when those things are different from their own life experiences. As a student, I found stories more memorable when my teachers helped me draw parallels. As a student teacher, I like to make comparisons between older texts, like Shakespeare and modern events. For example, comparing events in the plays to events in pop culture. This not only helps students understand the stories but also helps them draw their own conclusions.”
Additional teacher interview questions
In addition to the commonly-asked questions below, you may also be asked a variety of questions specific to the values, mission and challenges of the school you’re applying for. Below, we’ve generated a long list of questions by category including general, experience and background and in-depth to help you prepare.
These questions help an interviewer understand your personality, interest in the position and background:
- What is your educational background? What was the most rewarding part of attending that particular school?
- What are you currently reading for enjoyment?
- What do you want to be doing in five years?
- List five adjectives to describe yourself.
- What is one of your weaknesses, and what are you doing to improve it?
- What are your interests or hobbies outside of the classroom?
- What teams, clubs or extracurricular activities were you involved in while you were in school?
- What activities would you consider coaching or advising as part of the teaching staff?
- Why do you want to teach at this particular level or this particular subject?
- What strengths do you have that help your teaching career?
- What is your favorite subject to teach and why?
- What is your least favorite subject, and how do you approach it to ensure that you teach it well?
Questions about teaching experience and background
These questions help an interviewer evaluate your qualifications for the position and whether your values match with those of the institution:
- What do you like most about teaching?
- What do you dislike most about teaching?
- What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing today’s education system?
- Describe your teaching style.
- How would you organize this classroom?
- How do you manage your teaching duties?
- What is the greatest success you've had with teaching?
- What do you think is the greatest challenge facing students today?
- What is the greatest challenge facing teachers today?
- What qualities make a great teacher?
- Describe your worst teaching day. What did you learn from the experience?
- How do you motivate your students to become active learners in your classroom?
Related: 16 Teacher Interview Tips
These questions help an interviewer gain a more specific understanding of your teaching style, goals and problem-solving skills.
- Describe a troubling student you've taught and what you've done to get through to them.
- Describe your professional development experience.
- Explain your experience with a particular teaching strategy or technology.
- What plans do you have to integrate technology into your classroom?
- What experience have you had with team-teaching? Did you find it helpful?
- How will you approach different learning styles?
- How will you encourage your students to express their creativity?
- How will you modify your teaching to help students who are struggling with the subject or learning level?
- How will you support students with exceptional learning ability?
- How would you approach a student who refuses to participate or who misses school often?
- If the majority of your class failed a test, project or assignment, what would you do?
- What would you like your students to take from their learning experience with you?
- How would you initiate and maintain communication with your students' parents?
- What would you do to help a student with consistent behavioral problems?
- What could a visitor to your class expect to see?
- What do you hope to learn from your mentor?
- How would you leverage resources in the community to enhance your teaching?
- Why should we choose you for this position?
What employers are looking for in teacher candidates
While different employers will seek out different qualities in candidates based on the school and opening, there are three main things hiring managers are typically seeking in their candidates:
1. Skills fit
Employers will likely first ensure you’ve got the basic skills and certifications to meet their needs. Depending on the opening, they may also be looking for teachers with specific specialties or technical skills such as bilingual teaching experience.
2. Qualities fit
Most employers should also ensure you’ve got the right personal traits and qualities that will make for a successful student-teacher relationship. This may include qualities such as dependability, responsibility, innovation, creativity, patience or adaptability.
3. Culture fit
Every school is different and likely has different requirements for teaching methods and philosophies. Many will likely seek to understand your own methods and whether they align with that of the school’s based on the needs of the students.
Tips to prepare for a teacher interview
While every school, employer and interview is different, there are a few additional steps you can take to set yourself up for success amongst the candidate pool:
1. Do your research
Carefully review the websites of both the school and the school district to ensure you can speak to their mission, methods and values if they align with your own. Doing so may also surface the pain points of the school so you can include ways you might help address them. You should also research their social media presence and also any available information on their active leadership.
2. Ask for informational interviews with contacts
As a teacher, you may have contacts at the school you’re interviewing with from school or educational groups. If they’re willing, it may help to sit down with them to ask questions about the school and seek advice about how to approach the interview. You might also learn about whether you feel the school would be a good fit for you as well.
3. Prepare thoughtful questions to ask the employer
Doing so shows your passion for the position and your preparation for the interview. These questions can also help you determine whether your core values align with those of the school's administration. You may want to consider asking about what kind of support you can expect in terms of mentoring or training.
4. Follow up
Following up after the interview by thanking your interviewers for their time is a best practice in any job that can help you leave a positive and lasting impression. Be sure to express both your gratitude and your excitement for the role.
There will always be differences in methods, expectations and practices from one school to another. Understanding the school’s mission and values will help you decide if it is the right workplace for you.