Interview-Preparation Tips

September 13, 2007 4 min read
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Interviewing. Does the mere thought of it make your palms sweat, your knees tremble, and your stomach flutter? If so, you aren’t alone. The interview can be the most terrifying part of the job-search process.

Some people seem to breeze through interviews. What separates these successful candidates from others? The answer is confidence. Unfortunately, confidence doesn’t always come naturally. But you can use a step-by-step process by which you prepare, practice, and build upon your successes. Competence breeds confidence. The more successes you experience, the more confident you will become.

The process of developing confidence can include self-examination, research, and reliance on outside help from professionals and even friends.

The following is a selection of tips for preparing for an interview provided Dawn Scheffner Jones, online education and health advisor for the Northern Illinois University career services center and president of the American Association for Employment in Education’s board of directors. They can help you prepare and build self-assurance.

—Lauren Muscarella

Confidence-Building Tips for Candidates

Know yourself—your strengths, weaknesses, skills and goals:

  • Start by making lists. Ask your friends to review your lists for feedback.
  • Investigate tools to help you with your self-assessment. Career tests and inventories, such as the MBTI, Keirsey, Strong, and Self-Directed Search, can be useful.

Record your successes and concentrate on your achievements:

  • A visual record of your accomplishments makes them more concrete. It also helps you to keep a positive focus, which enhances performance and improves your image to the employer.
  • Reviewing your successes is a good way to rehearse for interviews.
  • Successes are confidence building blocks. Each success reinforces the belief that you are effective and competent.

Thoroughly research employers to:

  • Become familiar with districts in order to answer interviewers’ questions.
  • Gather material to ask insightful questions during the interview.
  • Gain confidence through being well informed

Be realistic about the sorts of jobs you want:

  • You can’t do everything well. What jobs match your identified skills? These are likely to be the jobs where you will have the best chance of being hired. Look at positions where you will be doing the sort of teaching where you can excel.
  • Avoid using salary as the only consideration in making job decisions. A good salary doesn’t necessarily make a position a good fit.

Practice talking about your life’s passions:

  • Sharing your love for basketball through coaching, watching the light shine in a child’s eyes as he or she begins to read, inspiring others through your own life experiences, awakening a love of nature through outdoor education—these are the kinds of topics that are easiest to discuss enthusiastically. They are also the areas where you are likely to have the strongest knowledge. Talking with recruiters about your passions will make you feel more grounded and secure.

Talk with practicing teachers about what they do:

  • Don’t just rely on your cooperating teacher for all your information. Converse with as many others as you can. Ask them what they like and don’t like about their jobs. Talking with them about teaching will make it easier for you to talk with an interviewer about teaching.
  • Visit other schools if feasible. Gain the broadest perspective possible.

Find a mentor:

  • Choose mentors who are encouraging, supportive, and instructive. They can be sounding boards when things don’t go as expected, providing exactly the kind of feedback needed to bolster your confidence.
  • Select a cooperating teacher, a former K-12 teacher of your own, a college/university professor or advisor, or a recent alumni as your mentor.
  • Meet with your mentor regularly as you begin to interview. This will keep your confidence level at its peak.

Learn special strategies, such as affirmations, visualization, guided imagery, and relaxation techniques:

  • Each of these techniques has a unique appeal. They all work with your unconscious mind to focus your energies, relax you physically and emotionally, and boost your self-confidence. Many people find that they work well in conjunction with other approaches.

Practice, practice, practice!

  • Rehearse responses to sample interview questions.
  • Set up mock interviews with principals, assistant principals, and department chairs; ask for honest feedback on your performance. You can never practice too much!

Plan what you will wear to an interview:

  • Ask someone whose opinion you trust to go with you to shop for interview clothes.
  • Buy quality clothing that resists stains and wrinkles.
  • Go with a conservative, classic approach.
  • Wear something that makes you feel good about yourself.

Act confidently:

  • Believe it or not, acting a part helps you become that part.
  • The more you become accustomed to acting in a confident manner, the more likely it will be that you will radiate confidence in an interview.


  • Smiling makes you look confident even when you are nervous. People who project a positive image gave a far greater success rate in interviews than those whose image is flat or negative.
  • Smiling actually makes you feel better emotionally, increasing the likelihood that you will interview well.

Get a good night’s rest before each interview:

  • Sleep replenishes physical reserves. Physical health leads to better performance.
  • Rest heightens mental clarity and improves self-confidence.

Process the interview after it’s over:

  • Discuss the places where you did well and where you would like to do better.
  • Keep a log of your interviewing performance.
  • Celebrate your success!

If you plan, prepare, and practice before interviewing, you will enhance your chances of success, thereby developing more confidence with each interview. By the time you find that ideal job, others will be contacting you for suggestions on how to interview more confidently!


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