Career Advice Opinion

Are you ready for behaviorial interviews?

By AAEE — July 08, 2008 3 min read
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What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Tell me about yourself. These were very common questions in an interview, but times are changing, and so are interviews. You need to be ready for behavioral interview questions. In a behavioral interview you will have to demonstrate your knowledge, skills, and abilities, collectively known as competencies, by giving specific examples from your past experiences. The principal or human resources recruiter wants to know, not that you can do something, but that you have done it. He or she, prior to the interview, determines what competencies are required for the position. Then the interviewer develops a series of questions that will allow him or her to find out if you, the teacher candidate, possess the necessary competencies to perform the job and are a good fit for that particular school. The basic premise of the behavioral interview is that past performance is a good predictor of future performance.

While many teacher candidates are intimidated by this method, a behavioral interview gives you the opportunity to demonstrate to a prospective principal why you are well suited for the job and that school. Rather then merely telling the interviewer what you would do in a situation, as in a regular interview, in a behavioral interview you must describe, in detail, how you handled a situation in the past. What better way to “strut your stuff?”

This is an acronym to use to help you with behavioral interview questions. Think of answering the questions like a short story. ST = situation or task; A = action you took; R = result of that action. If you are just graduating from college, think about situations from your student teaching experience, field experiences, and class work. If you get asked a behavioral question and you have never had an experience to fit that question, do NOT answer what you think you would do in that situation, because you truly don’t know. If you cannot answer the behavioral question, then let the principal or HR recruiter know that you have never experienced what they are looking for but you believe it would take skills in _______. Never make up a story.

Sample Behavioral Interview Questions:
Tell me about a time when a lesson plan didn’t go well and how you handled the situation.
Describe a conflict you had with a student/parent and how you handled the situation.
Tell me about a typical homework assignment in your class.
Describe an experience where you identified a student’s special needs and modified the lesson.
Share an example of communication with a parent that helped you better understand a student in your classroom.
Tell me about a specific instance when you collaborated with other colleagues and tell me the result of that collaboration.
Describe a lesson plan that went very well and why you think it worked.
Give an example of a time when you had to make a quick decision and the result that decision.

As with any interview, you need to prepare before the interview. Assess yourself - know your skills, style, and what you have to offer the employer. Do your research - know about the school and school system and know what they are looking for in a teacher candidate. Also, prepare questions to ask the principal - always have a list of questions to pull out at the end of the interview.

Behavioral interviews are used to select the best candidate. You should put much thought into the future of behavioral interviews...when you do something at work, or in school, that will demonstrate a competency to a prospective employer, that’s the time to write it down. Time has a funny way of clouding our memories. If you write down the details of an event right after it happens you’ll be able to be more specific. You might even consider keeping a journal.

Diane Sledden Reed
Assistant Director, Career Center
University of North Carolina Wilmington

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