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Career Advice Opinion

The Three Question Interview

By AAEE — June 16, 2018 4 min read
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Most interviews begin with a time-wasting question such as: “Tell us something about yourself.” Why? As the interviewer, you have the candidate’s resume, cover letter, and some other documents like a portfolio, reference letters or surveys, transcripts, and test scores. What more do you need to know about a 22-year-old interviewing for their first teaching position? And if you are interviewing someone with 10, 15, 20 years of experience, then add to the above-mentioned documents a curriculum vitae, additional degrees and certifications, published works or articles, awards earned, and preceding reputation or accomplishments.

Then the interviewer moves on to ask about the candidate’s teaching philosophy. Did you have a teaching philosophy at 22 years old and looking for your first job? I didn’t; and I come from a family of very successful and dedicated teachers. By age 22, I had traveled to three European countries and to Canada, spent several summers away from Louisiana attending a boys athletic camp in New Hampshire, climbed Mt. Washington and Mt. Lafayette, rafted the Rouge River in Quebec, biked on Cape Cod, swam in the Atlantic, and was Drum Major for two years for my college marching band. And still my philosophy at 22 was this: Get a job - Listen to my boss - Don’t get fired. I never even took a philosophy class in college.

Next, the interview moves into the “bank” of questions all candidates will be asked. Then the interviewee is given an opportunity to ask any questions they may have and then the interview is over and on to the next candidate please.

Every interview for a teacher, an administrator, or any school level position should really be only three questions:

Can you show up to work every day?

Can you get to work on time every day?

Can you do what you are supposed to do?

These questions are simple, efficient, and leave no room for answer choices other than “Yes” or “No.” However, with all things that look and sound simple; the reality of performing the “Yes” to each of these questions is extremely difficult.

I know, it’s a different way of thinking about an interview. So, try it this way: Can the person you interviewed and selected for the teaching job a year ago answer “Yes” to all three of these questions today? In my experience, probably not. I have not yet met any employee at any level who can answer or continuously answer “Yes” to all three questions...including myself.

The first two questions are easily explained and readily accepted as part of working for any organization. Employees will not come to work due to illnesses, injuries, family obligations, or personal issues. Most employers anticipate this and offer paid time off benefits such as sick leave, extended sick leave, short term/long term disability, and sabbaticals. Employees will also be late for work because life gets in the way: car won’t start, youngest child flushed the keys, husband last used your car and left it on empty, air condition coils went out in August, you ran over the neighbor’s cat, traffic, bad weather, accident on the interstate, etc.

These two questions only become an issue for an employee when they happen frequently. Consistently being absent from or late to work does have a direct negative impact on your students, your building principal, and your fellow colleagues.

Question 3 is really where the rubber meets the road: Can you do what you are supposed to do? This is the most difficult question to answer “Yes.” All school systems will mold and guide their staff as to their vision and mission and community expectations. What I refer to as supposed to do is:

Do you read the employee handbook before sign a statement saying you did?

Are you following the lesson plan structure of the school?

Do you turn of your cell phone or iPad during a faculty meeting and give your attention to the principal or presenter?

Do you follow the procedure of the fire drill and take an accurate head count even though it’s just a drill?

Do you lock your door during a campus emergency type drill?

Do you not worry about what others are getting and instead focus on what you are doing?

Are you actively teaching and engaging students on a variety of levels from bell to bell?

Do you refrain from gossip?

Do you actively listen to parents?

Are you incorporating GLEs, Common Core, District-Wide initiatives, or other mandated instructional goals into your lessons?

Do you take personal accountability and not blame others?

Do you accept change?

Do you represent yourself, your school, and your school district well?

Do you like what you are doing?

I know the interview process will not narrowed to just these three questions alone. However, please seriously consider incorporating them into your interview process. You may be surprised to see how the candidate reacts to and answers these questions. Their responses just might tell you something about them and give you a glimpse into their philosophy.

Submitted by:

Gavin Vitter

HR Consultant

GVC Enterprises, LLC

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