Congratulations on being selected to interview for a position as a music educator. Whether you are interviewing for your first position out of college or you’re a seasoned professional, being prepared for an interview is essential. Good preparation will enhance your confidence and help you to stand out as a candidate. Read on for some useful tips for music education interviews.
A well-organized portfolio is one of the most powerful ways to showcase your skills. These days, creating a digital portfolio is a great bet. But, having your materials available in hard copy is important – you wouldn’t want to be surprised when, upon arriving at the interview, you find that there is a slow (or no!) internet connection. If you have audio and video examples that you would like to show, store the files on your laptop or mobile device, just in case!
Basic items to include: Your resume, a generic cover letter, school transcripts, teaching credentials and letters of reference.
Showcase your talents: Develop a section that highlights your philosophy of music education, sample lesson plans and a classroom management plan. If you are an experienced educator, consider adding some photographs and student work samples. Other relevant items could include concert or recital programs and letters from students or parents.
Prepare questions for your interviewers: Create a section, just for you, that highlights potential interview questions and your answers. As you gain experience, include questions that you have encountered that you thought were particularly challenging or insightful.
Prepare leave-behinds: Have copies of a “mini portfolio” that you can leave behind for interviewers. Include copies of your resume and cover letter, a few great reference letters, a sample lesson plan, copies of your teaching license and transcripts and any other information that you feel is pertinent. Leaving something tangible with interviewers will help them to remember details about you and they’ll be impressed with the additional thought and preparation you have demonstrated. Based on what you know about the school district, be prepared to leave a hard copy binder or a CD or flash drive.
Find out as much as you can about the position for which you are interviewing. Guard against presenting yourself in too narrow a dimension – as a specialist or limited to particular instrument or discipline. Be seen as someone who can teach general music at any grade level. You may also want to discuss your ability to direct or start up programs for marching band, choir or a school musical production.
Demonstrate how your skill set and experiences are a good fit for the position’s needs. Instead of simply stating that you have strong leadership or classroom management skills, describe a challenge you faced in another teaching position and how you used your skills to bring about a positive resolution. If you are interviewing for your first teaching job, use stories about your experiences counseling at a summer camp, directing a church group or coaching a team that support your statements.
Most school districts are interested in hiring candidates who possess strengths such as adaptability, communication, content mastery, dependability, discipline, empathy, initiative, innovation, judgment, leadership, philosophy, planning and organization, problem solving, professional development and teamwork. Have a few examples of experiences that support some of these characteristics.
- It goes without saying that you want to be appropriately attired and well groomed. Go the conservative route with a suit, tailored dress, or sport coat and tie. Show your personality with carefully selected accessories or a great tie, but keep your choices professional. If you must travel to the interview, consider taking your interview outfit with you and changing into it just before to look fresh. Hours by car or plane can leave you rumpled and not looking your best.
- Arrive early. No matter what, do not be late!
- Be mindful of your body language. Sit up straight, lean forward, don’t cross your arms over your chest (it’s a defensive posture) and make direct eye contact with the interviewer(s). Smile, engage, show your enthusiasm. Remember the importance of a firm, friendly handshake when greeting and saying goodbye.
- Always have a list of questions with you. Learn all you can before the interview about the school, the school system and the community. Topics you might ask about could include the daily schedule, curriculum specifics, extra-curricular duties, fundraising and budget, student demographics and building-wide discipline policy.
- Be aware that the interview may be conducted by a single administrator or you may have a roomful of people including teachers, administrators and parents. Try to write down names and positions so that you can target your questions to the most appropriate person.
- When answering questions, speak as though you have the job. For example, not “if I am hired” but “as the music teacher or director, I will …” Think of the interview as a meeting about the job.
- Take notes as best you can so you don’t inadvertently ask a question that has already been addressed.
- Be truthful. If you don’t know something, say you do not but tell the interviewer how you would go about finding the information.
Send a thank you note. An actual thank you card that is mailed may be the most impressive if there was a single interviewer. If there were multiple people in the interview, send personalized thank you emails to each person.
Don’t hesitate to follow up within an appropriate timeframe and don’t be discouraged if the process takes some time.