“My daughter’s boyfriend’s brother has an interview next week for a teaching position. Do you have any standard interview questions that you use? I’d like him to be able to practice so he’s ready.”
If I had a dollar for every time I have gotten that question, I would be able to buy myself a really fancy steak dinner.
Depending on how well I knew the person, I used to give sample questions or offer suggestions. But I’ve changed my stance; my response is different now.
Recently, a teacher I love and deeply respect emailed me. She has been working with a student teacher; he is now interviewing for a job. He’s pretty fabulous, she told me. (Which means he really is.) He needs to be teaching kids, she said. (Which means he should.) I want to help him, she said. (Which means I wanted to help him, too.)
So I told her what I really think.
An interview isn’t something someone can study for. For one thing, it’s impossible to guess what questions will be asked. A thousand Google searches will reveal a thousand different sets of potential interview questions. Looking through them and mentally preparing “correct” answers would be a bit like preparing for a spelling bee—you might study for weeks, but when you’re called to the microphone, you’ll likely get the one stupid word you hadn’t encountered in your studies, and suddenly you’re just like every other yahoo up there trying to spell words they don’t know.
But there’s another reason studying interview questions doesn’t work: your words don’t matter nearly as much as the place from which they come. Are they coming from a desire to serve? To help? To make a difference? To be a good teammate? Or are your words coming from a place of desperation—to just get a job, already?
Your interview should reveal who you are.
When I interview for open positions, I’m looking for kindness. For generosity of spirit. I seek someone who’s a hard worker, someone who values youth. Who can admit mistakes and missteps, and isn’t judgmental about the mistakes and missteps of others. I’m not looking for a studious soul who sought potential questions and crammed, exam-style, for our conversation.
An interview isn’t a means to an end. It’s the beginning, in and of itself, actually.
So, when thinking about an upcoming interview, of course it’s a great idea to prepare. But I tell people to prepare by buying a nice professional outfit, by considering your talents and skills as they relate to the position, by spitting out your gum before going into the room. And then? Breathe deeply. Be the best true and authentic self. That’s what they’re looking for.