The Job Interview – Do’s and Don’ts

Like many people in education I’ve been through a few interviews — for myself it’s probably somewhere north of 30.  It sounds like a lot and I suppose that it is a lot.  However, sometimes there were multiple interviews for the same job — positions like Science Department Head where I needed to interview in several different schools, or in the case of my current position as Superintendent I had 4 rounds of interviews.

And if I look from the other side of the interview table when I worked in Human Resources, district leadership and school administration I’m sure that I must have interviewed at least 300-400 people.

interview dog

Be Yourself  — It’s the Person You Already Know the Best

So, all being said, I’ve been in a ton of interviews.  I can’t even accurately estimate the number of resumes that I’ve read  — it must be over 2000.

And over my past 30 years in education I’ve noticed a few things that I think can make a big difference when someone is applying for a job.  I thought that you might be interested in hearing some of them.

Here are my Top 5 Things to Do in an Interview:

  1.  Be Yourself
    • It is completely understandable if you’re nervous.  I actually like to see a bit of nerves when interviewing someone — it means you care about this opportunity.
    • Be sure to let the true ‘you’ shine through not the person you think we want you to be.  It’s pretty easy to spot who isn’t being genuine.
  2. Let us Know Your Strengths

    Playing Well with Others is an Important Trait

    • I can’t stress enough how important it is to highlight what makes you the best candidate.
    • In public education we deal with people every single day, so knowing that you play well with others is important to highlight.
    • Put in your best effort – don’t rely on your expectation that the panel might know you.  Remember, you’re likely competing against other people who ARE putting their best effort into the application and interview.
  3. Don’t Make Stuff Up
    • It’s OK not to know stuff — I actually find it a great quality if you acknowledge that you don’t know something.
    • However, if you don’t know the answer to a question suggest how you might go about and find it.  Show us your resourcefulness.
  4. Strike the Balance Between Being Knowledgeable and Being Humble
    • arroganceI get it — You need to know a certain amount of stuff to be qualified for the job.
    • But, remember to show humility.  Finding the balance between knowledge and humility is tricky but critical.
  5. Set the Right Pace
    • We have a tendency to speed up when we’re nervous.  Be careful not to rush.
    • Practice your presentation ahead of time — record it if possible or have someone honestly critique your style.

And here are some clear DON’TS for me in an interview:

  1. Don’t be Flat
    • Monotone interviews are a killer to getting to know you better.  We want to know that you have a pulse and can be energetic.
  2. Don’t try to impress with a Ton of Information
    • Stay on topic.  Don’t drift into other areas to try to impress the interviewers with what you know.  Knowing that you can stay on topic is a critical professional skill.
    • dog running

      Speaking at 100 km/hr is Not Preferred

      As an interviewer it can be exhausting trying to keep up with you if you’re talking 100 km/hr.  Slow down.

  3. Don’t be Flippant
    • Being super-casual is also a killer in an interview.  We want to see your personality, but we also need to know that you take this opportunity seriously.
    • Creativity is important but professionalism always trumps.
  4. Don’t Focus on Your Past
    • Your past accomplishments are important to understand because they’re an excellent predictor of future success, but we already have that information from your resume.  We’ll ask if we want more detail.
    • What we really want to know is what you’re capable of doing for us in the present and future.  How will you make us better?
  5. Death by Slide Show
    • If you’re doing a slide show presentation (e.g. PowerPoint, Google Slides, or similar presentation) take the time to learn some important tips on what makes a good presentation.  I have seen more terrible slide show presentations than I care to remember.

And remember … Leave it all on the table in the interview room before you leave:

  • Be Yourself


    Words of Wisdom:  Don’t Try to be a Cat if You’re Really a Dog

  • Be Honest
  • Give it Your All

If you are focusing on what is important and remain true to yourself then you’ve done all that you can do.

The cards will fall where they fall.  And remember … It needs to be the right fit for you as well as for the employer.

Good luck in your interview!

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