A Rigorous Interview: The Key to Finding the Right Job for You

In 2013, I engaged in a series of conversations and interviews with YES Prep Public Schools to serve as the organization’s new Director of Recruitment. At the time, I would have classified myself as a “passive candidate,” which is recruitment-speak for someone who is not actively looking for a new job. More than anything, I was happy in my current role but curious about the opportunity. Over the course of a few weeks, I spoke with a hiring manager, conducted preliminary interviews, and then completed a finalist day involving multiple role plays, intense data analysis, and presentations. Although I had taken the step to apply and interview, I did so with the idea that I probably wouldn’t leave my school district. That all changed after going through such a rigorous interviewing process. I loved the people I interviewed with and could envision myself joining their team. Instead of being scared or turned off by the amount of pre-work I was given prior to my finalist day, I relished the chance to work on new projects and receive on-the-spot feedback at my interview. I learned that I wanted to work on those types of projects daily, which I didn’t know when I first entered the process. And just like that, I went from being a passive candidate to eagerly accepting my job offer and doing so with the confidence I was making an informed decision.
I share this personal anecdote because, over the next few months, school districts across the country will ramp up their hiring, and you will have the opportunity to engage in incredibly diverse hiring processes. You’ll encounter principals who are prepared to make offers after short, in-person conversations at hiring fairs, and others that require you to submit an application and complete interviews and school visits. You’ll also find that there are some districts who offer a hybrid of both processes. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, YES Prep’s hiring team prefers to engage with candidates through a multi-step hiring process, which allows us to holistically evaluate you and for you to really get to know us.

Check out my top three reasons for why you should invest the time in a rigorous hiring process this spring!

1. You have multiple opportunities to demonstrate your strengths.
Through an application, you can share your career highlights and interest in an organization, show off your strong writing skills, and discuss your leadership trajectory. During in-person and phone conversations, you have the opportunity to build a relationship and expand on your past professional accomplishments and experiences. And when given the opportunity to engage in a technical interview – perhaps one that involves teaching a sample lesson – you have the ability to demonstrate your lesson planning abilities, your level of organization and preparedness, and your ability to motivate and influence a room of people (whether they are students or adults). Participating in multiple stages of an interview process means you have more opportunities to shine to a hiring manager.

2. You have a chance to learn about your future employer’s culture from multiple people, and in various ways.
While teachers perform similar tasks in any school district (i.e. delivering a lesson, grading, planning, etc.), the environment in which you perform that work varies greatly across schools. Perhaps you are seeking an environment with total autonomy, or a place where colleagues offer a true support network. It’s difficult to learn about the culture of a school or organization without having the opportunity to meet your future colleagues or observe a day-in-the-life in action. A multi-step interviewing process allows you to engage with multiple stakeholders within a school district—from school leaders to kids. Prior to the interview, reflect on what it is you want out of a school culture and team, so that you can observe it in action or ask questions that get to the heart of what you’re looking for. You might ask:

  • “What does collaboration look like on your campus?”
  • “What is the culture like at your school?”
  • “In what ways, both formal and informal, are teachers supported and developed?”
  • “What is a day-in-the-life like for a teacher at your school?”
  • “What do you love about working here?”

3. You set yourself up for success.
This work is hard. Teaching middle school math was the most challenging and rewarding job I ever had, and it’s for that reason that I truly believe teachers deserve to be set up for success when they start a new role. This process also allows a hiring team to determine whether or not you’ll be set up for success on their campus, so that when you start your new job, you can thrive. Specifically, a hiring manager has the chance to learn more about your areas of strength and growth, and ensure the team you’re joining is able to help you develop and succeed. Engaging in a multi-step interviewing process, especially one involving a sample lesson and/or technical interview, lets you engage in the work prior to accepting a job and determine if the position will be a good fit.

Loving your job and your environment as well as having the tools to succeed are integral to your long-term happiness and career satisfaction. Take the time on the front end to get to know your potential employers and make an informed decision about where you’ll spend the majority of your day! For me, the rigorous interview process paid off. I am still working with a team that is committed to my development, and on projects that inspire and challenge me daily. If this process sounds like a good fit for you, I hope you’ll check out the countless opportunities to redefine possible as an educator and leader at YES Prep!

For more from Ana, read her 5 Tips for Marketing Yourself on LinkedIn.

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