Beyond the




How to Nail a Teacher Phone Interview

Teacher talking on phone

Opportunity may call rather than knock on your door.

A teacher phone interview can be challenging. Your success depends on your ability to present yourself as a competent, professional, warm, and enthusiastic candidate—without being able to see your interviewers!

Further reading: Highlighting Your Past Teaching Experience in Interviews

Schools today often screen candidates by phone before following up with a face-to-face meeting. Schools facing teacher shortages may even use phone interviews as substitutes for in-person interviews.

You can prepare yourself for a successful phone interview by planning ahead and knowing what to expect. Here are some tips to help you nail your next phone interview.

Preparing for the Phone Interview

You may not know exactly what to expect in your first teacher phone interview, but these suggestions can increase your chances for success.

  1. Do your homework. Check the school's website to learn about programs and relevant information. If feasible, take a drive to the school to familiarize yourself with the area.
  2. Identify a quiet place for the interview so you won't be interrupted by a doorbell, a cat crawling up on your lap, or a child calling your name.
  3. Be ready 10-15 minutes before you expect the call to get mentally prepared and to ensure you're the one who answers the phone.
  4. Use your attire and environment to get in the right mindset. You certainly can do a phone interview in your pajamas, but dressing for the job is always a good idea.
  5. Finally, think about the questions you may be asked and practice possible answers.

Your interviewer will likely ask questions based on your resume, so have it in front of you with notes or points you can make. Questions about your teaching experience, familiarity with new programs, classroom management skills, and technology are common. Peruse the internet for lists of typical questions so you'll be prepared for the interview.

When I interviewed candidates by phone as a principal, I liked to ask about their hobbies and interests besides teaching. Their answers provided a glimpse into their personality and character. So if you're a Big Brother or a champion ballroom dancer or a youth soccer coach, talk about your interests as a way to stand out from other applicants.

During the Phone Interview

Without the advantage of having visual cues during a phone interview, you may want to tweak the usual interview procedures so that things run smoothly.

  1. Listen to the questions carefully and pause before you answer so that you don't accidently interrupt before the interviewer finishes.
  2. Even if you're nervous, try not to rush your answers. Avoid saying "um," "ah," and "you know." Your ability to thoughtfully answer questions is all you have to prove you're the one for the job, so rehearse your answers ahead of time to avoid these filler words.
  3. Smile, suggests Jorg Stegemann in a recent Forbes article. Even though your interviewer can't see your smile, they can hear it. "If you don't believe the difference this makes," Stegemann says, "test it by leaving yourself two identical voice messages—one with and one without smiling."

Ask questions just as you would in an in-person interview. Before hanging up, reiterate your interest in the job and ask about the next steps in the hiring process.

The Unplanned Phone Interview

Phone interviews are usually scheduled, but you might get a spontaneous call when you're shopping or taking kids home from soccer practice.

What's the best thing to do? If you ask to reschedule, you may not get a call back. But you may not be able to perform well enough under the circumstances for a call back anyway.

So just be honest and say that you are very interested in the position and would really like to talk to them about it, but right at the moment you're checking out at the grocery store. Before hanging up, schedule another call for as soon as possible to make sure your interviewers don't overlook you.

When the Phone Interview Goes High Tech

Some job candidates may be asked to interview using a conferencing software like Skype. In USA Today, Alexandra Whittaker says that if you have a Skype interview, it's important to familiarize yourself with the application by practicing with a friend. "Play around with everything beforehand," she says, "so that when it's interview time, you can shine without being distracted by the program."

Here are some other Skype etiquette tips:

  1. Talk to the camera, not the screen. It's the only way to make eye contact with the interviewer.
  2. Dress professionally.
  3. Make sure your Skype audio is working before the interview, and close out any other apps so that nothing pops up on your screen during the interview.
  4. Make sure your cell phone is on silent.

In a Skype interview, questions and answers tend to be more spontaneous and conversational. If you've got the tech part down, you'll be able to show—and tell—why you're a good candidate for the job.

The Importance of Getting a Teacher Phone Interview Right

Some applicants may think that a face-to-face interview is where you really shine. But if you don't do well during the phone interview, there may not be a second interview. How you perform on the phone matters.

Last year, a new teaching colleague of mine was looking for a job in a state facing serious teacher shortages. She applied for jobs online at several schools, and within 48 hours, she had two phone interviews and one Skype interview. Every interview ended with an offer of employment. Because of her preparation and interview skills, she was able to choose from three opportunities.

Further reading: What I Look For in a Teacher Candidate    

So plan your next phone or Skype interview carefully. If you remember nothing else, remember this: practice beforehand. It could lead to your next teaching job!