Friday, June 20, 2008

8 Interview Red Flags

Just like in dating, one has to watch out for red flags when interviewing. Now looking back, I can see that I have seen several red flags in the interview process. I just wasn't experienced enough to catch on at the time.

It is totally possible to overcome them, in fact, I would rather follow the person who is accused of making a mess of things--just not if the old choir teacher is at the high school next door!!

1. Students on the interview committee:
The school may have had problems with teacher retention in the past due to students not liking them. Watch out. I was the student favorite pick at the interview and I still couldn't make it work. It may also indicate a weak administration that bends to the community's whims rather than standing firmly on what they think is right. A principal today said: you can't please all of the people all of the time. You'll drive yourself crazy. That's what I like to hear.

2. Past choir/music teacher not there:
Chances are the teacher left on bad terms--either they caused a ruckus or inherited a mess. This may not be true, but ask lots of questions. When I encountered this last year I got very vague answers. I didn't have the experience to put it together. It also means no one who really knows anything about music is there to help in the decision-making process.

3. Teacher left on bad terms:
such as for reasons other than marriage, promotion of spouse, or retirement. I hope my not being there for the interview in my ex-district will serve as a red flag to someone else. Find out where that teacher will be next year and if you will be able to have contact with them. Modeling your program after theirs in the beginning will help smooth the transition.

4. Former teacher will be at a neighboring high school after having an award-winning choir that toured internationally. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. Danger! Sabotage is emminent. Students are known for visiting friends at other high schools when they can. The old teacher could telegraph that he wants to return. Rumors fly.

5. Rotating music teacher position:
You are interviewing to be the third choir/band teacher in 3 years. Trouble may be afoot. The problem may be the administration, the transition or the community.

6. Too many people interviewing you:
No one will know what to ask unless all have the same set of questions. You may not get a fair interview. This actually happened to me at one school where there was an impromptu panel of 7 people crowded into the Principal's office inventing questions off the top of their heads. No one had seen my resume. It was one of the worst interviews I've ever had. I felt like I had been hit by a bus.

7. Only one person interviewing you:
I have seen this happen more than once. The first time, I was passed from the district office to the principal who came in shorts and a headscarf from cleaning. I signed a contract and then regretted it. I had five preps in five different subjects. The second time was with a rather severe headmistress/nun of a Catholic school who seemed to hate me from the moment she saw me. No one else was there to balance out the interview. I left in tears. The interview also suffered from the following problem:

8. Unclear schedule:
I had an interview at a high school where I wasn't even sure what I was interviewing for. First we talked about choir. Then we talked about drama. Then suddenly we were talking about teaching dance. Wow. I was totally confused. I found out that stayed a mess until the choir teacher at another high school in the district got involved in helping them make a decision.

I've learned over time that they aren't just interviewing me, I'm interviewing them. I ask, ask, ask and ask then I listen, listen, listen to make sure I don't get in a bad situation ever again. This represents a huge growth for me since I used to have a singular thought: Get the job.

Again, it's possible to overcome some of these situations, just be aware of what you are getting into. Do you really want to work with people who don't know how to interview? Is it indicative of a mode of being? Is it a bad job? Sometimes a nightmare community for one person can really click with another person. Sometimes being the 3rd choir teacher in 3 years can serve you well since the last person didn't stay and the old teacher didn't come back. It's up to you. Just try to get as much information as you can.


Estrella said...

I just stumbled across your blog today, and I love it! I found this particular entry to be very helpful because I'm new on the job market this year. In the few interviews I've had already, I didn't recognize these red flags for what they were.

Andrew said...

Hahaha...yeah I think I've seen just about all those situations! Thanks for sharing. I can't wait to read more of your blogs.

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