Do your teacher interview questions actually help hire people who bring out the best in students and their colleagues? Of the teachers you hire each year, how many are top performers and how many just meet your basic requirements? When you really think about it, where did your questions come from in the first place?

One of the most common interview mistakes made by HR leaders and hiring managers is to assume all questions are created equal. It’s easy to grab a yellow notepad, do a quick online search, or even pick from a committee’s list of questions.

Hiring and growing teachers who think and act like your best doesn’t happen by accident. Effective teacher hiring focuses on the quality of your questions to provide the information you need to make the best employee choice… every time.

Before you schedule another interview, compare your questions with this helpful guide to see how they stack up.


Unfocused Questions vs. Based on a Standard

If you’re not used to writing and organizing interview questions, the natural approach is to list what comes to mind. This usually results in a set of questions that hits a variety of topics, without much to connect them logically.

Better to first decide as a team what you want in a high performing employee, based on your best people and relevant professional research. Describe what they should know, how they will use their talents, and who they are as individuals that make them enjoyable and productive members of the team.

Then write questions that reveal how closely each candidate matches your standard description.


Open Interpretation vs. Specific Criteria

This is critically important. If you have three interviewers asking ten questions without any criteria, you’ll have 30 different interpretations of what a good candidate response sounds like. That’s not a recipe for success.

Better to use a standard description of excellence to define what interviewers should listen for in a good response. Your interviewers will thank you for having simple, clear criteria to guide their listening and score each response.

With training, your team can increase agreement on their scoring which leads to more consistent results.


Resume Qualities vs. Personal + Professional Qualities

Following conventional wisdom, an applicant’s resume or online application is often used to decide if their experience and skill are worthy of an interview. Beyond the basic knowledge, skills, and abilities checklist, how much do you really know about a person from a resume?

Better to use a set of screening questions that helps you consider personal AND professional qualities as you decide if a full interview is a good investment of time and resources.

Even better if your full interview questions help you go deeper and listen for more evidence that those personal and professional qualities are a part of their everyday work life.


Vague vs. Specific

Surgeons don’t use dull knives in surgery. You shouldn’t use vague questions in an interview. You can have a standard of excellence or criteria that seeks a balanced view of a candidate and still miss the mark with vague questions.

Better to get at a specific concept, issue, skill, or situation with a focused question that makes the topic clear without giving away your criteria. Specific, job-related questions can help keep you within legal boundaries. Early in the hiring process, questions can be a bit broader to help build your candidate pool.

As candidates advance through your hiring process, questions should become more specific and detailed to separate the top performers and reveal the best fit.


Focus on the Knowledge vs. Focus on Knowledge + Behavior

Many interviewers want to get to the point and discover if a candidate understands an important teaching concept or knows certain facts about the curriculum they will teach. While this is important to their success in the classroom, interviewers often stop here and get only part of the picture they need to see to make the best hiring decision.

Better to seek initial agreement or confirmation on a concept and followed by how the candidate applies that concept to their everyday work with students and adults. Their responses show if they understand the concept AND show evidence they apply the concept to their work.


Quick Win vs. Two+ Layers of Questions

Hiring managers often describe interviewing as a drudgery and want the quickest way to click, chat, and offer a job. Even if they want to invest more time, they may feel an urgent need to fill a position in hopes the next person will turn out better than the last one. The real question becomes, “where do you want to invest your time?” – up front to find quality or on the back end trying to get rid of a bad or a mediocre hire?

Better to hire hard and manage easy by screening with questions on skill and talent, then go deeper in a second round of questions that reveals how the person applies those skills and talents in your work environment.

Other layers like a skills demonstration, presentation, or additional team input is useful as well. Although it may be efficient for a few people to make all the decisions, you’ll get more ownership in the outcome with some type of team involvement in the process.


Excellence in – Excellence out

As with everything you do, the effort put into creating your interview questions directly impacts the quality of people you hire, especially for teachers. Students deserve to enjoy the magic touch of a learning specialist instead of the hum-drum drone of an instructor of information. To get excellent results, it starts with asking excellent questions that reflect the six principles in this guide. Writing, testing, and measuring effective questions is both a science and an art. There are professionals who can partner with you and to achieve your goal faster. If you have an interview planned for next week, this guide can help you ask better questions that will lead to better teachers.