How do I get an interview to be a teacher? [Interviewing to become a Teacher – Part 1]

Once student teachers have finished their program, they find themselves facing one of the most challenging hurdles in the profession: The Interview. Someone can be the best teacher, but being the best teacher isn’t always enough to get the job. Being able to explain why they are the best, and even getting the opportunity to have that conversation is what’s required.

This multi-part series will explain:

  1. How to Land an Interview
  2. Preparing for an Interview
  3. Interview Questions… and Answers

My background is with the Toronto District School Board, and this information is shaped through the lens of the many interviews I and my colleagues have been through in the TDSB, and surrounding GTA board.

However, it is my great hope that this advice will apply to boards both inside, and outside of Canada. This advice is also, hopefully useful for experienced teachers who are looking to interview when changing schools, seeking leadership positions, or looking to become administrators.

How do I land an interview?

Most people want to hear that there is a one-step secret to landing and interview and getting a teaching job. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. It is hard work from start to finish. But, hopefully this will help you out:

  • Step one: Look at job postings
  • Step two: Create your application package
  • Step three: Send our your package
  • Step four: …wait.

Don’t get discouraged. It’s very likely that you are good enough, but there are always challenges to overcome.

Step One: Look at job postings

There are two ways to apply to the Toronto District School Board. Either you are applying to be an occasional teacher (See How to Apply to the TDSB) or you are on the Eligible to Hire list and can apply to contract positions.

The Toronto District School Board posts their contract positions on their website: https://www.tdsb.on.ca/About-Us/Employment/Teaching/Secondary

No matter what sort of interview you are headed into, this guide will be helpful. And boy oh boy, there are a lot of types of interviews for the TDSB. Other boards will likely have similar, but different, processes.

In the TDSB the types of interviews you can expect are:

  • Applying to the Occasional Teacher list
  • Applying to the Eligible to Hire list
  • Applying for a Long Term Occasional position
  • Applying for a contract position
  • Applying for a Position of Responsibility
  • Applying to be a Vice Principal

In all cases, the process follows the same four steps. Once you’ve found a posting, and are aware of what is required in your application package, it’s time to get started creating it.

Don’t get discouraged

One of the most difficult things to remember is that we are not always going to succeed on our first attempt. For that reason we need to be prepared to apply again, and again, and again. And then interview, and interview, and interview.

Apply to Everything

Learn when new postings go live. For the TDSB new postings can go up every single day, which means that applying to the board is a daily activity. This can become frustrating and discouraging. But, it’s important that you stick to it.

Accept the Silence

Once you’ve applied, maybe you’ll get a call or an email letting you know a.) you have an interview; b.) you did not get an interview. But, it’s more likely that you won’t hear anything at all. Even the best created packages might only yield a 20% application to interview offer ratio.

Not getting an interview still benefits you

Even if you don’t hear anything, by applying you have made sure that one more principal has seen your resume and knows you exist. Administrators talk to each other. While they might not have a place for you right now, because there’s someone else they have in mind, they are likely to pass your name on to their friends who are looking to fill Long Term Occasional positions. And, if another opening does come up, they may think of you, because you’ve become a known quantity.

Seriously. Apply to Everything

The words of The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” may sound cliché, but that doesn’t mean they’re not accurate. So what if you didn’t get hired after the last three interviews? Who cares if you didn’t hear back from the last five applications. That next one could be the perfect fit.

But you’ll never know, if you don’t apply to it.

Step Two: Create your application package

To apply to the Toronto District School Board for a contract position, you will require four main pieces in your application package:

  • An up-to-date cover letter
  • Your resume
  • Your certificate of qualification
  • Your eligible to hire confirmation

Writing a Cover Letter

A future article will cover the specific of writing the perfect cover letter. However, these tips should help you create a successful representation of your abilities:

  • Keep your cover letter limited to one page. Feel free to play with margins
  • Use font size 10 or larger
  • Write as if you have the job
    • Do: Teaching in your building, I will develop a community of likeminded educators…
    • Don’t: If I get hired to teach at your building, I will try to find likeminded educators who…
  • Use “-ing” words to start your paragraphs
  • Directly reference board documents
  • Use each sentence to demonstrate your personal skills
  • Ensure you explain how your skills will enhance the school you’re applying to

Additional tips can be found here: How to apply to the TDSB.

Remember: You will likely need to apply to a number of different schools. For that reason, try to limit the amount of times you specifically reference the name of the school you’re applying to (or remove it completely). Write a strong cover letter that can apply to all schools, but keeps it skills based. This will make it much easier to modify your package for multiple applications.

Writing a Resume

A future article will cover the specific of writing the perfect resume. However, these tips should help you create a successful representation of your abilities:

  • Keep your resume limited to two pages. Feel free to play with margins
  • Use font size 10 or larger
  • Use little splashes of colour
    • Do: Choose one colour, and change the shades for your headings
    • Don’t: Turn your resume into something resembling Rainbow Sparkle’s mane
  • Use diving sections to split up your experiences
    • Do: Create four or five headings that you can list all of your skills under
    • Don’t: Attempt to list experiences under individual schools
  • Include relevant skills from prior jobs
    • Leadership skills, technology skills, and data management skills are key components in education

Additional tips can be found here: How to apply to the TDSB.

Certificate of Qualification, and Eligible to Hire documentation

Your certificate of qualification can be downloaded from www.oct.ca once you have logged in.

Your eligible to hire documentation is likely in an email that you were sent once upon a time.

Both of these documents should be converted to images. Either use document converting software, or take screen shots using a snipping tool, or [CTRL] + [SHIFT] + S on a PC computer.

Once you have your cover letter, resume, and additional documents in digital formats, you can combine them into one Word doc, and then save it to a PDF. Once you have your PDF with all required items in it, you’re ready for the next step.

Step Three: Send out your package

Once you have your completed package saved as a PDF file, you need to e-mail it to the administrator listed in the job posting. Which may, or may not be the current administrator of the school. Always ensure that you check the address the posting tells you to email.

Now, all you need to do is hope that your email gets read. And then that your application package gets read. Out of the – potentially dozens, or hundreds – of applications.

There are three things you need to keep in mind when sending your email:

  1. Be clear in your subject line
    • Subject: Application Package for Job Posting XS2-7732
  2. Give yourself a leg up in the email body
    • Don’t: Please see attachment.
    • Better: Be polite and clear in the body of your email.

      John Smith,

      Please find my application package for XS2-7732 attached to this email.

      Thank you for your consideration,
      Smith John
    • Best: Use the email as an opportunity to introduce your skills.

      John Smith,

      Please find my application package for XS2-7732 attached to this email.

      I look forward to the opportunity to discuss my passion for integrating _________________ and _________________ into the classroom. By building on a pedagogy based on _________________ I will enhance your building through _________________ , _________________ , and _________________ .

      Thank you for your consideration.
      Smith John
  3. Attach your application package. Seriously. Do this.
    • And while we’re talking about obvious things, you might as well run spell check on your email before pressing send.

Step Four: …Wait

This is likely the hardest part of the journey. The waiting. In the Toronto District School Board postings are open for a week or so (it’s in the posting. You’ll see.)

As someone who checks postings and applies every day, you’ll have a week lag between when you send off your package and when you hear back. And, as mentioned, you may never hear back. But – this waiting period is key. Because it’s time to apply to even more positions.

For real though, apply to EVERYTHING

This cannot be stressed enough. You don’t even have to apply to positions you want. Because, as mentioned there are benefits to just getting your name out there. But, the most important reason:

You need to interview to get better at interviewing.

Interviews are stressful, and the only way to get better is through practice. If you only apply to jobs you really want, you’ll only interview for jobs you really want. And, while I have no problem walking into an interview, talking for thirty minutes about myself, and walking away without a hint of stress… when it’s a job I don’t 100% want… I still get nervous when I approach an interview I really care about.

And, I say this having interviewed dozens of times.

So apply for everything, interview for everything, and become the teacher you want to be.

It may feel discouraging at first, but as soon as you land your first job, you’ll forget all about it and never look back.

Next Steps:

Next up – you’ll learn what you can do to prepare for your interview. That’s a good use of your waiting time too. You might even find yourself updating your resume and cover letter with new information while you wait.

Good luck!

Continue the Series:



Written by…

Michael Barltrop has been teaching since 2006, integrating comics, video games, and TTRPGs into his classroom. He has been the head of English, Literacy, Special Education, and Assessment & Evaluation and Universal Design. Feel free to reach out through Twitter @MrBarltrop!

Feel free to support the website hosting by buying him a coffee or sharing this post on facebook, twitter, or whatever social media is trending these days.

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