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Don't Mess Up! 43 Mistakes You Can't Afford to Make

This book was written with one goal in mind: to provide you with the most practical information available to help you secure a teaching position. In order to do that, I surveyed all the literature on recruiting and hiring, interviewed school administrators throughout the country, surveyed principals from coast to coast, and tapped into the collective wisdom of teachers just like you who have successfully negotiated the interview process and obtained the job of their dreams. This book has been built on the success of others who have gone before you as well as on the "inside secrets" of those who do the actual interviews. What you have in these pages is a distillation of some of the best experience and thinking on teacher interviews to be found anywhere.

Not only did I want to provide you with the most practical information on how to have a successful interview, I also wanted to let you know about some of the mistakes teacher candidates typically make—mistakes that often doom their chances, cost them the job, or derail their chances for employment. These are the mistakes that pop up often enough that they deserve their own chapter. While the rest of this book is on the "positives" of successful interviews, this chapter will focus on the "negatives." That's simply because these events happen so frequently and in so many interviews across the country that they seem to be persistent, a virus that far too often sneaks its way into an interview and "contaminates" any chance you have of getting hired.

But there's one important thing about this list. As you look over these typical and common "boo-boos," you will note that they all have one thing in common—they can all be controlled by you! Each of these interview mistakes is under your control, your supervision, your influence. That's right, each of these interview mistakes is under your control! You can choose to ignore all of these, or you can choose to do your "homework" and prevent any one of these from sneaking its way into your interview. You have the power to address each and every item on this list. People before you have made these mistakes, and they are probably going to continue to make them. Let their mistakes be your guidance for a most successful interview.

A. Pre-Interview

Uses a Cell Phone

Here's a fact of life: Your cell phone will not help you get a job, but it does have the potential to make sure you never do. Here's the best piece of advice I can give you, and I know it will be painful for some: Leave your cell phone in your car. Do not take it into the school, and do not take it into the interview. Don't even think about it. If you spend any time on your cell phone while in the school or in the interview, you will be sending a very powerful negative message to the interviewer: My business is more important than yours.


"I was interviewing a candidate one day, when his cell phone rang. He stopped speaking and answered the call. After about a minute he put his phone back in his pocket. We continued the interview until five minutes later, when his phone rang again. Once more he stopped talking and answered the call. When he was finished, I got up and showed him the door. Bottom line: I will not tolerate impoliteness."

Oh, one more thing: Don't wear a Bluetooth to an interview. And the same goes for your iPod.

Is Tardy

First impressions count! Get to the interview late, and you will make one of the worst impressions ever. It makes no difference what your reasons are or what kinds of excuses you use (one of my favorites—"Your secretary gave me really lousy directions."). If you are late, you are out! In case you think this is not a common occurrence, one research report showed that 50 percent (yes, 50 percent!) of job candidates were tardy for their interviews. If you really want the job, be on time. Don't be rude, be punctual!

Makes a Bad Impression in the Waiting Area

Don't talk on your cell phone, listen to your iPod, play a game of Solitaire on your laptop, check your e-mail, smoke, or chew gum. Instead, read an educational book, review your interview notes, or (if appropriate) engage in a pleasant conversation with the secretary or receptionist. Even before the actual interview starts, you are being evaluated by others. Be a professional, so do something professional.

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