Limitations of Teacher Interviews

Given the fact that teaching is widely considered to be a vocation, interviewers have to be careful to select the right kind of candidates for the classroom.  The panel of interviewers needs to screen applicants thoroughly in order to advance teaching and learning in the classroom.  They need the skills that would enable them to accurately assess each applicant’s subject knowledge, instructional capacity, commitment or work ethic, and ability to fit comfortably into the particular school culture and add value to it.

This is a tall order, and since interviewing is not a science, interviewing panels can make mistakes at times and hire the wrong person for the job.  Here are some of the limitations of teacher interviews, culled from my own experience as an interviewer and reports from other principals.

Many candidates know how to prepare for interviews.  They know the types of questions they will have to respond to and they rehearse the answers beforehand.  If , in addition, they possess very good communication and social skills, they may overly impress the interviewing panel.

All interviewers know that some applicants have the gift of the gab.  They are extremely persuasive speakers and they do excellent interviews.  However, some of them turn out to be very unsatisfactory or ineffective teachers.  The panel has the responsibility of separating the talkers from the doers and this can be a very difficult task.  The panel must have the expertise and the experience to achieve this or students will be short-changed in the classroom.

Teacher interviews reveal a candidate’s personality, to some extent, and subject knowledge and training.  They do not predict, however, how well that candidate will work if given the job.  They do not reveal subsequent commitment levels, work ethic, and ability to work collaboratively with colleagues.

All interviewers on the panel may not be experts in the subject or administrative area in question and may not ask the right questions.   They may also be unable to properly evaluate the candidates’ answers to certain questions.  This renders the selection of the best candidate more difficult and uncertain.

Human nature being what it is, interviewers can select candidates according to very subjective, biased or political criteria at times.  The leader of the interviewing panel or a panellist with a dominant personality may also influence the selection of a particular applicant.

Interviews can be time-consuming and tiring for the interviewers especially when there is a long list of candidates.  This may cause inconsistency  or possible lapses in judgment.

Some candidates are too nervous and anxious to answer the questions well.  They may forget vital information and perform poorly during the interview.

It can be argued that the limitations of teacher interviews reduce their reliability at times.  Interviewing panels need to ask additional and more probing questions to elicit further information from applicants, and check with references and principals from the applicants’ past employment when this is relevant.

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