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8 interview mistakes that can cost you great candidates

Probably the most challenging part of the hiring process, and the area most susceptible to error is the interview itself. We all want to hire the best, but we don’t always get the best to accept our offers.

At Teach Away, we empower countless teaching candidates and hiring schools to connect, both digitally and in person, every day. Although we mostly see smoothly-run interviews, we do also have a punch list of interviewer mistakes that we’ve seen too often to ignore.

If you’re not careful, these interview mistakes will give the wrong impression and lead to great candidates losing interest in working at your school.

So, here are our top interviewer mistakes, and our tips to help you avoid them, so you don’t have to see your best candidate for the job walk away.

1) Arriving unprepared.

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Preparation is key. An unorganized interview is a big red flag to any teaching candidate.

Read their resume beforehand. If you’re trying to skim a resume for the first time during the interview, that will be painfully obvious to your interviewee. Candidates can see right through an interviewer who has not taken the time to review their resume, which gives the impression that you do not take the recruitment process seriously.

Instead, carefully review their work experience, skills and educational background in advance. This will help you formulate relevant interview questions and to conduct a more thorough interview. The more time you spend looking into the applicant’s qualifications and background, the better the interview will be, and the easier it will be to determine if they are the right fit for your school.


2) Leaving candidates waiting.

Be prompt – respecting the candidates time, sets a tone of mutual respect. Schedule interviews and stick to that planned time. Even if it’s just a pre-screen phone interview, call on time and don’t make candidates wait.

When a school head cancels an interview or doesn’t show up at the agreed time, especially if the candidate has got up in the middle of the night to accommodate a conflicting time zone, the candidate will perceive this as rude and disrespectful, and assume you’re not really interested in hiring them to work at your school.


3) Acting distracted.

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Stay focused – they’re bringing their “A” game, and expect you to bring yours too. From start to finish, you need to be 100% focused on the candidate. Being distracted during the interview with unrelated subjects, not paying close attention to responses, interjecting with unrelated comments, avoiding eye contact, glancing at your mobile phone for emails or texts, will leave your candidate feeling disrespected.

A disengaged interviewer not only interrupts a candidate’s train of thought, throwing a potentially great answer off-kilter – they will also negatively affect a candidate’s perception of a school and likely cause them to pull out of the process.


4) Rushing the interview.

You may think you have hit your 10,000 hour rule and can assess a candidate in two minutes. Keep in mind 90% of drivers overestimate how good they are at driving – the same holds true for interviewing. Not only can a candidate turn an interview around, it is easy to forget that this interview is bigger than the two of you in the room.

The interview is a critical marketing opportunity for you to showcase your school to a member of the very valuable job-seeker market. Do your school a favor, and stick to your scheduled time – sell your school, even if you know you’re not hiring them..

When you decide to bring in a candidate for an interview, be prepared to take your time. That’s the only way to evaluate them effectively and make an informed decision on the right teacher for your school.

A brief interview that doesn’t give the candidate the opportunity to really sell themselves, especially if a candidate has traveled to attend an in-person interview, is one of the biggest hiring mistakes we see time and time again at Teach Away.

Imagine you’re a candidate excited about the opportunity to interview at this great school overseas. You spend hours researching, thinking of questions and recalling past classroom experiences and lesson plan examples that would be relevant to the open position.

Then, after you’ve thoroughly prepared and are ready to excel, all you get is 15 minutes of the interviewer’s time. I’m sure we can all appreciate how unfulfilling and aggravating that would be.

So don’t overlap interviews or schedule them too close together. Show respect and take the time to properly evaluate each candidate. They prepared for you, so you owe the same consideration in return. And allocate plenty of time for them to ask questions at the end. An interview is as much an opportunity for candidates to size up potential hiring schools as it is for schools to audition prospective teachers.


5) Not asking the right questions.

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You’re an educational leader in your school, you likely have a strong opinion on assessments. Take a page from your own playbook and standardize a candidate assessment rubric. This will allow for easier side-by-side comparisons on those tough calls. Also, clear rubrics can mitigate the impact of dangerous halo effects. Make sure to craft questions before the interview that will help you correctly determine a teacher’s experience, qualifications, pedagogical knowledge and cultural fit.

Predictable, redundant, rhetorical or overly-complicated questions can frustrate or confuse the candidate. Instead, actively listen to candidate’s responses, and use open-ended questions that ask the what, how and why. This not only gets candidates talking; it will also help you get the information you need to make the right hiring decision for your school.

Don’t forget to ask questions that will help you glean candidate’s level of cultural awareness, as well their motivations for moving to the country where your school is located, either.

Sidenote: throughout the entire interview, be aware of talking too much, instead of listening. A good rule of thumb – if you’re talking more than half the time, you’re talking too much!


6) Not being upfront.

Setting a realistic expectation of the challenges faced by educators in your school and community will pay dividends. It’s not enough to get them through the door – you need them to stay and contribute.

Yes, it’s true that in order to recruit and convince your candidate to join your school you have to “sell” them on the job and your school but you don’t need to overstate it. Fill them in on the benefits that a position at your school offers, but don’t embellish and make promises you can’t keep.


7) Being intimidating.

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Leave the boiler room interview tactics to the movies. When it comes to interviewing candidates, a few friendly gestures go a long way. Remember that the best international teachers will have access to a wealth of employment options so your school should strive to present itself as a welcoming, supportive place to work.

A job interview is one of the most nerve-racking experiences a person can go through. Stressed-out candidates can have a hard time putting their best foot forward during the interview, and if you don’t know what a candidate is capable of, it becomes challenging to make the most educated hiring decision for your school.

Barraging them with questions is the quickest way to shut your candidate down rather than opening them up. Instead, try to keep the whole interview process as friendly and conversational as possible. Keep your own body language open, and remember to make eye contact with the candidate.

If there are any challenging questions you need to ask, it’s best to save those for the end of the interview, when the candidate will likely feel more at ease.


8) Failing to follow up.


The international teacher labor market is getting more competitive every day. Teachers have options and need to make commitments. If it’s not with you, it will be with another school. When you aren’t transparent about your process (or, even worse, lack a clear one), you’re opening the window for great teaching candidates to move onto other job opportunities,  even if initially you were their top school of choice.

At the end of an interview, ask each candidate if they’re still interested in the position and take the time to fully inform them of your selection process going forward. Let them know when they can expect feedback and be sure to follow up with them in a timely fashion. And while they’re waiting to hear back on next steps in the hiring process, offer to connect your shortlisted candidates with a teacher currently working at the school.

Interviews are your best opportunity to get to know a candidate and determine if they’re the right fit for the job. But finding and hiring the right teachers is tough. So don’t make it even harder by driving great candidates away with these all-too-common interviewing mistakes.

Don’t forget, great educators will always have options, and interviews are a two-way street. A positive interview experience can convince a talented teacher to join your team, but a negative experience is sure to tarnish your school’s reputation.

We hope you found this helpful and we wish you the very best of luck with your candidate search this school year!

Do you know what really matters to your teaching candidates?


This article originally appeared in the New Year 2018 edition of AAIE Connector, the bi-monthly newsletter of the Association for the Advancement of International Education (AAIE).