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Monday, July 20, 2015

Job Search and Interview Tips for Music Teachers

Job searching can be a daunting task. After going through the process recently, here are a few things I've learned.

Finding a music teaching job can be tough. This post has a lot of tips from cover letter writing to interview questions and even an answer to the dreaded biggest weakness question. You'll be teaching students of your own in no time!

Cover Letter
For me, writing cover letters are the most difficult part of the job search process. The best resource I've found for writing music teacher specific cover letter is Eastman's Musician's Cover Letter Handbook

The most important thing to do while drafting a cover letter is to tailor each cover letter to each position you apply for. Do your research on the place you're applying to and include something unique you like about the school/district in the final paragraph such as their technology initiatives, teacher mentor program, or extra or co-curricular activities you are interested in. 

It is safe to assume that if you're applying for a music-related job, you taught music at some point. Include specific verbs, approaches, and stats to make you stand out. Did you increase participation in your choir program? Did you organize a new event or collaborate with other teachers?

Don't be afraid to constantly tweak or change your resume. I changed wording, added and deleted items, and even changed the font. Did you know Times New Roman has become the "sweatpants" of fonts? You never know what someone is looking for or what someone may be turned off by. If you're applying to jobs and haven't heard anything back, try changing something on your resume.

Digital Portfolio
Digital portfolios are becoming more of a trend in the job hunt process. The first thing my new principal said when she sent the email asking if I wanted to interview was that she loved my digital portfolio. I included a link to my digital portfolio on my paper resume. This portfolio is a great way to show you are technology proficient as well as a way to showcase your skills.

What to Include in Your Digital Portfolio
Teaching samples such as lesson plans and unit plans
Videos or audio clips of performances
Parent newsletters
Teaching philosophy
Educational social media
Contact information

How Can I Create A Digital Portfolio?
Choose a free website platform that comes with a template you can easily adjust to what you'd like your portfolio to look like. I personally like to work with Wix because I like the look of the pre-made layout portfolio templates.

A few suggestions for websites:

Interview Questions
The best way to prepare for the interview is to practice, practice, practice. Practice in the mirror, practice in the shower, practice with a friend or family member. Write out responses to organize your thoughts but don't memorize the exact answers. You don't want to sound too robotic.

Here are a list of a few questions I compiled to practice:

Tell me something about yourself that we can't find out from your resume.
What's the best lesson you've ever taught?
What are your successes with your current students?
How do you integrate technology?
What counting system do you use?
What is your plan for discipline?
What music would you program for a _______ concert?
What are your 5/10 year goals?
What are your biggest strengths/weaknesses?
Why should we hire you over any other candidate?

Another great resource for interview question ideas are the music teacher and band director Facebook groups. Search for interview questions and you will find dozens of threads.

The Dreaded Biggest Weakness Question
Workaholics and perfectionists are a dime a dozen with this question. Pick a music related weakness and how you're working on improving.

Here's my answer: Brass is my biggest weakness. In order to overcome that, I bought a trombone and trumpet this year in order to continue practice and learning them. It’s helped me to learn technique, fingerings/slide positions, and what students may struggle with.

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