Yes or No? iPads at Teacher Interviews?

Jan 25, 2013

Credit: Brian Taylor for The Chronicle 

Credit: Brian Taylor for The Chronicle

It’s teacher-hiring season all over the country! As a former interviewer and hirer of teachers, principals, deans, operations directors and more, I’m always interested in how organizations and candidates prepare for interviews.

Each week, I receive the Marshall Memo, an outstanding weekly e-newsletter summarizing the latest and greatest ideas in K—12 education. This week, the Memo’s editor, Kim Marshall, shared an interesting opinion piece from The Chronicle of Higher EducationIt makes a strong case for leaving your iPad at home when you head out for an interview.

In Together Teacher and Together Leader workshops, we frequently discuss technology etiquette. Participants often ask me, “But Maia, I need to take notes electronically…What do I do in a ‘screen down’ environment?” My standard reply: “Observe and ask.”

Here’s a great quote that neatly sums up the Chronicle author’s point of view:

“The candidate promptly handed me the following items: iPad, iPad case, keyboard, paper notebook, and even a warm cup of Starbucks coffee…After handing off all of those props, our candidate shook hands with the committee members and then sat in the ‘hot seat,’ took out the iPad (with stand) and keyboard, turned it on, and proceeded to take notes through the entire interview. The candidate also scrolled up and down the screen as various topics came up. Fifteen minutes into the interview, and I knew this person had lost the entire committee.”

I’m not sure I agree with the author’s point of view that iPads and such should be totally and automatically banned from interviews. After all, showing you want to take notes for your own learning and that you’re technologically proficient can be a GOOD thing!

Still, your future boss could make an incorrect assumption about you.  Here are some tips to avoid creating a poor impression:

If you prefer to take notes electronically…

  • If possible, ask your organizational contact in advance what is appropriate. You should do this anyway, iPad or not. I’ve seen many a teacher show up for a demonstration lesson and mistakenly expect access to a photocopier!
  • If you do take notes electronically, name this preference of yours at the start of the interview and ask if it is okay. You could even show off your Teaching Encyclopedia like Nilda. This would have knocked my socks off! If you notice ANY hesitation from the ones in charge, shift to a back-up notebook.  This shows flexibility.
  • If using technology is okay, be sure to use it appropriately. Remember to maintain eye contact and a personal connection with your interviewers. Avoid typing unless you’re capturing a key next step, and set your device off to the side so it is not a barrier between you and the committee. And for Pete’s sake, do NOT have your email or Facebook open!

What can companies, schools, and organizations do?

  • Spell out your technology expectations for interviews. Consider putting these on your website or as a standard part of your confirmation email to candidates.
  • Name the cultural norms of your organization or school. This might sound something like, “We don’t use SmartPhones in the hallway because our kids aren’t allowed to use theirs during the school day.”

Let candidates know what types of technology you have available for teachers. Many teachers come with systems already in place. If they can prepare ahead of time for a shift, they’ll get a stronger start.

Together Teacher Discussion Question: Together Teacher friends, what do you think of this article? Would you bring your iPad or tablet to an interview?