Instructional Coach Interview Tips


Tips for an Instructional Coach Interview

Are you looking for some tips to help you prepare for your instructional coaching interview?

This is Part 4 in our series about how to become an instructional coach. You will find tips to help you prepare for instructional coach interview questions and answers that may come up. At the end, you’ll find some quick tips to make sure you really stand out!

What to look for in this post:
General instructional coach interview tips
Interview questions and answers for an instructional coach position
  • Experience
  • Curriculum
  • Collaboration/Relationships
  • Time Management
  • Professional Learning
Quick tips to prepare for an instructional coach interview
  • Use the job description
  • Know the school
  • Go in with a plan
  • Keep calm
  • Prepare 1-2 questions
Additional instructional coaching resources

If you prefer to hear me talk through this, here is a video featuring all of this content:

[1:01] General instructional coach interview tips

Of course different interviewers will ask different questions, so no list will be comprehensive. I can’t guarantee what is going to be asked, but I can just about guarantee that the questions will come from a few major categories. I can definitely help you think through these categories in advance.

I know I’m leaving you on the edge of your seats, but the first and most important thing I want you to remember for any interview is that it is essential that you not only ANSWER the question that is asked, but also that you ELABORATE on how you are already implementing that quality, skill, or practice that you have been asked about. Don’t leave anything on the table! You cannot expect your interviewers to have your resume memorized, so you want to showcase what a great fit you are for the job within your answers.Hopefully you have watched some of my previous videos in my series about building experiences relevant to instructional coaching and you have started reading some of the books that I recommended. That should help you tremendously in answering the questions in a more personal way.

Instructional Coaching Interview Questions and Answers

[2:30] Interview questions and answers for an instructional coach position

Now let’s get started with these categories that are likely to come up in your instructional coaching interview. We are going to go through experience, curriculum, collaboration/relationships, and time management.

[2:34] Your experiences that have led you to instructional coaching

Most likely, the interviewer will ask you about the experiences that have led you to instructional coaching. They may want to know why you are interested in the position, as well as in the teaching experience that you bring to the table.

When you answer, make sure you tell your story. Highlight who you are, what your passions are, and how that fits into instructional coaching. If you followed my 7 tips for how to become an instructional coach, you will remember that I recommended you shadow an actual instructional coach. This would be a great time to mention that you have done that, and make sure you throw in some personal experience from your time with that instructional coach. It shows that you have taken initiative and that you are familiar with the role. Be specific about what you discovered when you were there, and let them know that you are sure this is what you want to do.

[3:54] Curriculum related to instructional coaching

It is likely that you will be asked about lesson planning and using standards. You might be asked about different strategies that you use in your classroom, how to engage students in lessons, or how you use data to inform your teaching.

Make sure that, whenever you are asked these questions, you can speak to your diverse teaching experiences and what you have tried in your classroom. One of my 7 tips was to diversify - teach different things. This is a great opportunity to brag about yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back for the things you have done in different grade levels and content areas. I understand it can be hard to talk about all the great things you have done, but this is the time to do it! Share your experiences with curriculum planning, data-informed instruction, and student engagement strategies.

[5:30] Collaboration and relationships as an instructional coach

I feel certain you will get a question about collaboration and relationship-building as an instructional coach. You may be asked for examples of successful collaborations you have experienced. The interviewers might also toss out different scenarios and ask you how to engage with someone who is difficult to work with.

During this set of questions, make sure that you speak about any committees you have served on and the additional responsibilities that I encouraged you to start taking on. Talk about teams you have worked on successfully. I wouldn’t talk a whole lot about unsuccessful teams, unless you can discuss something you learned during that experience. Do not mention any names.

In addition, I want to make sure you talk about the importance of building a good relationship with an administrator. If you have a story you can share about collaboration with administration, definitely include that here. Make the point that you understand how important it is, as an instructional coach, to collaborate and have strong relationships with the principal(s) in your building.

Lastly, make sure you talk about a time you met a teacher where they were. If you have taken on coaching or mentoring a new teacher, this is a great time to bring that up. Share their starting point, how you worked with them, and the progress you saw together. Those are great talking points related to collaboration and relationships needed to be an effective instructional coach.

[7:46] Time management and balancing your workload as an instructional coach

You will probably get questions about time management and how to balance your workload. Managing your schedule will be crucial, because this looks very different for instructional coaches versus teachers. You really have to own your scheduling and planning, and you will want to describe how you prioritize tasks.

First, you can speak to how you do this in your own classroom. You can describe your planning process, your schedule, and your use of technology tools. For example, do you use Google Calendar to help you stay organized? Or even if you use a paper planner or plan book, there is no shame in that. I still have a paper planner that I love!

[8:56] Professional learning as an instructional coach

In this case, interviewers may ask you about professional learning opportunities that you lead. Make sure you have an answer for this. They may also ask about professional learning that you partake in, and you should talk about both kinds in any case. If you have presented at a regional or national conference, include that information here as well. Even if it’s not about coaching, that’s okay. It shows you are a leader and you have experience sharing ideas with teachers.

I did a video recommending five books, and I would say if you can read any of those and speak to how they influence your instructional coaching, that would be helpful. If you watch other videos about instructional coaching, mention that research. Twitter is a fantastic professional learning opportunity for so many people, and you can talk about the connections you have there as well.

Another thing I recommend is to make sure you can speak to andragogy versus pedagogy. Pedagogy is understanding how students learn, whereas andragogy is understanding how adults learn. Instructional coaching is all about adult learning, so make sure that you have read up on that and feel confident speaking about it.

Be sure to talk about the topics you are interested in. What is your magic as a classroom teacher? For me, I was very skilled in technology. I took for granted that other people had the same skills, and I have learned that not everyone has them. So I can speak a lot about technology and professional learning, and I know you have skills that set you apart as well. Make sure you have your list ready to discuss how you are professionally prepared for instructional coaching.

Quick Tips to Prepare for an Instructional Coaching Interview

[11:35] Quick tips to prepare for an instructional coach interview

As promised, I’ve got a few quick tips that might make all the difference in your interview.

[11:43] Use the job description for the instructional coach position

This sounds really basic, and sometimes there may be only a very brief description. For me, there was a long job description for the instructional coach position. There were even a few things on there that I didn’t quite understand initially. When it said I needed to understand ‘backward design’, I was a little nervous because I didn’t know exactly what that was. When I looked it up, I realized it was something I already did but I called it something different. Another thing that was mentioned was ‘universal design for learning (UDL)’. I didn’t know what it was at first, but I studied up. I made sure I knew about it and would be able to speak to it, even if I didn’t have the experience (don’t lie about that!).

[13:06] Know the school you are applying to coach in

Speak to the needs of the school whenever possible. If you are unfamiliar, you need to research the school and/or the district. In my situation, there were ten schools in my district. I could have been working at any of them, and I was new to the district. While I didn’t know everything about every school, I knew enough about the district.

If you know about your district, or if there is a particular school you are interviewing for, think about their goals for the year. What are they working toward accomplishing? I’m not opposed to calling a principal ahead of my interview, explaining who I am, and checking in with them about their goals. It’s so powerful for a principal to know that you are reaching out to ask those questions. Or maybe you know a teacher in that school and they can tell you what the school is taking on.

You should also know about the demographics. Is it a Title I school? You should be aware of the school’s history, and any special dynamics like new leadership or recent awards. Being knowledgeable will be beneficial and it will make you look really good if you can talk about the school.

[14:53] Go into the instructional coach interview prepared

Show the interviewers that you have prepared for the interview. This sounds super cheesy and old school, but I always take several print copies of my resume to the interview. When I come in, I want to make sure that everyone has a copy of my resume with my name sitting in front of them the entire time. Doing this makes you look prepared, but it also helps you because you can also have your resume in front of you if you need it to jog your memory.

I am also not opposed to bringing a note card into an interview. I have my little note card to make sure I hit the major talking points and brag about myself when I can. Don’t read off the card, but have it there to refresh your memory if needed. Perhaps there are some great quotes from one of the books I recommended that you can mention during your interview. I’m telling you, sprinkle in book quotes, research, and statistics like confetti in an instructional coaching interview.

Quote: Sprinkle in book quotes, research, and statistics like confetti in an instructional coaching interview.

[16:49] Keep calm during your instructional coaching interview

I say this because, when I went into my first instructional coaching interview, I was a nervous wreck. I initially interviewed for two or three different instructional coaching positions and didn’t get them. It was my third or fourth attempt that I finally landed the position, and I know now it was exactly where I needed to be.

During my last interview for my current position, I will never forget my nerves. I walked in and felt like I was sitting in front of a firing squad. I was at one end of a long table, and there were eight people wrapped around the conference table with laptops. It really threw me off because whenever I started answering questions I heard typing coming from eight different directions. I was so distracted! I started to get used to it, and then I would notice that they weren’t typing while I was answering and I thought I was doing something wrong. Don’t let things like that get into your head.

Another component of keeping calm is realizing that it is completely okay to ask them to repeat a question. You can also say, “That’s a really good question. Can I have just a second to think about that?” Give yourself a moment to gather your thoughts - it does not make you seem insecure or incompetent. I personally think it makes you seem thoughtful and intentional. Now, you can’t spend forever coming up with an answer, but you can certainly take a moment.

[18:46] Prepare questions to ask at the end of your instructional coaching interview

My last quick tip is to ask 1-2 questions at the end of your interview. Make sure you have them prepared, and maybe even written on your note card so you don’t forget them. During my interview, I first asked about the type of professional learning that would be available to me as a new instructional coach in this position. My second question was genuine, but also threw in a bit of a “brag”. At the time, I had already been accepted as a presenter at national conference to lead one of their breakout sessions. I asked during my interview if this new district would honor my acceptance and pay for me to attend and represent them at this national conference - which of course they did. I wanted to mention that during my interview because it was important to me, and it also showed that I was putting myself out there and doing things that would reflect well on the district.

Now you have ideas about some of the questions that might be asked during your instructional coaching interview, as well as some quick tips to help you prepare. I genuinely wish you the best of luck in this journey you are taking toward instructional coaching!

Looking for more instructional coaching resources?

You can join our monthly instructional coaching email list for free resources and tips.

My Instructional Coaching Time Tracking Tool is available on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Check out these related posts:

Instructional Coaching in 5 Words

4 Tips for a New Instructional Coach

Check out these related YouTube videos:

How to Become an Instructional Coach: Definition & Qualifications

7 Tips for How to Become an Instructional Coach

Suggested Reading to Prepare for Instructional Coaching

Instructional Coaching Video Playlist

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