Interviews

READY TO HIRE: Strategies to Land a Job

For all future music teachers everywhere, especially members of a PCMEA or NAfME collegiate chapter, we post these handouts from past NAfME and PMEA music teacher conference sessions, all moderated by Scott Sheehan, Immediate Past President of NAfME Eastern Division and Past State President of PMEA.

As a tradition at the annual state conference, the session “Ready to Hire: Interviewing Strategies to Land a Job” has offered “tried & true tips to assist promising music education majors with developing interviewing skills to successfully land their dream job.” One of the features of the clinic is the set-up of a “hot seat” where volunteer candidates are put through one or more questions in a “mock interview,” and then assessed on their “performance.” The guest panelists often distribute a “takeaway” with valuable tips on interview techniques and questions, and developing personal branding, networking, and marketing skills.

These suggestions are offered as a way to “practice” taking employment interviews.

Best wishes on your job search. Now go out there and “nail” the interview!

 

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NAfME Biennial Eastern Division/PMEA State Spring Conference

April 4-7, 2019 in Pittsburgh, PA

 

Sheehan: Interview Session Handout

Metelsky: Interview Worksheet

Pearlberg: Ready to Hire Interview Strategies

Fox: Job Interview Playbook

 

 

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Pennsylvania Music Education Association Annual Spring Conference

(various years)

 

Basalik: Ready-Set-Interview

Baxter: Music Interviews

Fox: A to Z Job Interview Checklist

Fox: Marketing Your Professionalism

 

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Additional Resources

PMEA Job Board

NAfME:

Sullivan Interview Strategies that Work

Older blog-posts at this site:

 

Acknowledgments:

  • Sue Basalik
  • Howard Baxter
  • Marc Greene
  • Susan Metelsky
  • Alicia Mueller
  • Henry Pearlberg
  • Kathy Sanz
  • Scott Sheehan
  • Jill Sullivan
  • Lucy White

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

 

© 2019 Paul K. Fox

All rights reserved by the individual authors of this material

The PMEA State Conference Primer

Getting the Most Out of Music Conferences… Suggestions for First-Time Attendees or New Teachers

Music conferences offer students as well as seasoned musicians a wealth of professional opportunities. They are motivating and help recharge your battery. They even help set future goals. Consider music conferences an essential component of your training and career…

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE – The original release of this article is at http://majoringinmusic.com/music-conferences/

Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one. – Malcolm Forbes

The greatest benefits of attending an academic or professional conference are the opportunities to build your network and increase your awareness of new trends happening in your area of interest. – Emad Rahim http://www.coloradotech.edu/resources/blogs/june-2013/professional-conference

Networking with others in the field, getting new and innovative ideas, self-reflection and re-thinking of previous methods, and improving communication skills are just a few of the ways professionals can grow and develop.  – Conferences and Professional Development by the Grand Canyon University Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/research_ready/presentationready/prof_develop

For professional networking, it is your “charge” to create multiple pathways to/from school administrators, HR managers and secretaries, music supervisors and department heads, and music teachers… and you – your skills, accomplishments, unique qualities, experience, education, and personality traits. Paul K. Fox https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/networking-niceties/

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Welcome to the annual state conference! For Pennsylvania Collegiate Music Education Association (PCMEA) members and soon-to-be-hired music educator prospects, this guide will help you get the most out of attending the 2017 Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) Spring Conference (and future professional development events).

Reasons to “drop everything” and attend an in-service conference:

  1. Conferences “grow” your professional network and opportunities for future collaboration.
  2. Conferences build your knowledge base: to hear about potential job openings, stay current in the field, learn new ideas, music literature, classroom materials, curriculum initiatives, research, technology, and unique approaches to problems, and to see “state-of-the-art” (“model”) performances of student and professional music ensembles.
  3. Conferences expand your resources.
  4. Conference motivate (a.k.a. “recharge batteries”) and help you plan future goals.

People in academics cultivate exceptional resources—and they’re excited to share them with like-minded colleagues. During the conference, I had an opportunity to test out new technology, review upcoming publications, share teaching tools and techniques and obtain samples of textbooks, software and mobile applications. Conferences are full of people promoting new ideas, vendors selling new products, and consultants teaching new methodologies. I always take advantage of this opportunity to fill up my academic tool-shed with new techniques and technology to improve my career. – Emad Rahim

bayfront1_highThe annual PMEA Spring Conference will be held on April 19-22, 2017 at the Erie Bayfront Convention Center. These sessions may be “perfect for PCMEA!”

  • Opening General Session with Tim Lautzenheiser Thursday 8:30 a.m.
  • PCMEA meetings Thursday 10:30 a.m. and Friday 11:15 a.m.
  • Getting the Most Out of Your Student Teaching Experience Thursday 1:30 p.m.
  • Cracking the Graduate School Code: When, Where, Why, How, & How Much Thursday 3 p.m.
  • Starting with the End in Mind – or – You’ve Got Four Years, Use Them Wisely Thursday 4:30 p.m.
  • Music Education & Gaming: Interdisciplinary Connections for the Classroom Friday 8:15 a.m.
  • Ready for Hire! Interview Strategies to Land a Job Friday 9:45 a.m.
  • Planning Strategies to Develop a Responsive Teaching Mindset Friday 2:15 p.m.
  • Final General Session with NAfME Eastern Division President Scott Sheehan Friday 3:45 p.m.

For a complete conference schedule, consult PMEA News or this web-link: http://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/2017-PMEA-Annual-Conference-Schedule-for-Winter-News.pdf.

pmeaFirst things first! Prepare yourself in advance. Grab your winter or spring issue of PMEA News. Review the program of sessions which is usually laid out in chronological order and also by content strands (e.g. advocacy, choral, classroom music, collegiate, curriculum development/assessment, higher education research, instrumental, music technology, World Music, and special interest topics), as well as the list of keynote speakers, guest clinicians, showcase (music industry) demonstrations, association meetings (like PCMEA), and performances. Using an “old-fashioned” 20th century tool, mark up the conference schedule with two different colors of highlighter marking pens, first targeting “high interest” areas in yellow, and then “must attend” events in hot pink or other favorite color.

Next, download the PMEA Conference App (usually from Core-Apps.com). This is the 21st Century technique for setting up your conference schedule (“where to go and what to do”), reading the bios of the presenters, locating the session rooms and exhibit booths, finding out who is attending, taking and storing your notes, and learning about last minute changes. Here is the picture of the 2016 PMEA app:

pmea-app

More DO’s and DON’Ts for effective conference attendance:

  1. DON’T remain in your “comfort zone” by sitting exclusively with your friends or college buddies at every session and concert. DO socialize with your peers at meals, and DO attend meetings of your PCMEA. However, if you are trying to take advantage of networking opportunities, to get to know other professionals, possible job screeners, administrators, etc., DON’T just sit with people you know at every other event.
  2. SONY DSCDON’T focus exclusively on attending sessions or concerts in your specialty or most proficient areas, such as band if you’re a woodwind, brass or percussion major, orchestra if you are a string player, general music/choral if you are a vocalist or pianist. DO go to sessions that are not directly related to your major. You might be surprised at the connections you discover or the new interests that arise. Imagine “they” want to hire you next year as the next middle school jazz coach, HS marching band show designer, choreographer for the elementary musical, conductor of the string orchestra, teacher of AP music theory, etc. Could you select music for an elementary band (or choral) concert, create a bulletin board display for a middle school general music unit, set-up a composition project, or lead folk dancing at the kindergarten level?
  3. DO stay at (or near to) the hotel where the conference is being held… to see and DO more!
  4. Learn and DO the best practices of networking, personal branding, business card creation and distribution, and record-keeping of conference notes, job openings, and contact information. DO read my blog-post on Networking Niceties: The “How to Schmooze Guide” for Prospective Music Teachers at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/networking-niceties/.
  5. playing-harp-1563567DON’T be shy! A conference is no place for being timid or afraid to start up a discussion with a more experienced music teacher. PMEA is all about circulating and introducing yourself, exhibiting your “charming self,” exploring resources and who are the experts/leaders in music education, getting the “lay of the land,” and adding as many names and emails to your professional contact data base as possible. Of course, DO follow-up with anyone who suggests that there may be a future employment posting from their school district!
  6. DO attend both general sessions, one usually scheduled on Thursday morning and the other on Friday afternoon. These will feature the keynote speakers and a special performance or award presentation. Since it is free and another opportunity to network, DO attend the Saturday morning awards breakfast and general membership meeting.
  7. DON’T be the first person to leave a session, and definitely DON’T “hop around” from one clinic or concert to another. Many attendees consider leaving early disruptive and rude, and it does not allow you to get the “whole picture” of the presentation. DON’T run in and grab the handouts… they will not have much meaning unless you attend the entire one-hour workshop. DO interact with the clinicians and conductors. If someone gave a talk, introduce yourspiano-and-laptop-1508835elf and ask a thoughtful question on some issue about which you are curious or found interesting.
  8. DO attend (and participate in) at least one panel discussion, music reading workshop, and technology session. DO search for special sessions held for college students on interviewing and landing a job. DO visit the displays of the PMEA Research Forums and the Exhibits.
  9. DON’T expect to get a lot of sleep at the conference. DON’T miss the interesting concerts to attend at night as well as early morning breakfast meetings and evening receptions. But, whatever you do, DO have FUN at your first music teacher conference!

Actually, PMEA represents only one of a series of outstanding music education conferences offered to school music teachers. In addition, you should look at:nafme

Hopefully, these tips on networking and taking advantage of the many professional benefits for attending an in-service conference will assist your successful pursuit for “landing” a job, discovering your own “calling” in the field of music education, and contributing a lifetime of meaningful work to our profession. See you in Erie!

Suggested Additional Readings:

  • Caffarella, R. S., & Zinn, L. F. (1999). Professional development for faculty: A conceptual framework of barriers and supports. Innovative Higher Education, 23(4), 241-254.
  • Guskey, T. R., & Huberman, M. (1995). Professional development in education: New paradigms and practices. Teachers College Press, 1234 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027 (paperback: ISBN-0-8077-3425-X; clothbound: ISBN-0-8077-3426-8).
  • Guskey, T. R. (2000). Evaluating professional development. Corwin Press.
  • Snow-Gerono, J. L. (2005). Professional development in a culture of inquiry: PDS teachers identify the benefits of professional learning communities. Teaching and teacher education, 21(3), 241-256.
  • Sunal, D. W., Hodges, J., Sunal, C. S., Whitaker, K. W., Freeman, L. M., Edwards, L., … & Odell, M. (2001). Teaching science in higher education: Faculty professional development and barriers to change. School Science and Mathematics, 101(5), 246-257.

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© 2017 Paul K. Fox

Photo credits: saxophone 24youphotography, harpist Gerrit Prenger, and computer/music keyboard LeslieR at FreeImages.com

Those Tricky Interview Questions

Much has already been written and posted here for prospective music educators to market their professionalism, learn personal branding, networking, and prepare to “ace” those interviews. If you have not read them previously, take a few moments to acquaint yourself with my past articles that explore these subjects in greater detail. Click on the above link, “Becoming a Music Educator.” – Paul K. Fox

On your way to your first music teacher employment screening? “Break a leg,” as they say, but watch out for several possibly stressful moments during the interrogations.

Whether you are dealing with an inexperienced interviewer or a pro who’s deliberately trying to catch you off guard to see how you handle yourself, awkward questions are sometimes asked of you that seem to come out of left field.

And, sorry, in this competitive market, it’s your job to deal with them!

ball-605592_1920Be prepared for anything, and don’t slip up on “interview potholes” – any of these “terrifying, treacherous, tricky, and troubling” inquiries or potentially hot topics like…

  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • What was your most embarrassing moment in front of the class?
  • What was your greatest professional failure.
  • Why did you leave your last employer?

The U.S. News & World Report MONEY online site offered “How to Answer the 5 Toughest Job Interview Questions” by Robin Madell (http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2014/03/18/how-to-answer-the-5-toughest-job-interview-questions), including the biggie, “Tell me about a time you failed,” often asked of applicants to any field.

Quoting career coach Christie Mims, Madell recommends to respond honestly. “Highlight a failure and then follow up with what you learned and how you changed,” she says. “Interviewers are less concerned with the failure than how you handled it. (You are human, after all.) They want to know that you are capable of thoughtful growth and can handle stress under pressure.” And, as for “What are your greatest shortcomings?” – again, be honest. Madell cites Medallia Vice President David Reese: “Many interviewers are not really looking to find out whether a candidate’s organizational skills could use improvement, or that they struggle with presenting to large groups or even leading large teams,” he says. “They’re trying to find out whether they have self-awareness, whether they are able to be critical, and most importantly, whether they’re able to tell the truth – when it’s difficult.”

looking-for-a-job-1257233_1920According to Lee E. Miller at http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/how-to-answer-tell-me-about-yourself-interview-question, one common “open-ended” question begins with, “Tell me something about yourself.” It demonstrates how the candidates will handle themselves in an unstructured situation, show how articulate and confident they were, and “what type of impression they would make on the people with whom they came into contact on the job.” Your response should be positive and focus the interview on your strengths and accomplishments. You should not answer with a snappy, “What do you want to know?” Miller says this implies that you are unprepared for the interview and likely to be equally unprepared of the job.

Another good perusal is “5 Great Answers to Awkward Interview Questions,” by Dominique Rogers, Monster Contributing Writer (http://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/great-answers-to-awkward-interview-questions), which revisits “Tell me about yourself!” and also includes a discussion on several other “thorny” questions:
  • What’s your passion?
  • Why are you looking to leave your current job? and How do we know you’ll stay?
  • If you were a fruit or a pizza topping, what would you be?
  • How do you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10?
  • What would you do if you were given multiple tasks to accomplish in a day—and you knew it was flat-out impossible to do them all?
  • Have you ever had to confront the situation where someone on a team wasn’t pulling their weight? If so, what did you do?

human-1211467_1280Instead of a traditional interview (like most of the above) stating opinions about yourself, you may be faced with a behavioral interview. This type of employment screening requires job candidates to relate stories about how they handled challenges related to the skills and qualifications the company requires for the position. For this, you are encouraged to read “Acing the Behavioral Interview” by Jeanne Knight at http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/acing-behavioral-interview. She goes into great detail about how to define appropriate skill sets and develop specific anecdotes to support your experiences and growth in these areas. Knight concludes, “Familiarizing yourself with the behavioral interview style, crafting and practicing your stories and doing some homework on the position you seek will ensure that you won’t be caught off guard should you encounter a behavioral interview.”

The Ladders website also offers excellent insight on how to respond diplomatically to inappropriate interview questions based on age, nationality, religion, marital/family status, etc. (see article by Lisa Vaas at http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/dont-answer-interview-question).

It is likely you will be asked about your philosophy of student discipline at least once during the screening process. Develop a proactive classroom management perspective. Do not fall into settling for “sending the bad kids to the principal’s office” as a solution to poor behavior. Preventive discipline, confidence, and control in handling your own class are absolutely critical. Again, this would be an excellent time for storytelling, giving an example about a specific disciplinary incident, something you had to solve in student teaching, subbing, or at a previous job.

questions-1151886In the unlikely event it gets asked, how would you respond to, “You say you are a musician? Are you temperamental?” Administrators want assurances and evidence that you are levelheaded, responsible, organized, reliable, and indeed NOT temperamental. Freelance singers and instrumentalists often have active performance calendars. Your principal may come out and ask if you will be available to “make the music” with your students after-school or evenings, and that your “gigs” and other non-district related activities will not interfere with school concerts, open houses, field trips, festivals, parent meetings, and other educational events for the growth and development of the total music program.

Here are a few final tips, in summary:

  • Be true to yourself. Say what you mean. (If you get the job, you may have to “eat your words!”)
  • Do not try to predict what the members on the interview panel want to hear from you.
  • Do not get carried away and volunteer too much information.
  • Avoid badmouthing previous bosses, school districts, or job assignments.
  • Be inquisitive, interested, motivated, and actively engaged in the “give and take” of the interview.
  • Never ask at the first interview what you would receive in pay and benefits.

What’s that saying? “Never let them see you sweat? At a job interview, always remain cool, calm, and collected. In advance, prepare answers and supportive anecdotes in response to all interview questions, and “go for the gold!” Good luck!

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© 2016 Paul K. Fox