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Nov 10, 2022

Preschool Teacher Interview Questions and Hiring Tips

Tamar Andrews

Hiring preschool teachers and staff can be challenging, especially if you don’t have a clear guide for yourself and your team as you hire. It all starts with hiring the right people for the job. If you have the right teachers, the children are thriving, the parents and customers are satisfied and you, the owner or director, can tend to all of the other pressing issues you may have. Here is how I hire the best preschool teachers and staff possible. I have also shared some of the preschool interview questions I use to determine if an applicant is a good fit for my center.

I have an acronym I use for the right people. They are S.P.E.C.I.A.L. people. Why? Because

S Synchrony. This means that the person you are interviewing is in synchrony or harmony with your program. Their philosophy or idea of how children learn best, their views of early childhood education are in line with your own. If you are a religious institution, then they are also of the same faith or respect the faith that your program espouses.

P Personality. This is something you will have to really depend on your own common sense to judge. Does this candidate have a personality that is well-suited to working with young children? Do they have the patience to work with young children and a positive outlook to discuss those children with their caregivers?

E Education. While not every teacher has to have a CDA or degree in every state, they still have to be in possession of some amount of education and have a growth mindset where they are open and willing to learn more and accept constructive feedback.

C Common Sense. Not everything can be taught. As such, would you trust this person to help evacuate the building in a fire or major earthquake. If a child got seriously injured, would they have the common sense to know what to do next?

I Intent. While it is challenging to find people to work in early childhood, it is best to fill the positions you have with teachers who see their careers in early childhood, education or a related field. These candidates will be most likely the ones that will want to learn, grow and stay with your program the longest.

A Avocations. What are the things they do outside of their daily jobs?  You definitely do not want to hire someone who leads a more risqué or inappropriate private life. Why should that matter? Because the chances of one of your families running into this teacher in the community are high and what they do in their private lives influences how families see them as professionals in the field of early childhood.

L Love.  Teachers have to love the children they work with. They have to love the work that they do. They have to show a level of respect and honor of the families and their co-workers.

Keeping these words in mind as you go through the interview process will make it easy to understand if an applicant will be a good fit for your center.

Here are some more preschool interview questions and methods for interviewing candidates to find the right applicant for your program. These preschool questions are meant to elicit a determination of whether or not a candidate fits YOUR program. Choose the questions from below that you believe will help you achieve that determination.

  • If I were to interview your last boss, in any job, what do you think he or she would say about you? Ideal candidates should have an objective reflection of their previous employment.

  • Can you tell me about a time you were trusted to do a really challenging job and you did it successfully? You are trying to see how they talk about themselves. Are they boastful or just honest and straightforward?

  • A child gets hurt on the playground. It is a compound fracture meaning the bone is sticking out of the forearm. What do you do? Can you describe the next steps you take? You want to see that they can think under pressure (here the pressure is the actual interview) and know what to do in an emergency.

  • You are the last teacher of the day to close the school. One child is left and no one answers at the family’s numbers. What do you do? This is yet another unique scenario that happens often but you need to know that they will try to call you or the emergency contacts on the child’s forms.

  • You work with a teacher who has been at our center for over 15 years and her methods are somewhat old fashioned. Could you work with her and if so, how would you try to change some of those methods so that they are more in line with current understandings of how young children learn best? You are looking for honor for an older person and respect for her position but still hoping to help change little by little.

  • Can you tell me about an activity or lesson that you are especially proud of implementing and why? Not only does this reflect their philosophy of ECE, it also helps you ascertain how they will communicate what they are doing with parents and families.

  • Can you tell me about an activity you planned that included families? Why did you choose this to do and how was it received? You want to see how they include families.

  • You suspect a child is on the Autism spectrum. Describe what you do after you come to this conclusion. You want to see that they can identify signs of delay or something that may require intervention. You want to see that they are sensitive to these children and families and that they go through the proper steps in identification, notification and support.

  • Tell me about the process you go through in setting up your classroom? What is important to you? What would I notice? The environment is often considered the third teacher and as such, the physical environment is an important component of a teacher’s ability to manage their classroom.

  • It’s clean-up time and you notice that a group of four children are still being disruptive and don’t want to clean. What do you do? You want to see that the teacher has some “tricks” to help gain compliance without threat or punishment. Instead, knowing that this is a teachable moment.

  • Preschool teachers have to be competent in so many areas. What do you believe are your three main strengths as a preschool teacher and why are they important to have? You will be able to gauge if you have an appropriate candidate as well as one that has skills that complement the skills other teachers in your center already have. For example, if you have a great teacher who is messy, you may want to hire another teacher to work with them who has great organizational skills in setting up and maintaining the classroom environment.

  • How do you include families in your programming? This is to gauge the candidate’s willingness to include families.

  • What has been your experience working with young children with special needs? As the rate of identification of special needs increases every year, teachers need to have skills in appropriately dealing with this.

  • What is a question you think I should be asking you? This will help you get insight on what matters to them from their employment provider

I hope these preschool interview questions and my S.P.E.C.I.A.L. acronym can help you hire the best staff for your center.

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