Professional Practice

10 Tips to Land the Job of Your Dreams (Ep. 041)

Whether you are looking for your first job or trying to find something new, you will undoubtedly go through the interview process. This can be nerve-wracking, but Cassie is here with her best advice on how to nail that interview! Listen as she shares why you need to edit your social media presence (11:30), how you can dress to impress (12:45), and why you need to send a thank you note once you’re done with the interview (19:30). Full episode transcript below.


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Recently I shared with y’all that I did my student teaching in Ireland. It was fabulous and amazing, and in that podcast I was talking all about why I think y’all need to get out there and travel as much as possible, if you’re not doing that already. But the reason I bring that up is because while I was away doing my student teaching abroad, my dear old daddy-o was sending out job applications for me because he knew that secretly, in the back of my mind, I was never planning on becoming a teacher. Y’all, I was planning on becoming a starving artist because, isn’t that just glamorous? However, he had bigger visions in mind, especially since my dad and my mom were kind enough to foot the college bill. So he sent out 52 job applications, art teacher and job applications for me.

Now, this was back in 1998 where you didn’t just fill out an online application, you actually had to physically fill them out, which he did. I remember coming home from being overseas and finding my mom’s desk piled with job applications for places as far away as Alaska. Needless to say, I didn’t end up there, but thank goodness he did that because it is what led to my first art teacher and job in Nashville, Tennessee.

But today, I thought we could talk about job interviews because I learned quite a bit that time, that very first experience on my job interviews and even now looking back on those experiences what I would have done differently. Today, we are going to talk all about the job interview, how to land that art teacher and job of your dreams. These are going to be my top 10 tips so get ready. This is Everyday Art Room and I’m Cassie Stephens.

Let’s talk about my top 10 tips for going on your job interview. My very first tip is do your homework and I say that with experience. My very first job interview was in another rural town in Indiana, and this was back in the day before there was GPS or we had our phones to tell us how to get from point A to point B. We had to use these weird, papery things called maps, which I’ve never been good with anyway. I remember asking my mom about how far away this town was from her house. She told me, “About 45.” I remembered my dad saying, “Probably about an hour and a half.” Me being always the person who’s late, I decided to go for the 45 minute option. What I didn’t account for was traffic. Now, you’re probably thinking, “What traffic could there be in rural Indiana?” Tractor traffic. If you get stuck behind one of those tractors, you are not going anywhere and that’s exactly what happened to me.

I remember walking into that job interview a good 40 minutes late, and I could just tell by the looks on their faces that they had already written me off and with good reason. You should never be late for a job interview but that’s another point I’m going to get to here shortly.

Let’s talk about that whole do your homework thing. Not only is it important to know exactly where you’re going for your interview, but to know a little bit about the place itself and the people who work there. I feel like the most important thing to know are the names of the administrators. Those are probably going to be the two people who do at least your first interview. You should know them. Hop on the school’s website so that you actually recognize their face and can put their face with their name.

For me, when I went on my last job interview, I was not only interviewed by my administration, but I was also interviewed by the specials team. It might not be such a bad idea to do a little bit of exploring to learn those people’s names and find out what they look like and what it is exactly that they teach because for me I remember meeting those people for the first time, I was pretty taken aback that there were not only all of these people in my interview, but that they taught all of these wide variety of subjects. Do a little bit of homework.

It also helps to know of course the name of your cohort if you’re going to have another art teacher working with you in the building and know a little bit about the school, especially if the school has a history. My school was the first African American school in the town where I teach. A lot of the people who work in my school attended, my high school, listen to me, my elementary school where I teach and knowing that history probably would have really shown that I had a lot of interest in the place where I was going to be working. Definitely study up on the people who work their, know the location and how far it is from your house and know a little bit about the school itself and its history.

From there, you definitely, before going on an interview, you want to gather up your resources, and here’s what I mean by that. When you go on your interview, you want to make sure that you can put things in the hands of the people who are doing the interview because after all you’re up for a visual teacher position so you should have some visuals for them.

I remember on my last interview I had a three ring binder that was filled with photos of what my classroom looked like, of projects that my students had done, community projects. I also had a lot of letters from parents and other teachers that were in this binder. The problem with the binder was this. Only one person could look at it at a time, and I thought recently that maybe I should have put it on the iPad and then had somebody be able to swipe through the iPad. The problem with that again is only one person can look at it at a time. Instead, condense what you want to share and maybe make about three color copies that you can pass out to those people who are doing the interview. Again, have photos of projects that you have made if you’re a person who’s not taught before, this is your very first interview, definitely have evidence of what your lesson plans look like so they understand that you can actually write a lesson plan. I wouldn’t know how to do that. Definitely put in their hands pictures of your bulletin board displays.

One thing that I don’t feel is super important and I know I’m going to get a little bit of flack for this is I don’t think it’s super important for you to share your artwork. I think what speaks the most is what you do with your students. You’re not up for the mural painter of the school position so I would be careful to share with them too much of what you personally can do because the next thing you know I’m afraid it might lead you to becoming the school poster maker. Just keep that in mind. But installations, community projects, bulletin board displays, classroom management, letters from professors, other teachers, those are the kinds of things that are important.

Now, let’s circle back again to you, first year teachers. You want to put an emphasis on the fact that you’re capable, not the fact that you are a first year teacher. Anytime you’re asked something or you’re showing your visuals, I would never say, “Well, I don’t know because I’ve not been in that position before.” You need to just think of yourself as a teacher starting right then and there, not, “Well, I’ve never done that before so I’m not really sure.” That does not exactly give them the vote of confidence. Same with your visuals that you’re sharing. Make sure that you share projects and lessons, like I said, that you’ve done in your class. But I wouldn’t put an emphasis on the fact that you haven’t done them with kids yet. Share what you did in your student teaching experience.

Alright. Moving on to my next one. Know your questions. I feel like knowing what they’re going to ask will make you much more comfortable and at ease when you’re at your interview. What are they going to ask? Classroom management I feel like is the one thing that admin always is curious about. They want to know how you will handle your classroom management. The thing is though is every school has something a little bit differently that they do. The might have a school wide plan put in place. When you discuss your classroom management, I would not necessarily make it sound as though it’s set in stone because they might have something a little bit different that they want to try. A book that you might consider reading is Teaching with Love & Logic because I feel like that’s a classroom management technique that everybody can agree upon and having that knowledge base will help you be able to speak more comfortably about your classroom management plan.

They’ll also probably ask you about how do you collaborate with other teachers and for this I would let it be known that you’re willing to collaborate but that you also have a curriculum and standards both state and national that you have to make sure that you fulfill because that’s your job. I wouldn’t necessarily agree to doing a bunch of things that you can’t or won’t do. Stand your ground. You are going to be hired as the art education teacher, not the cohort to the classroom teachers. They’ll probably want to know about community outreach projects that you’d be willing to do, how you will work with parents and the community and that kind of thing. But what I would do if I were you is I would definitely ask your art teacher friends, Google, do a lot of homework because they’re going to throw you a couple of curve balls on questions.

When you’re going over these questions, and this is my next tip and this is something that I do a lot probably to the point where it’s a little weird, I would rehearse in front of a mirror. I would make my list of questions that you think they’re going to ask you and I would stand in front of a mirror even wearing what you plan on wearing to the interview, and I would answer those questions in front of the mirror. Why in front of the mirror? Because then you can see what your face is doing. You’ll be a lot more animated when you’re speaking. Teachers need to be animated to keep their students’ attention. You don’t want to come across as dull or boring or dry, so you’re going to have to lay it on not thick, but just enough to keep their attention. I really feel like rehearsing and rehearsing in front of a mirror is going to help you with that.

Alright. Oh, oh, oh. I was going to jump to the actual interview. But here’s something that I really want to emphasize that I haven’t had to think about in my most recent interviews but I feel like it’s super important these days. Before you go on your interview, start editing your social media. You guys, I can’t stress that enough because these days, of course an administrator is going to hop on and search you probably on your Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. I would start editing heavily. Get rid of any photos that are slightly questionable. Get rid of anything that shows too much of your political opinions, strongly leaning one way or the other. I know that might go against what you are thinking or your beliefs, but do you want the job or do you not want the job? You can discuss those things all you want once you land the job, but I would start really going over your social media with a fine-tooth comb because, trust me, the people who are interviewing you, they are going to do that.

Alright. Now, it’s the big day and I know I get this question so stinking much. Cassie, what do I wear on a job interview to be an art teacher? I’m about to blow your mind. Dress super professionally. I know what you’re thinking. That is not exactly what you thought I was going to say, but I am telling you the truth. When I went on my last job interview, I wore a cornflower, if you can imagine this, cornflower blue, two-piece suite dress with a jacket, stockings and low heels from Talbots. This dress was from Talbots, of all places. I literally looked like I was a Barbara Bush impersonator and I got the job. Then the next day I showed up all rainbows and sparkles and I was like, “Fooled you.” Just kidding. I eased them into it.

Here’s a good rule of thumb. What would grandma say? WWGS. If you put on something and you think your grandma would not approve because you’re showing your shoulders or you’re showing your open toes, then go with your gut. Cover it up. You know that old no shoes, no shirt, no service? Here’s how I go about it. No toes, no shoulders and no thighs. Make sure you wear closed-toed shoes. Your shirt should have sleeves. I’m sorry. And I just really think that you should probably have a skirt or a pants on, whatever you prefer, but your skirt needs to go to your knee. I know that’s not how I dress but you are trying to get the job. The people who are interviewing you, they’re probably not other art teachers who are going to appreciate your wild and wacky style. They are going to be looking at you as they are imagining the parents are going to see you. They want to see somebody who they feel as though looks professional and capable.

I know I’m blowing your mind but trust me when I say that they are going to want you to look professional, so I would definitely do that for the job interview. All eyes are going to be on you and you want them to be focused on what you have … Not crazy wild thing that you’re wearing. If you’re like me, however, and your clothing and your attire and that kind of thing really ties in to how you approach teaching, then include photos of that in those handouts that you’re sharing with the interviewers, but I wouldn’t necessarily wear that at all on your interview.

Alright. Moving on. The big day has arrived. Once again, you should probably aim to arrive about 15 minutes early. Know where the school is. In fact, I was talking to my husband about this and he and I were just chatting. He was saying how he would probably know where the school is about 30 minutes before the interview and then maybe go chill out somewhere, go over your little index cards of the interview questions, flip through your binder, check your teeth for lipstick, that kind of thing. Then go into the school about 15 minutes early, no earlier than that. Definitely not right on the dot or later like yours truly. Showing up early shows that you are prompt, shows that you care.

Another thing that I would do, and this is another key point, is to leave your cellphone in your car. I know you’re probably going to be tempted if you show up early and you’re sitting waiting to be interviewed, what’s the first thing that you do when you have to wait for anything these days? It’s pull out your phone and look at your phone. It doesn’t look professional. So that you won’t be tempted, leave the phone in the car. Better yet, bring a book with you, not Fifty Shades, but something like Teaching Love & Logic. I don’t know. Something that’s teacher related or something that shows that you might be a little bit intellectual. If you’re going to have to sit there and do something, why not have a book? It is actually far better to have that out than your phone anyway.

When it comes to the interview and you’ve rehearsed all of your responses and things, think about this. Here’s my other point. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep. If they’re asking you or they’re saying, “Hey, our last art teacher did X, Y, Z. Do you think you’ll be up for that?” Be honest with them. When I was asked if I was going to be able to decorate the school cafeteria for the volunteer luncheon, I just said, “I don’t think that that would benefit my students for me to decorate the cafeteria.” That raised some eyebrows but I was honest. It wasn’t student artwork that was decorated in the cafeteria, it was just going to be me putting things on tables. What benefit is that to my students and their art education? Be honest. Don’t be rude. Don’t be ugly. But let people know where you are honestly and make sure that you don’t say a bunch of things just to get the job because, trust me, they will be holding you accountable for that.

It always helps to come armed with questions and we chatted about this last week. Definitely come armed with questions for your interviewers because at the end they’re always going to ask you, “So do you have any questions for us?” I was always led to believe or I always thought it was more polite to say no. I’m good. Thank you. No. Definitely ask questions. Ask if you can see the art room. Ask if there is a chance that the art room might be taken away, meaning, you might be on a cart at some point because that could be a deal breaker for you. Ask them what the budget is and ask them if they are open for you to do fundraisers to supplement your budget.

Definitely see a copy of the schedule and ask them if that schedule is going to change. I tell you this because where I work currently, the art teacher used to have an hour for art. As soon as she left and I got the gig, they switched the script and now I have 30 minute art classes. If I would have asked about my schedule, I would have known that that was on the horizon. Definitely ask what their school wide discipline plan is because you are going to need and want the support of your administration if and when a discipline problem arises.

After the interview, here’s your bonus point, after the interview, send a thank you note. Send it right away. Make sure that it’s not just some generic thank you note but something that speaks to the people who interviewed you. Take the time to really comment about how much you love the school and enjoyed sitting down with them and having a great time interviewing them and you look forward to chatting with them again soon hopefully when they call you on the phone and tell you that you’re up for round two or that you’ve landed the gig.

Alright, guys. Those are my top, I made that 11, interviewing tips. Thank you so much for letting me share those with you today.

Tim Bogatz: Hello. This is Tim Bogatz, the host of Art Ed Radio. Thank you as always for tuning in to Everyday Art Room. Now, as we are thinking about summer and getting toward the end of the school year, it makes sense for us to talk about graduate courses. So many teachers are looking for PD hours or looking to move over on the pay scale and AOE’s courses are the perfect opportunity for you to find what you need. Make sure you check out under the courses tab. We offer over 20 online courses designed to help art teachers at every stage of their professional career.

There are actually two new studio courses that are going for the first this summer, one on watercolor and one on sculpture. AOE studio courses plan classroom strategies with your own personal art making practice. They take place over the course of eight weeks and there are new sections starting on June 1st, July 1st and August 1st. Check out Studio: Watercolor and Studio: Sculpture along with all of our courses at

Cassie Stephens: Now, it’s time to take a little dip into the mailbag. Funny coincidence, this question from Sharon is all about job interviews. She says that she’s moving on to the second round of her art teacher and job interview and she’s been informed that she’s going to need to focus on how to enhance student academic achievement through her art curriculum which I basically kind of just said don’t bother with. Let’s take this question a little bit more seriously.

She says, “Basically, I should anticipate many questions about how I would integrate core subject areas such as language arts and math into my art program in an effort to help students further achieve in those core subjects. Do you have any advice on the subject or perhaps know of some great resources that might help me?”

Excellent question. The thing with teaching art is that a lot of what we do, well, basically everything we do integrates those core subjects. I would definitely consider bringing with you the following. Bringing with you weaving projects and then sharing what literature resources you would use to teach weaving. For example, whenever I teach weaving I always use the book The Goat in the Rug and there’s one … Gosh, now it’s slipping my mind. There’s one about the colors … How you change the colors of the wall. I’m so sorry. It does not coming to my brain. I would also talk about how math directly is integrated in with weaving and that you have to create fractions of the paper if you’re doing a paper weaving, how there’s pattern to it which is also math. These are the kind of things that I would tie in to show that you are already integrating those subjects but how open these kind of projects are like weaving to integrate what the classroom teachers are doing. I feel like weaving is something that could definitely be tied in.

Showing that you’re willing and that you already do work with clay and how clay, there’s a lot of science to that being fired. Again, share all the books like The Pot That Juan Built is a great book to read to kids to explain to them that process of how clay goes from dirt to mud to becoming something you sculp with and then become something that can be a permanent piece that’s fired.

Really look at these projects and dig a little bit deeper than you normally would perhaps and how you could really integrate what they’re doing in their classrooms. Take a really good strong look at the state curriculum for each grade level for language arts and math and just think about how you would tie in your current projects with those because what you don’t want to do is just throw out your curriculum to teach there. Really think about ways that you can tie it together. Like I said earlier, don’t make promises you can’t keep and definitely keep at the forefront of your mind what you’re getting hired for which is to be the art educator. Thank you so much, Sharon, because I know that’s a question that a lot of people are going to get with STEAM and STEM being such a strong buzzword. You might even want to look into that. That would be an excellent resource to see how teachers who are doing STEAM are incorporating all of the things. It sounds like the school that you’re interviewing for wants you to do also.

If you have a question for me, then you should send it my way. You can find me at the art, no, at

Not every job interview that you go on is necessarily a job that you want and you might find that out halfway through the interview. You might find that out the moment you shake hands with that person and get a strange feeling. You never know but I will tell you this. If your interviewer starts any of their questions with the phrase “How do you feel about … ” Then you better just listen really carefully because I remember one of my very first interviews, my interviewer was saying, “How do you feel about teaching English?” I thought, “Say what now? Because I’m certified K-12 Art. There’s no English in my background.” Well, I mean, I know how to speak it but I don’t know how to teach it. Then she proceeded to say, “How do you feel about coaching volleyball?” OMG, volleyball is like the worst thing ever created. I’m so sorry but I speak the truth.

Just be on high alert because not only are you being interviewed but you are interviewing them. If you think of it that way and go into that interview with that kind of confidence, I think that that’s going to get you the job that you want, not just the job that’s the one at hand. Good luck all of you job interview guys out there. Remember, no shirt, no shoes, no interview. What would grandma say? Have a great week, you guys.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.