Hiring Effective Teachers: 5 Essential Questions to Ask

Research indicates that effective teachers are the most important factor in student achievement. The success of your students and school depends on your hiring decisions. In this article, we’ll share five interview questions that will ensure you’re hiring effective teachers for your school.

The Research

In Tennessee, students who spent three years with a highly effective teacher significantly outperformed comparable students on a math test. These students performed in the 96th percentile on average. Meanwhile, the other students averaged in the 44th percentile.

Data shows that just one year with a highly effective teacher makes a difference. It puts a student ahead of his/her peers for several years. However, the same is true for ineffective teachers. It can take a student three years to recover from one year with an ineffective teacher.

The research is clear. The most significant factor in school improvement and student achievement is teacher quality. So, how can you find the most effective teachers for your school?

What Is an Effective Teacher?

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) outlines criteria for effective teachers:

  • Communication/verbal ability
  • Coursework in education and pedagogy
  • Strong content knowledge
  • Lesson planning abilities
  • Classroom management and organization
  • Engaging instruction
  • Knowledge of instructional techniques (cooperative and project-based learning, questioning, differentiated instruction)
  • Ability to monitor student progress
  • Enthusiasm
  • Caring
  • Fairness and respect
  • Sense of humor
  • Reflective practice

Effective teachers have in-depth knowledge of pedagogy, lesson-planning, and instructional techniques. In addition, they’re knowledgeable in their content area.

Hiring effective teachers also means hiring educators who can interact properly with students. Teachers who can form personal connections with their students motivate them to learn. Students prefer teachers who are caring, fair, respectful, and dedicated with a sense of humor.

Hiring Effective Teachers: 5 Questions to Ask

With these criteria in mind, here are five questions to ask during teacher interviews.

1. Why did you want to become a teacher?

This question can help you gauge the candidate’s enthusiasm for the job. The ideal candidate will discuss teaching with enthusiasm and passion. It’s also a good sign if they mention students in their response.

2. What’s your process for planning lessons?

A good lesson plan begins with learning objectives. What should students have learned by the end of the lesson? How will the teacher know that they have learned it?

Next, the teacher should determine activities and strategies that will help students grasp the information. This may begin with direct instruction and modeling, then group work, followed by individual practice. The teacher should also consider how to keep students engaged.

A high-quality candidate should thoroughly and purposefully plan. Look for answers that mention learning objectives, assessment of these objectives, and engagement. What instructional strategies does the candidate mention?

3. Describe a successful lesson that you’ve taught.

Ideally, the candidate will describe a creative, engaging, and student-centered lesson. They should also mention how they knew that the lesson was successful. How did they monitor student progress and achievement?

If the candidate does not mention monitoring, ask a follow-up question: “How do you monitor student success?” or, “What was the objective of the lesson? How did you know that students had achieved this objective?”

4. Describe a lesson that was less successful.

Here, you’re evaluating the candidate’s reflective practice. An effective teacher recognizes when a lesson has gone poorly. The teacher then considers what didn’t work, why it didn’t work, and how they can improve in the future.

A strong candidate will answer this question honestly. They will also demonstrate the ability to reflect. Do they mention why the lesson went poorly? Do they describe changes they made moving forward?

5. Describe a time you felt challenged by a student. How did you handle the situation?

Behavioral interview questions are particularly helpful in hiring effective teachers. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Ask questions that help you understand how the teacher plans, implements, and assesses lessons. Additionally, seek information about their classroom management and how they handle challenges with students, parents, and colleagues.

In this case, see if the candidate treats students fairly and respectfully. How do they respond under pressure? Do they take issues with students personally, or do they handle them professionally?

Final Thoughts: Hiring Effective Teachers

Hiring effective teachers benefits your school and your students more than any other factor. By asking the right questions, you can ensure you bring the right candidates on board.

Look for teachers who are passionate, knowledgeable, and caring. Fill your school with the best of the best, and you’re sure to see positive results.


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