Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Teach for America phone interview, my review

I had a few readers of my blog (wait, did I say readers of my blog? Holy Crap! I didn't think people would actually be READING this thing...) ask how the phone interview with Teach for America went, and what it entailed. Here's a brief summary and my thoughts:

My call lasted about 45-50 minutes, so quite a bit longer than the estimated 30min -- not sure that's meaningful one way or the other. The woman (and I almost want to say 'girl', as I got the feeling that she was fairly young, but more about that in a bit) seemed fairly competent, and was pleasant -- which is a good start. I've done plenty of interviews where the person was awful and stupid to boot.

First we spent a few minutes on Teach for America itself: why I wanted to join, what I thought the goal or mission of TFA was, and what I thought about it. I still find it a little creepy the extent to which they talk about their mission. It has a very, I dunno, religious tone to it. So, we talked about (said robotically) "CLOSING -- THE -- ACHIEVEMENT -- GAP." Just make sure you've read all of their BS literature on their website, and feel comfortable talking about the material, and you should be fine here.

Next, we spent some time going over my resume. She peppered me with some fairly boilerplate resume/job interview questions. They were the sorts of questions one might have trouble answering right out of school, with no job experience. But, really, anyone with even a few years working should have no problem batting these around. Things like:

  • At work, how do you determine success?
  • Have you ever come across a challenge at work, and how did you overcome it?
  • Have you ever had a conflict with someone at work, and how did you deal with it?
  • Did you ever miss a deadline at work, and how did you deal with it?
... you know, pretty easy stuff if you've been working for a while. Who among us hasn't had work conflicts, challenges, missed deadlines, yada yada boom-bada.

The only part of the interview which I thought was interesting was her questions about ORGANIZATION. How do I organize things at work? How do I keep track of what needs to get done and their priorities -- but really specific questions. Do you keep it on paper? In a calender? In Outlook? Pretty interesting.

We spoke about the 3 articles (listed in a previous post) briefly. That was basically a -- Can you comprehend what you read -- sort of question.

And that's about it.

Anyone who's been on job interviews before shouldn't have any problems. It should end up being more of a relaxed conversation. I think it helps when the person interviewing you is (quite likely) a bit YOUNGER than you. 8)

I don't want to jinx myself, but I think I rocked the box on the interview. Though, really, who the hell knows exactly what they're looking for. I very well may have answered something in such a way as to flag me as a bad pick.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your review. It's quite helpful!! Mine is on Monday as I previously said on you last post. I hope you really get into the program but remember to have another option, after all they accept a very low percentage. The NYCTF is not accepting a lot of people for their mid-year program. There is a rumor that many of the june cohort don't have a job yet and are in the reserve. I think they didn't take into consideration that many teachers didn't quit last year because of the economic crisis. Lets see...

Bronx2020 said...

Good luck on Monday - whomever you are ... Anonymous person.

And just to correct one point, the NYCTF mid-year program has not simply been pulled-back or shrunken, it's been canceled altogether. From what I understand, this will simply mean that about 100 or so spots might be already taken up for the June 2009 cohort.

Anonymous said...

Onestar said:
I wonder why they even bothered interviewing people for mid-year.

Anonymous said...


I just had my interview today too (I'm an undergrad), and it went pretty much the same. I'm a little nervous, though. I hope I didn't sound to "braggy" when I was talking about myself. I dunno I feel pretty confident but it wasn't 100% perfect...O well..GOOOD LUCK to you!


Anonymous said...

Onestar said...
I'm done with my interview... it was strange... more of a Q&A type of thing... humn I'll continue with my application for grad school.Thank you very much, your review was very helpful. I hope you'll get in, keep us post it!!

Bronx2020 said...

Good point. It was a very Q&A sort of interview -- that is, it didn't develop into a conversation, as (in my experience) most good interviews do.

I think this it had to do with the fact that the interviewers were likely doing many rapid-fire interviews, one after another. I'm sure spending all day, for several days straight, interviewing will cause one to spit out questions rather quickly.

I think she (the interviewer girl) did a pretty good job though. Good job interviewer girl (pat pat pat).


Anonymous said...

More random input for those who are trying to prepare for the phone interview. I wasn't asked any questions about my resume other than what do you do at your current job. She asked me about a challenge or hardship I've overcome other than the one given in the essay. What was my organizational style? Why do you want to join? How do you feel about parental involvement & do you think it is feasible to expect it from low income communities? What did I find most compelling from the articles? What would I say was the take away point of the articles? Then she took questions.

Best preparation I think is just to write down questions you think they might ask and type up some bullet points to go from during the interview. Also write down some insightful questions to ask them at the end in order to leave a good impression.

She did say at one point she thought I'd be great for the corps but I'm not putting any stock into it. You can't really predict who advances and who doesn't. Oh and I also noticed the religious vibe at one point in the interview. I believe the phrase was "we accept anyone who is capable of carrying out the mission." I think referring to one's work/ volunteering/whatever as "the mission" inevitably seems odd.

Bootsie said...

I'm a TFA corps member right now (Philly, to be specific). I teach 9th and 10th grade English. The reason they ask about organization is because you need to be RIDICULOUSLY well-organized. You're going to have to juggle stuff for your school, your grad/certification program, and TFA. Additionally, you'll have up to 130 students-- many of whom require a great deal of paperwork (grades, daily reports for truant students, reports for probation officers, IEP updates, etc etc). You also have to record all parent contact, egregiously bad behavior, lesson plans and unit plans, data, and so forth. Organization can make or break you, unfortunately.

Also, the "mission" has a religious tone because, to be frank, in order to make it through institute (and your first year of teaching), you need to be practically religious about your commitment. This is the craziest and most difficult thing you will ever do. If you want more insight, please let me know and I can post my email address.

Ariel said...

Hi Bootsie,
I know it's been a while since the post, but I'm in the application process right now and I'd be interested in discussing some of the program's aspects a bit more. Is the offer still on the table?

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