The Teacher Interview: Differences in Private Versus Public Schools

Aya (@ayakhalil) wrote The EDU Edge and asked: “Are private schools different than public in terms of applications/interviews?”

Aya-  This is a great question that we are sure is on the minds of a lot of our followers out there!  So this is the thing, there are no fast and hard rules about differences between the application and interview processes between private and public schools, but we think we can give you a sense of a few general trends that may help. (for those of you outside the USA- we know you have different terms for types of schools- yes, “public” in the UK means “private” in the USA etc.  For the purposes of this conversation, private means a school that is not directly run by a government entity.)

First, public schools are subject to greater accountability in their hiring.  At times, they will be required to prove that their hiring practices do not discriminate against different protected classes, that they do not favor any particular group or individual in hiring, and that they are getting the most qualified candidate for the taxpayer’s funds.  They may be subject to meeting certain contractual requirements for hiring that have been agreed upon with their bargaining unit (aka union).  In the USA, if they are a traditional public school (we’ll talk about charter publics in a moment), they are also likely to be required to verify that you are a certified teacher in their state or could quickly qualify to transfer certification from another state.  The very nature of being under this magnifying glass means that you are more likely to see a more standardized and extensive approach when it comes to public school teacher hiring.  The Insider’s Guide to the Teacher Interview ©2012 was written to prepare teacher candidates for the intensity of these methods which include:

  • Extensive application requirements
  • Structured committee interviews where stakeholders such as teachers, parents, students, community members have a role in hiring.
  • Multiple rounds of interviews
  • Timed written tasks for candidates
  • Required teaching demonstrations
  • Interview process at both the district and building level

You are less likely to see the old fashioned ‘cup of coffee with the principal’ type interview in a public school setting.  However, this does not mean it does not happen in public schools.  There are still plenty of situations where you will find public schools that do not use the aforementioned approaches.   Much of it will depend upon the size/capacity of the school/school district as well as the motivation of the administrator(s) responsible for hiring.  Certain schools, even if they are public, just will not have the administrative or staff capacity to support such an extensive process.

Now although most private schools do not have the obligation to carry out such extensive hiring systems, don’t get lulled into thinking they won’t.  Many privates that have the size and resources will do these types of things just because it makes good sense.  These administrators have stakeholders and boards to answer to as well.  If they have the time and ability, they want to assure people that they have done their due diligence in finding the best possible candidate for the students of the school.  So while you are less likely to see these systems in private schools, it is not highly unlikely that you may run into them.

Charter public schools will fall somewhere in between.  Because they have public funds attached to them, they have to abide by laws that require they are not discriminating or giving preference to any particular groups in society.  However, at the same time they are often relieved of some of the collective bargaining or certification constraints so they may not feel the exact same pressures to create an extensive process when they go about hiring teachers.  In addition, many charter schools are smaller by design or newer with less capacity to manage multiple facets of a hiring process.  Again, we are not saying charters don’t use these methods, many do, it is just you may be less likely to encounter them than in traditional public schools.

The one commonality in teacher hiring you will find in all these settings is that it is almost a certainty that you will have to submit to a police background check and a check of references from your previous employers.  So stay on the right side of the law and keep good relationships with your current employer, even if you do not see eye-to-eye with them.

So what does this all mean for you?  Based on the trends described above should you assume a school that is smaller in size, less affluent, has less support staff, is rural, is charter, is private will be less likely to use the detailed methods described above?  You could gamble and do this, but we HIGHLY SUGGEST that you assume that any school you interview with is going to put you through the fullest possible process.  If you assume that because you are interviewing with a small, poorly funded, private elementary school of 60 students in a rural area that you will not face an interview with two different committees, teaching demonstration, and two written tasks- there is a good chance you may be correct.  However, if your assumption is incorrect, you are going to have a very tough time next to the candidates that have prepared for the full contemporary interview process.  The worst that can happen by assuming all schools will put you thorough a full process is that you are over prepared for a situation where the principal just wants to chat over coffee.  Even in these situations, your level of preparedness is going to make you more relaxed and more impressive to the administrator conducting the interview. 

So assume that all application and interview processes will be of the highest caliber!  One of the best ways to do this is to get yourself a copy of the essential handbook for teacher interviews, The Insider’s Guide to the Teacher Interview ©2012.  It is designed to be a quick read for busy teacher candidates and is the only book written by school administrators who actually run these hiring systems.  It will give you a behind-the-scenes look at how the more intensive interview processes are put together and how to effectively navigate them.  The insider information will give you a real edge and ensure that no matter the teacher interview format, you do not end up a ‘deer in the headlights.’

Good luck to you Aya!  Good luck to all of you following the EDU Edge.  Please come back and let us know how you make out so we can all learn together.

Yours in a Partnership in Learning,
The EDU Edge

(Please feel free to contact us with additional questions … we’re on Twitter, Facebook and you can email us at  Tell us what interview obstacles you’re dealing with and trying to overcome.  We’ll do our best to respond and try our best to help you.)

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