Skip Navigation
Search

Interviewing for a Teaching Position

Author(s): Tracy Volz, PhD

Presenting. . . You!

Twenty years of research in psychology, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, neuroscience and speech communication has shown that we are judged not only by knowledge, but on how we conduct ourselves and how we look and sound. You probably have experienced situations personally where, based on a person’s greeting and appearance, you instantly started to form opinions about his or her personality, character, intelligence, and temperament. First impressions may not always be correct, but an interviewer will begin to form them the moment you walk through the door. Therefore, from the very start, you want to project a positive, professional image to your interviewer(s). You can achieve this through your stance, gestures, eye contact, voice quality and attire/appearance. Bring some energy into the room, smile, and show that you’re enthusiastic about teaching.

Stance/Posture. Position your body so that it is open to the interviewer, and do not turn your back. When you are standing before this person, hold your head up, stand up straight and plant your feet. Try to keep your feet under your hips, your shoulders relaxed, weight evenly distributed, and your arms dropped loosely at your sides. When seated across from the interviewer, show your attentiveness by maintaining good posture. You want to sit up straight and lean forward a little bit to emphasize a point or to show your interest. Avoid standing with your feet extended too far apart, wider than your hips, because it looks too casual. Try not to stand with one foot crossed over the other. This causes one shoulder to dip, which makes you look unstable. Do not slump in your chair, sway, rock, pace, or nervously tap your foot.

Gestures. Use hand gestures to emphasize particular points or to reinforce concepts visually. These gestures should project from chest-high, so that the interviewer can watch your face and the gesture simultaneously. If your hands are too high, they will block your face. If they are too low, the gesture may not be seen, or may be distracting, as it will draw the audience’s view away from your face, and thus, away from what you may are saying. To promote effective gesturing, and to avoid giving an unintended perception, resist the following common practices: crossing your arms in front of your body; clasping your hands in front of body (the “fig leaf” pose) or behind back; placing your hand in front of your mouth, or fiddling with your pen. All of these behaviors can create a negative or unwanted impression.  

Eye Contact. Eye contact is the most powerful form of non-verbal communication. In North American culture, individuals who make direct, sustained eye contact usually are thought to be trustworthy and credible. In contrast, people who make too little eye contact are sometimes perceived as being dishonest, shy, or inattentive. Therefore, you should keep your eyes on the interviewer most of the time, even if he or she is scribbling notes and not making much eye contact with you. That said, avoid staring intently because it may make the interviewer uncomfortable. If you are being interviewed by a panel of people, make sure you address your answers, through eye contact, to everyone and not just the person who asked the question.