The Teach For America interview process can be long and daunting to many. These are tips from current City Year Team Leaders serving on the Future Educator's Task Force who deferred their acceptance to TFA to serve a second year with City Year.
Teach For America Application and Interview Best Practices
- Make sure your resume demonstrates your accomplishments rather than your roles and responsibilities. Highlighting your academic and professional achievements will allow TFA to best assess the impact you’ll make with the organization.
- Start each bullet with an active verb.
- Quantify your results when possible.
- More specifically, be sure to include data in your achievements. Challenge yourself to include numbers in each bullet point. For example, “Tutored twenty-two 10th grade students in an under-resourced neighborhood with 93% passing all classes - 100% in English Language Arts and 86% in Mathematics”
- Eliminate jargon. Consider if someone outside your field could read and understand your resume -- make sure the language you use is readable to all individuals.
- Organize your experience in reverse-chronological order to create a clear visual path for the reader.
- Be sure to include information about your Coordinator Role, City Year Lead Opportunities, and extracurriculars within the school building (ex: Coached a group of six, eighth-grade students on a spoken work, Louder Than A Bomb team)
- Keep your resume to one page. TFA reads through an abundance of resumes. Articulating your skills and expertise on a concise page will provide you with the best chance at being selected.
Make sure to meet all deadlines and give yourself sufficient time to complete the necessary tasks. In the interview, they’ll check if you’ve met all of their deadlines. If you haven’t, be prepared to justify why.
- Have a friend or family member proofread your short-answer questions. Ask them to spot poor or incorrect grammar and to identify your objective so you can ensure clarity of your work. Individuals unfamiliar with City Year will also be able to successfully highlight any jargon you may have used.
- If the prompt asks for 300 words or less, begin with a 500 word response. Then, work backwards to eliminate any unnecessary language and bring you to your 300 word maximum.
INTERVIEWThe Phone Interview:
- Try to predict the questions they’ll ask during the interview. Write these answers down, have them in front of you for your interview, and practice them so that you can articulate your responses in the best way possible.
- Remember that in a phone interview, you can have resources you need in front of you. Make sure that you review these resources so that you don’t fumble through them when on the call. Have a printed copy of your own resume in front of you during the call. Oftentimes interviewers will refer to something specific you wrote, and you want to have the most organized response possible.
- The same goes for short answer questions. Interviewers will oftentimes ask you about a part of your responses. Be prepared to justify what you wrote.
- Be sure to stay on topic. Take notes on the interviewer (name, where they served), so you are able to tie things back to their experiences if possible.
- Avoid tangents. Be prepared to explain how every one of your experiences has prepared you for a position with Teach For America.
- Do not hesitate to take a moment to collect your thoughts after being asked a question. If helpful, ask an interviewer to repeat a question (never more than once) and write it down!
- Most importantly, stay personable.
The Online Activity:
- Be prepared to give a considerable amount of time to the online activity. Ensure that you’re in a space where there are little distractions.
The Full-Day Interview:
- Know where your destination is, plan how you’re going to get there, plan for parking to be difficult, and be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes early.
- Have multiple questions prepared to ask throughout your interview.
- While being mindful of City Year’s “NOSTUESO”, also be sure to participate during the group discussion. This is the prime time to allow your City Year experience to shine.
- At the end of your 1:1 interview you may be asked if you have any final thoughts. Take advantage of this opportunity to explain why you would be an excellent fit with Teach For America. Have your thoughts prepared ahead of time.
- Bring a pen and paper! And always thank the interviewer for their time.
Sample Lesson: Day of Full-Day Interview:
- Make sure your lesson plan is between 4:30-5 minutes. Practice it multiple times before your interview to ensure you don’t run over or under. If possible, practice with an audience. Using your students in the after-school space can be excellent practice.
- Choose a topic that can be thoroughly explained in 5 minutes. No more, no less.
- Make your objective is visible -- you will be asked to do this anyways, and having a poster board you can simply hang up will save you time in that 5 minutes!
- Have all of your materials separated and ready to go. Do not assume that all participants will have a pencil.
- Practice, practice, practice. The interviewers will stop you at exactly the 5 minute mark
- Create an engaging lesson plan -- make sure you can get your audience involved with hands on activities and checks for understanding.
- Using City Year’s “I do, We do, You do” is an excellent model to follow
- Consider including a “warm-up” or “exit slip”
- Note: The execution of a warm-up need not be included in your 5 minute time slot. In other words, explaining the directions of the “exit slip” just in time for the buzzer to ring is acceptable
In addition to the tips provided above, be sure to check out Teach For America’s preparation tips.
Kylie Martin graduated from DePaul University and majored in Psychology/Sociology and is serving as a Team Leader with City Year Chicago after serving as a corps member in 2014. and plans to bring the idealism she demonstrates at City Year to her classroom in Chicago when she begins teaching with TFA in Summer of 2015. She is committed to working towards a day when every child feels supported and inspired by their education.
Christopher Valenzuela graduate from University of California, Santa Cruz and majored in Politics. He serves as a Team Leader with City Year Los Angeles and had not considered teaching until his first year of service in 2014. After realizing he could make a significant impact in his students' lives through dtata-driven differentiated instruction, he was accepted to Teach for America but deferred his placement to continue with City Year as a Team Leader. He will be teaching in Los Angeles beginning in Summer 2015.