Teacher Job Interview: What are you strengths and weaknesses?

Teaching is one of the most popular professions in the world. There’s no denying the impact you can have as a teacher. Spending long hours with your students can easily turn you into a role model, or even their first platonic love… Furthermore, by providing them with food for thought and asking the right questions in your lessons, you can assist them in developing a healthy perspective on the world and their place in it. Of course, you can teach them to read, write, and speak a foreign language—all of these skills are essential for their future success.

However, before that can happen, you must be hired in an interview. And one of the most common questions you’ll be asked by the school principal (or a department head, or a small hiring committee) is the dreaded one: What are your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher? They may also divide it into two questions, first asking about your strong points and then your weak points. But it makes no difference whether it’s one or two questions. You will have to discuss both. You may also encounter this problem before a job interview, when writing an essay (for example, on why you want to teach), or when working on your resume.

Let’s take a look at seven sample responses to the question. Below the answers are some additional hints and explanations to help you choose the best answer for your teaching job interview and resume.

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7 sample responses to the question, “What are your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher?” interview query

  1. My passion for my profession is without a doubt one of my greatest assets. I believe it is reflected in each lesson and each conversation I have with the students. They can tell that I genuinely care about them and do my best in each lesson, which motivates them to do the same or at least to remain disciplined. To be honest, the same attitude—or, to put it another way, the consequences of such an attitude toward teaching—is also my greatest weakness. I struggle to maintain professional distance because I care so much. I frequently bring problems from class home and can’t get them out of my head. This is definitely a problem that I am aware of and working to resolve.
  2.  My communication skills and understanding of the emotional world of children, particularly at the elementary level, are my teaching strengths. It is not difficult for me to gain the students’ trust because I understand how they feel in various situations and can choose the appropriate words in my lessons. My greatest weakness is undoubtedly a lack of experience. I taught as part of my studies for six months, but it was always in the same classes, and the students were never disruptive. I am aware that I am inexperienced in some difficult situations. They will occur, sooner or later. I’ll have to adapt, and hopefully I’ll be able to learn how to deal with the tricky situation in the classroom from my more experienced colleagues.
  3. Nothing beats twenty years of teaching experience in my opinion. That is my greatest asset. I’ve seen it all: good students, bad students, school violence, chicane, but also strong friendships and students who excelled on a national level in a variety of competitions. I’ve tried both traditional and unconventional teaching methods. My experience is vast, and nothing in the classes can catch me off guard… During these long years, I also learned about my flaws and eventually got rid of some of them. But there is one thing I would like to improve. I sometimes talk too much in class and do not involve the students as much as I would like. That is not the way to help them improve their communication and interpersonal skills, which are critical in the twenty-first century.
  4. To be honest, I don’t know. This is my first time applying for a job. I’ve never taught before, and while I have some expectations and a good understanding of the job, I’m not sure how I’d fare in a real classroom setting. I believe I need to do the job first, at least for a few weeks, to understand where I excel in teaching and where I need to improve. Certainly, I will not excel in all areas, and it is a process—one does not become an excellent teacher simply by earning a degree. We need practice and a desire to constantly improve… (This one will work well in an essay for a new teacher looking for their first teaching job.)
  5. My greatest strength, I believe, is my ability to instill respect in the eyes of the students. I understand that your school has a lot of discipline issues, and that it is your biggest challenge. However, under my leadership, even the most disruptive students eventually began to behave, or at the very least stopped bothering other students. However, as is often the case, this strength can become a weakness… Because I like to have strict discipline rules in my classes, not tolerating any misbehavior. This is beneficial in some cases, but in others, it may “frighten” some students, causing them to refrain from expressing their opinions or providing feedback on my teaching, such as when they do not understand something. So it’s all about striking the right balance, which I’m still struggling with lesson after lesson.
  6. If I had to pick one thing, it would be creativity. Students will never be bored in my classes. I don’t always lecture, at least not all of the time. Learning through play, using interactive technology in the classroom, and switching roles as teacher and student are just a few of the teaching methods I employ. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. The kids pay attention in class because they enjoy it. My biggest flaw is probably impatience. I’m sometimes concerned about staying on schedule with the lessons and making too much progress for the students. I definitely need to work on this, soliciting their feedback and avoiding rushing things.
  7. When it comes to university teaching, my greatest asset is unquestionably my knowledge of the subjects I teach. I’ve published dozens of research papers and am constantly working to update my knowledge. If the students are serious about learning something from the subject and rising above the rest of the university students, I am the right person to lead the lessons. On the other hand, and this is my biggest flaw as a teacher, I sometimes overestimate my students’ abilities. My lectures can be difficult at times, at least for the majority of the audience. I’m not sure how you view such an issue, but I try to strike a balance between teaching something extra and ensuring that students understand it.

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Your greatest strength can also be a source of your greatest weakness.

You don’t have to look for yin and yang opposites in your interview answers. What makes you a great teacher in general can make life difficult at times. When you do not achieve the desired results with your students, your passion and commitment to your teaching mission (definitely a strength) can make you unhappy. As an example, consider sample answer no. 1.
Or you have the ability to maintain classroom discipline—perhaps with an iron fist, which is necessary in some cases when students will not obey you otherwise. This can be the most important strength in some school settings. It can, however, work against you. Students may struggle to express their thoughts on your teaching because they are afraid of your reaction, and you may lack feedback. As an example, look at answer number 5.

Lack of experience or extensive experience – your safe bet when in doubt, and an excellent choice for your resume

Experience, like everything else in life, is beneficial. If you have ten or twenty years of teaching experience, you can confidently identify it as your greatest strength. When you are unsure, it is a safe bet, and you can elaborate by explaining how the experience will help you in the classes. As an example, consider sample answer number three.

You can also flip this and say that your biggest weakness as a new teacher is a lack of experience (and everything that entails for you in the classroom). You can also add a twist by claiming that you can’t really point out your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher because you lack real-world teaching experience. This is especially useful when you are just starting out in your career and need to write essays and prepare your resume. On your resume, you usually can’t afford to go on and on about your flaws. The available space is limited, making elaborate thoughts impossible. As a result, simply writing “lack of experience” in the column for weaknesses is an excellent option. Of course, once you’ve been invited for an interview, you should always elaborate on it, as you can see from my list of sample responses.

Demonstrate your desire to improve your weaknesses.

There are no perfect teachers, and we all have flaws. It is perfectly acceptable to the hiring committee, and they will not send you hope empty-handed simply because you reveal a significant weakness. What matters to them is your demeanor. As long as you admit to having a weakness and demonstrate an honest desire to improve on it (perhaps even describing how you intend to do so), they will be satisfied with your response, and your weakness will not be a deal breaker…

Are you prepared to respond to this one? Great. However, it will not be the only difficult question you will face during your teaching interview… Check out my eBook, the Teacher Interview Guide, if you want to be prepared for any challenge, impress the hiring committee, and sign the coveted employment contract. Multiple excellent responses to all possible interview questions will make your life much easier on the big day. Thank you for looking into it, and best of luck!

Athina Iliadis is a Human Resources Professional with over 25 years’ experience in corporate environments working for companies such as Pearson, LexisNexis, Hershey, and Reckitt. In her current role as a consultant working with clients around the world, she coaches managers and employees on HR issues, supports leaders in their business, produces content about careers, interviews, and job opportunities. She is fluent in English, French and Greek, and she holds a BBA with a major in HR from Université du Québec à Montréal. Find her on LinkedIn and at athinailiadis.com

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