Hire slow; fire fast. There is so much wisdom in that old expression. I’d like to add “interview smart” I have been interviewing prospective music teachers for over 14 years at my studio Dave Simon’s Rock School. For years I would ask prospective instructors questions based on the details in their resume. This approach was not getting me the information I needed. Knowing how to conduct an effective interview requires a game plan and strategy. By having a list of set questions allows you to better focus on listening and formulating an opinion.
A great music instructor is a great communicator. They are able to take an abstract concept and bring it down to earth for their student. The interview is an opportunity to see how the interviewee breaks down and simplifies complex ideas.
1. Who’s your favorite musician or composer?
One of my favorite interview questions. It’s a curveball and softball question rolled into one. It helps the interviewee relax since they are going to start off talking about something they probably have strong opinions about.
- Take note of their response. Not their words but how they deliver them.
- Do they seem relaxed and animated or flat and guarded?
- Do they seem eager to answer the question or do they seem concerned about answering it the way you want them to?
2. What makes your favorite artist so outstanding?
The softball question from #1 becomes a little more complex. This question tests a candidate’s ability to be expressive. They will have to dig a little deeper into their thoughts to come up with a thoughtful answer. This question puts them in a position where they have to explain musical concepts. This, of course, is something that they will have to do in a lesson.
3. What qualities do you think a good teacher should have?
This is a great way of finding out if the applicant’s philosophy towards music education is in sync with your studio. It’s another way of asking “What type of teacher do you aspire to be”.
4. Have you ever been in a position of leadership? If yes, What were your greatest challenges and how did you handle them?
A more thoughtful, introspective candidate is likely to handle this question well. I have found that people with leadership experience often better understand the dynamics of the teacher/student relationship. They often have more animated or strong personalities. These are all great attributes for a music teacher. A music teacher ultimately needs to make music fun.
5. How would a former student describe you as a teacher?
This question is related to #3 so I don’t always ask these back-to-back. This question encourages the interviewee to discuss their strengths and abilities from a different perspective.
6. Tell me about an instructor or mentor that has inspired you.
This question creates an opportunity for the prospect to tell a story. Being a good storyteller is important for music teachers. Storytelling is a great way to engage students and help them with focus.
7. What is a common musical concept that students struggle with? How do you approach this in your lessons?
Troubleshooting is an essential skill for any instructor. This question puts the candidate in teaching mode. Be prepared to throw out a musical challenge to see how they respond. (i.e. Student is unable to transition to chords smoothly, Student slows down in a section)
8. Is there anything in your personal life that could impact your ability to get to work on a consistent basis?
The question is an invitation for the prospect to reveal any prior commitments or family issues that could impact their ability to work. Caring for family members, lack of reliable transportation, school, and touring bands are all issues I’ve dealt with as an employer. Some of these issues are more disruptive to business than others. It’s important to address any of these issues up front.