Turn Your Teacher Weaknesses Into Assets and Nail the Job Interview

Combine honest self-assessment with a plan of action to impress employers

Businesswoman at job interview
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It's the infamous interview question that can stump even seasoned job-seekers. "What are your weaknesses as a teacher?" It may come at you disguised as "What would you most like to change/improve about yourself?" or "What frustrations did you encounter in your last position?" It often tags onto "Describe your strengths." Your response can tip the interview in your favor -- or send your resume to the bottom of the pile.

Forget Conventional Wisdom

In the past conventional wisdom recommended putting a spin on this question, describing an actual strength camouflaged as a weakness. For example, you might mention perfectionism as your weakness, explaining that you refuse to quit until the job gets done right. But even inexperienced interviewers can see right through that ploy. If they don't laugh outright, they will surely tag you as an unimaginative liar -- not exactly top qualities for a teacher.

Embrace the Truth

Answer truthfully, then tell your interviewer the steps you plan to take or are already taking to mitigate the potential problems. For example, maybe you feel less than excited about the paperwork that comes along with a classroom of students, so you tend to procrastinate on grading homework. You admit to having found yourself on more than one occasion scrambling to catch up right before the grading period ended.

You might feel like your honesty leaves you vulnerable. But go on to explain that in order to combat this tendency, you set a schedule for yourself this past school year that allotted half an hour every day to paperwork. You also used self-grading assignments whenever practical, which allowed students to assess their own work as you discussed the answers together in class. As a result, you stayed on top of your grading and only needed a short time at the end of each period to compile the information. Now an interviewer will see you as self-aware and a problem solver, both highly desirable attributes in a teacher.

Employers know job candidates have weaknesses, says Kent McAnally, director of career services at Washburn University. "They want to know that we are doing the self-analysis to identify what ours are," he writes for the American Association for Employment in Education. "Showing that you are taking steps to improve is essential to making a positive impression, but more importantly, it is essential for developing your personal and professional goals and development plans. And THAT is the real reason for the question."

Tips to Master the Interview

  • Avoid canned responses. Don't let your answers sound coached.
  • Don't try to guess what the interviewer wants to hear. Answer questions candidly and present your authentic self.
  • Discuss both your tangible skills -- those you acquired through education and experience, such as teaching bilingual children, and your intangible skills -- those personal qualities that extend to your teaching styles, such as patience or a good sense of humor.
  • Smile!