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Interviewing Potential Mentees

It’s not until you’re sitting on the other side of the desk that you realise interviews aren’t just nerve-wracking for the potential hire; they’re scary for the boss too!

It will take you a little while to find your interview style, so please be patient with yourself. It doesn’t mean you’re “not cut out for this” if you get nervous. Much like with a recital performance, it just means you care!

Asking Questions

Asking great interview questions which get genuine answers is an art. 

As you make your list, you should have a reason for each question you ask. Don’t ask any just because they’re standard interview questions or because I said so. Know the why behind each question.

That being said, here’s a list to get your brainstorming started:

  • What attracted you to this position?
  • What’s your own musical background? 
  • What’s your favourite aspect of playing (sight reading, improv, etc.)? 
  • What do you like about teaching/the idea of teaching?
  • What ambitions do you have for your career in the long term?
  • Are you balancing this with anything else right now? How many hours would be ideal for you?

And, if they’ve already started teaching:

  • What method books or other materials have you used with students?
  • How do you approach technique? 
  • Have you improvised with your students?
  • Have you ever used teaching games?
  • What’s your favourite age group to teach?
  • Are you teaching online right now? How have you found this?

It’s perfectly fine to have a list of questions in front of you during the interview so you don’t forget anything. However, I wouldn’t recommend taking notes. 

Instead, try recording the interview using the voice memo app on your phone. That way you can stay fully present and listen to their body language as well as their words during the interview.

Setting Expectations

After asking some questions, and before giving them a chance to ask any questions they may have, I like to explain a bit about our studio. I run through how we operate in much the same way as I would for a prospective student’s parent so they can get a feel for what it’s like here.

I also explain clearly at this stage what this mentorship is and what it is not. It’s an opportunity for them to learn to be an outstanding teacher with my help and without the need to focus on the business side of things. It is not the best way for them to make money as a new teacher. 

Yes, you read that right. I explain upfront to potential mentees that they could charge more if they found their own students. I want to make sure they’re in this for the right reasons.

To Audition or Not to Audition?

Whether you ask the interviewee to play for you is largely a personal choice. It also depends on the ubiquity of exams in your area. If formal qualifications are uncommon, I think the audition at the interview will always be necessary to verify that they can play. If not, you still may like to include a performance as part of the interview, but it’s more optional. 

Just make it standard for everyone so that it’s fair. And let them know if you’re expecting them to play something so that they can choose a piece in advance. 

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