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Teach for America TFA Corps Member Interview Questions & Reviews

Updated Jun 19, 2014
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TFA Corps Member Interview

TFA Corps Member

I applied online and the process took 3 months - interviewed at Teach for America in May 2012.

Interview Details – It was very hard.

Interview Question – Would you ever quit?   Answer Question

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TFA Corps Member
Los Angeles, CA

I applied online and the process took 2+ months - interviewed at Teach for America in March 2012.

Interview Details – It is an extensive process. TFA is selective, NOT competitive. There isn't an "x" number of people they choose for the corps every year, they choose everyone who is qualified (that is because some districts are so understaffed that they literally take as many corps members as TFA can give them). Thus, you are evaluated based on TFA's "bar", NOT compared to your peers. The selection rate (of around 11%) has gotten lower in recent years is because the number of applicants increased more than the number of qualified applicants.

The first step of the application is online (form, resume, essay), which is a primary screening to see a few things:

1) Do you have leadership experience? Do you have numbers to quantify its significance to an extent? (ex: how many people you managed/led, how big of a budget you dealt with, etc)

2) Do you understand TFA's mission? Are you really on board? Are you just looking for a place to boost your resume?

3) Are you a passionate person? Can you handle the work? Have you been through challenges?

If you come across as someone with these traits, you will move to the next stage in the process. I interned at recruitment the summer before I applied, so I learned a lot about what they were looking for. If you are especially strong in showing these on the initial application, you can even skip the next stage in the process and go straight to the final interview!

The second step is a phone interview. From what I've heard, they mainly try to get you to elaborate/flesh out the 3 things above based on what you submitted for the first step. Their website actually lists 7 "things", but some of the others don't become as important until the final stage of the interview process. Their list of 7 is below (taken from their website under the page "Who We Look For"):

-A deep belief in the potential of all kids and a commitment to do whatever it takes to expand opportunities for students
-Demonstrated leadership ability and superior interpersonal skills to motivate others
-Strong achievement in academic, professional, extracurricular, and/or volunteer settings
-Perseverance in the face of challenges, ability to adapt to changing environments, and a strong desire to do whatever it takes to improve and develop
-Excellent critical thinking skills, including the ability to accurately link cause and effect and to generate relevant solutions to problems
-Superior organizational ability, including planning well and managing responsibilities effectively
-Respect for individuals’ diverse experiences and the ability to work effectively with people from a variety of backgrounds

If you move forward to the final interview stage, the rumors are that they usually take about 50% of the remaining candidates and actually accept them into the corps. However, that number could change drastically from year to year based on how they choose candidates (read first paragraph to review this).

The final interview is intense. Beforehand, they will have you complete an online activity. They force you to sign a confidentiality agreement not to discuss the specifics of that, so I will honor that here. If you focus and take it seriously, you shouldn't have any problems.

The final interview is in-person and is a full day. In the beginning, they have you in an interview group of a max of 10. Each candidate teaches a 5 minute lesson to their "class", which is the rest of the interview group. The time limit is very strict (they will stop you if you're not finished). The purpose is not to impress them with the complex data you can communicate, or to prove you're already a teacher, but to show that you know how to communicate to a class in the teaching environment.

After the lessons are finished, there is a group discussion activity. They want to see that you can make valuable contributions to the discussion while not dominating and make sure that an outcome is compiled by the end of the time limit.

After that, you sign up for a one-on-one interview slot and have an interview for about 30 minutes (some are shorter, but not usually longer than that). During the one-on-one, they ask a lot of questions about your resume, why you want to be in TFA, and if you think you can handle the demanding environment. They also do a scenario of some sort than involves talking with a school administrator about implementing a new program.

Then, you're done!

They are implementing a new program this year in which you can apply as a college junior to start working after your senior year. If you do not get accepted, they will give you some sort of feedback and let you apply for the fall of your senior year so that you can have another chance to still work in the same corps and apply twice. I'm not sure of the other details of that program, but I would highly recommend it if you are a college junior that feels like TFA could be the right fit for you!

Interview Question – Most unexpected: Have you ever missed a deadline?   View Answer

Negotiation Details – There isn't much negotiation. You submit your preferences when you apply, so they know what you want.

Your offer comes with the content you will be teaching, your grade level range (elem, middle, or high school), and the region (most are cities, some are geographically larger, see their website for details). There are cases where they will make changes for you, but they try all they can not to switch you. If you tell them you will not do the program unless you are switched and they are able to feasibly make the switch, the history I've seen is that they will. It is still very difficult to do, though. Also, none of it is guaranteed and it could switch. This is the case because your placement depends on the district and their needs, which change often. Teach for America does everything they can to get you where your original offer is, but since it is ultimately out of their control, that doesn't always happen. At the end of the day, if you're there to make an impact for kids, it doesn't matter where you are or what you teach. If you are a "professional" (meaning not just out of college), and you have a mortgage or a family to care for or a spouse with a job that limits your regional options they WILL do all they can to honor that. They honestly don't care where your boyfriend/girlfriend is unless you are engaged.

Also, on the form for your regional preferences, you can place regions into categories of highly preferred, preferred, and least preferred. You only need to put 10 regions, so if you have a specific desire for a region, only put 10 regions and only put the ones you really want in the "highly preferred" column. I say this because if they decide to make you an offer, they decide that before they consider the region. They want you to accept your offer, so if they choose you don't be afraid to make it clear which region you want to be in. I did this and was a later applicant and was surprised that I got my 2nd choice, which was a very popular choice (Los Angeles).

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TFA Corps Member
Phoenix, AZ

I applied online and the process took 4 months - interviewed at Teach for America in March 2009.

Interview Details – Started with a phone interview. Questions regarding how you handle stress, organization, you beliefs about education, background, etc. Interviewer was easy going and friendly. 2nd interview was an all-day process at the regional office. 9 hours- the morning was all individual work and group role playing. I took an assessment, role played a school scenario in a group of four (they were looking for collaborative skills, I believe), and presented a 5 minute lesson to the other 11 interviewees and 4 evaluators. Break for lunch and then I waited until I was called for the one on one interview. They asked about my educational background, organizational skills, motivations for joining the corps, and my visions for my own future as well as that in education.

Interview Question – I really don't remember. They really want people who are organized, passionate, work well with a group, and driven to make positive change.   Answer Question

Negotiation Details – No negotiating. You get paid what teachers in your placement district get paid.

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TFA Corps Member
West Lafayette, IN

I applied through a recruiter and the process took 2 months - interviewed at Teach for America in November 2010.

Interview Details – There are multiple levels of interviews and high expectations of the interviewees preparedness for each level. Do not expect the standard questions or procedures. Show passion and excitement for the cause and a willingness to learn from those who have gone before you. Openness to new experiences and people is also important.

Interview Question – Teaching a lesson to other group interviewees was the most difficult. Make sure you have an assessment at the end of your lesson to determine if your "Students" have learned the material. Be prepared for difficult questions during your lesson from TFA staff acting as students.   Answer Question

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TFA Corps Member Interview

TFA Corps Member

I applied online and the process took 2 months - interviewed at Teach for America in October 2013.

Interview Details – Well I'll be completely honest. TFA is not for everyone. The first step is to fill out an online application. This application is very thorough, long, and is not something that you can do last minute. Make sure your resume focuses on your leadership experiences and your essay questions reflect true passion for their cause. Everything needs to be lined up with their mission and their core values. So, do your research.

Next is the phone interview/online activity. Some people skip the actual phone interview and is invited straight to the final interview. I think it just means that everything they were looking for was given and explained on their application. But, if you're offered a phone interview don't be worried. Just be yourself and be prepared. Be familiar with your resume and leadership experience and be ready to explain specific details. If you say you increased something, know the numbers or percentage and how you did so. Be very specific. The online activity is very long. First there is a watch and respond. You'll watch a video and respond. Then there's a test, there isn't a "correct answer" but they just want to see how and what you would do in certain situations. It's not hard though, just make sure that you think things through.

Lastly, there's a three part final interview. It consists of a five minute lesson plan, a group interview/activity, and then a one-on -one interview. All I can say is be prepared. For the five minute lesson plan--practice, practice, practice. Make sure whatever you choose to teach, you KNOW well and you can be completely confident in. Don't over think the lesson. Make sure that you're engaging the audience, have some sort of interaction, and use your time wisely. The group interview/activity. I cannot say this enough, Teach for America is NOT competitive it's selective. They are not looking for a set number of applicants. They are just looking for people who meet their standards. So try not to be a know it all and a control freak. Make sure you're heard, but also give others a chance to be heard. Review their core values: TEAMWORK. Work together as a team. I HIGHLY advise that you get to know the other interviewees and learn to support and encourage each other. It makes the day SO MUCH better. The one on one interview. Mine was awesome. The interviewer was SO nice and kind. Try not to be alarmed or feel like they're not paying attention to you when they're typing on their computer. They're taking notes on you. This is their way of painting a picture of who you are to the admissions team. So, be yourself, be prepared, and be passionate. I know TFA only accepts 11 % of their applicants but don't let that worry you. If you are truly passionate about something, it will show.

Interview Question – I agreed to keep questions confidential. Just know your responses to your application long responses, your resume, and leadership experiences.   Answer Question

Negotiation Details – No negotiation . When offered to the final interview, you are asked to pick 10 locations: under the categories: highly preferred, preferred, and least preferred. You will also be asked to pick grade level and subject as well under the same categories.

If you are offered a position, based off the need of the locations you picked and what you qualify for is how you will be offered a position. Your only options are to accept it or decline.

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TFA Corps Member
Madison, WI

I applied online - interviewed at Teach for America in January 2010.

Interview Details – Very interesting interview process. They ask you questions that get down to 1) your leadership qualities and experiences, 2) your organizational skills, and 3) your cultural competency. Each of them is hard to fake while you're in the interview, because it's hard to answer competently unless you can actually own it in real life as well.

Interview Question – The sample teach can be the most challenging part of the interview day for many, and most of the sample lessons I saw were pretty bad.   View Answer

Negotiation Details – Really easy. They basically tell you where you're going and you accept or decline.

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TFA Corps Member
Cambridge, MA

I applied through college or university - interviewed at Teach for America in February 2010.

Interview Details – It's been about five years, so my memory is a little fuzzy but as I recall: I submitted my application online during the third application cycle and was notified a few days later that I was accepted for a 15 minute phone interview. After this interview, I was notified that I had moved on to the next phase of the interview cycle, an all-day interview. This interview was broken down into different parts: a five minute sample lesson, a group interview and problem solving session, and an individual interview. The five minute sample lesson will be with a small group of about 10 people, who all get up and teach for a short time on the topic of their choosing. TFA generally conducts these interviews in a place with a white board and will provide everyone with dry erase markers to write on the board. A few people in my group were fancy and had prepared worksheets for the group or an experiment. I didn't do this; however, I later found out that a lot of people in the New Orleans corps had. The next part of my interview day consisted of a short group interview and problem solving session with the same group as during the sample lessons. As I remember, we were given a short prompt on the achievement gap and had to respond to written questions and then were asked to have a group discussion and answer oral questions. I think TFA was just looking for people who weren't afraid of participating and who didn't display any biases against minorities or the socioeconomically disadvantaged. After this, we were notified that the group portion of the interview had ended and asked to sign up for a time later on in the day for our individual interview. We were also given a classroom situation that we would be asked about in the individual interview. I can't remember exactly, but I think the classroom situation was one of the first portions of the individual interview. My recommendation on this would be to come up with as many solutions to the problems as possible. The interviewer is going to keep questioning your solution and posing hypotheticals that would make it impossible, so the more solutions you can come up with the better. After this, the interview moved on to more standard interview questions for the rest of the time. I do recall my interviewer being particularly emotionless and typing the entire time during the interview, which I was later told they are instructed to do. Basically, the entire time you are being interviewed a TFA staff member is filling out a huge rubric and depending on how you score determines whether or not you are offered a job.

Interview Question – My interviewer asked a lot of questions about what I would do or how I would respond in classroom scenarios. This is difficult to do when you have never set foot in a classroom. Just use what you think is good judgment and answer accordingly.   Answer Question

Negotiation Details – Since TFA does not pay corps members (school districts do), the only thing you can really negotiate on is where you are placed or what grade/subject you are teaching.TFA tries to make it seem like corps members have no power to negotiate on these matters, but the reality is that you do. I was offered a placement in my least preferred area, but was able to negotiate to be placed in another area. I know several other people in my school who did the same.

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TFA Corps Member Interview

TFA Corps Member

I applied online and the process took 3 months - interviewed at Teach for America in December 2013.

Interview Details – The first step is the online application. After this I was invited to a phone interview and had to complete an online assessment. The phone interview was not bad, mostly asked about your leadership experiences. The assessment had you listen to a scenario and write a few responses. It also had a test that had you interpret charts and data. Next step was the in person interview. You had to teach a sample lesson plan in front of the group, then read an article and have a discussion, then you had a personal interview. The interview included a role play which was difficult and the interviewer was aggressive. Asked how it made me feel when I didn't get my way, how far would I push, what info did I wish I had? What would you do if you had an 8th grade class that read at a 3rd grade level, what would be your goal for them? How do you stay organized?

Interview Question – Would you ever quit?   Answer Question

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TFA Corps Member
Boston, MA

I applied through a recruiter and the process took 3 months - interviewed at Teach for America in October 2011.

Interview Details – After initially being contacted by an on-campus recruiter, I attended multiple information sessions and several (3-4) sit-down informal conversations with the recruiter. TFA keeps a paper trail on applicants, so therefore, it is to your advantage to keep in contact via email and by attending these sessions. I applied to the earliest deadline and because of my continued contact with my recruiter, I was able to skip the phone interview and move immediately into the online short answer activity. The online activity consisted of several short answer questions regarding TFA's core values - specifically, diversity in the corps and in the classroom and humility in collaborating with other teachers and educators. There was a video question regarding a new teacher in a difficult situation with a veteran educator at school, and corps member responses to this series of questions were brought up during the final interview. I was invited to the final interview for which candidates prepare and deliver a 5-minute lesson. Also, all candidates participate in a series of whole-group and small-group activities that are centered around your online short answer responses.

The 5-minute lesson is clearly the "make it or break it" component of the interview, as most candidates who have made it to this stage of the process are clearly qualified leaders both academically and professionally. Your 5-minute lesson should consist of a clear hook (opener) which quickly moves into your introduction to new material (INM). This should be short and concise, as you are introducing your topic to be mastered to the class. Within your introduction to new material, you should clearly state and write down your learning objective on the white board provided. Your objective is what students (your fellow interview candidates) will be able to master and demonstrate by the end of your lesson. From your introduction to new material, guide your "class" into whole-group practice of your learning objective. Whether this is identifying verbs in a sentence or describing the difference between mammals and insects, students must be able to practice as a whole-group with you, their "instructor, and amongst themselves, their "fellow classmates." Then, move into independent practice where individual corps members demonstrate their knowledge of the topic you have just taught. You absolutely must have an assessment piece at the end of your independent practice, which could be just 1-2 questions the candidates must answer to demonstrate your mastery of the objective. This could be on the worksheet or handout your provide them or given verbally. The size of your interview "class" will be about 12-15 candidates, so this is easily manageable. I highly suggest meeting and practicing with current teachers or using YouTube tutorials to model by yourself.

Interview Question – Your interviewers are almost always former corps members and/or recent TFA alumni, and they will open up the floor to candidate questions. They are very open and forthcoming with answering and detailing their own experiences in the corps. Your questions during this time will demonstrate your commitment to and knowledge of TFA, as well as what type of leader you will be in your classroom and region. Many of the candidates applying for spots in the incoming TFA corps are competitive, with past records of achievement and success in their respective fields. Make sure, therefore, that during open question time you clearly and deftly allow others to speak, demonstrate your own active listening skills, and do not hog the speaking time. This shows what type of corps member you will be, and TFA does not want braggarts who can't work or collaborate with others. This was also clearly the purpose of the whole-group and small-group activities; which corps members will be able to work with and for others while leading through action and example, and which candidates are attempting to control and regulate the situation? By the time you move to your final one-on-one interview, be sure to have several questions prepared and anecdotes about your past experiences as a leader and as a learner. TFA will invest in you only as much as you show you are willing to embrace and overcome obstacles - this is not an easy job, but instead very challenging yet rewarding. TFA wants to see your demonstrated experience at overcoming obstacles by problem solving, collaborating with others, and relentlessly pursuing your own goals. Also, I highly suggest coming in with region-specific questions and references to current corps members you know; they want to know that you are aware of what you're getting in to with TFA!   Answer Question

Negotiation Details – After receiving your acceptance offer to join the corps, you will be given your placement subject and/or region (possible). There is little negotiation with this unless you have a valid concern (upcoming marriage, family illness, etc...). Corps members from that specific region will contact you and answer any questions you may have leading up to you accepting your TFA offer.

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TFA Corps Member
Nashville, TN

I applied through a recruiter - interviewed at Teach for America in December 2009.

Interview Details – Sample lesson, ability test, behavioral interview, phone call

Interview Question – Reflection   Answer Question

Negotiation Details – N/A

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