Helping You Have Interview Success!

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shutterstock_192509111 Business people waiting for job interview. Five candidates competing for one position

Paul Ainsworth

Paul has been writing for the Teacher Toolkit website since 2012 and is the author of 'No Silver Bullets: Day in, day out school improvement'. He is a system leader supporting primary schools, secondary schools and MATs currently with with Infinity Academies Trust as Education...
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How can you best-prepare for an interview to help you get that dream job?

Choose Me!

Over the last few years I have interviewed for the full range of teaching and leadership roles, from students having their first interview for a school direct training place to interviewing experienced leaders for headteacher and executive headteacher posts.

Interestingly, it doesn’t matter what role I am interviewing for, I still find people make similar mistakes.

In addition as a regular interviewer, I am often asked to coach unsuccessful candidates prepare for their next challenge. The following are the key points that I have observed in interviews and then share when I am coaching colleagues.

shutterstock_128647328 serious businessman sitting at his desk man glasses suit serious

Image: Shutterstock

Point 1: Why Me?

Before you start looking at further questions, one of the best pieces of preparation that you could do, is to think what is your unique selling point? Another way of thinking about this is,

… can you write in less than 100 words, why are you the person for the job?

This should be a summary of the points you have made in your letter of application.

If you find that question too daunting to begin with, break it down into smaller questions:

  • What can I offer which makes me different from other candidates?
  • What makes me fit into this school better than the other candidates?
  • What specials skills or competences have I got which means I can do this job?

Cartoon Image: Credit to Malcolm Laverty


Point 2: Your Experience

A key part of any interview is demonstrating that you can be a safe pair of hands (for appointment) and that you are already well on the way to being able to do the role.

One of the easiest ways to do this on the day, is to explain to the interviewer the things that you have already done and succeeded with.

You need to be able to weave these experiences into your interview answers.

As a starting point, list all the key projects you’ve been involved which you think link to the post you are being interviewed for. There is nothing wrong with having them listed in a notebook which you have in your hands during the interview. Make sure your refer to it too!

The when you are being interviewed, your notes can act as a prompt for you to try to introduce them into your answers.


 Point 3: Questions, questions, questions

If you were coaching a student for an exam, a key element would be past-papers and practicing questions. This is just as important for job interviews, which are in effect a verbal exam.

Lots of job hunters will have a collection of post cards (or a note-book), where one has written the question on one side with the answers on the reverse.

Using this strategy every time you go to an interview, try to write down the questions that you were asked.

One headteacher I worked for had ten interviews before she gained her headship, she always claimed that her set of post cards were what made the difference in the end.




Here are a few question to get you started:

  1. What do you think makes good / outstanding teaching across a school?
  2. How do you ensure students behave in lessons? What are the indicators?
  3. How do you ensure the most able / least able reach their full potential?
  4. How would you / your current staff describe your leadership style? What would they say are your areas for development?
  5. Please give an example of an effective strategy you have deployed to improve the quality of teaching and learning?

If you’d like more help, then read ‘Get that Teaching Job’ which gives guidance for all levels of interviews. Or if you’re focusing on a middle leadership role, then read ‘Bloomsbury CPD Library: Middle Leadership’

Paul K. Ainsworth writes for Teacher Toolkit.

Paul K Ainsworth
Paul K. Ainsworth

Paul is an Advisor for a Multi-Academy Trust and was previously a headteacher of a secondary school.

You can follow him on Twitter at @PKAinsworth.

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