10 Tips For ‘Teaching’ Job Interviews


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Woman During Job Interview And Four Elegant Members Of Management

Malcolm Drakes

Malcolm Drakes is a school and systems leader with over 20 years experience. As a National Leader of Education, he has particular expertise in rapid school turnarounds, securing transformational improvements in a variety of settings and contexts. In areas of acute deprivation he has moved... Read more about Malcolm Drakes

What can you do to secure your dream job?

You’ve identified the job, sent the application and now you’ve secured the interview. Just one hour of questions, perhaps a lesson observation and a set of responses now stands between you and your dream teaching job!

Despite teachers being experts in facing groups of 30+ pupils at a time, handling difficult parents and answering an infinite range of questions, an interview still has the potential to flummox and intimidate. Here are some simple tips to ensure that you represent yourself in the best way possible.

1. Research the school

  • Have you looked at the website?
  • Could you tell the panel what the vision and values are for their school?
  • Are you aware of some recent events that pupils have enjoyed?
  • Did you look at their last Ofsted report? What do you think?
  • Are there other key documents available to read?
  • What does the Department for Education performance table website say about their outcomes?

This information will help you to show that you are genuinely interested in their school and form some questions to ask them. You may be asked what challenges you perceive the school may have, what its strengths are and how you could contribute to moving the school forward. If you don’t know anything about the school other than what was in the advert, you’re answers and ideas are unlikely to make you stand out!

2. Clarify your “selling points”

Go into every interview with three key points in mind that make it clear why you are the best candidate for the position. Make sure you can back this up with an example of how you have experience in this area: “The Ofsted report mentioned that you need to develop extended writing. In my current role, I have helped to implement a ‘Big Write’ every week which has helped improve writing outcomes by 8%.”

3. Prepare for common interview questions

Many of the questions that are used at interview are quite standard. By preparing your responses you can sound much more confident. Remember to keep these responses succinct, and try the framework below!

  • What are your areas for development?
  • Name an achievement that you are proud of?
  • Explain what inspired you to become a teacher.
  • Name a professional book you have read and how it impacted on your practice.
  • Describe what you think your safeguarding responsibilities will be?

4. Remember you are a STAR!

Be a STAR. Use these key points to frame your answers:

  • Situation – think of a specific situation where their question would have applied.
  • Task – what was your responsibility in this situation?
  • Activity – what did you actually do?
  • Result – what was the positive impact of your actions?

Here’s an example:

  • (Situation) I had a member of staff who wasn’t handing their planning in on time.
  • (Task) It was my responsibility as team leader top challenge them about their behaviour.
  • (Activity) I help a meeting with the member of staff, went through the facts, listened to their explanation and restated the expectations.
  • (Result) From that point, planning was handed in on time for the rest of the school year.

5. Prepare your questions for the panel

Interviewers always ask if you have any questions. Saying that you don’t have any could make it appear that you aren’t that ambitious or interested. Some standard questions (depending on the nature of the post) could be:

  • What is your track record for developing your teachers into leaders?
  • What support will be provided for me when I first start in the school? How does your induction process work?
  • Can you talk me through your marking and feedback policy expectations?
  • Digging deeper with confidence, you may wish to ask about the school’s attrition rates …

If they can’t evidence moving people forward with their career, don’t have a clear approach to induction and explain a laborious and complex marking policy then this might not be the dream job you thought it was!

6. Be ready to handle inappropriate questions

Your interviewer doesn’t have a free hand to ask whatever they want! Questions about your race, age, gender, religion, marital status, and sexual orientation are inappropriate. They could even be illegal. If you come across them, you can

  • Answer with a question – “I’m not sure how that’s relevant to my application”
  • Answer “The question behind the question”: “I don’t know whether I’ll decide to have children in the near future, but if you’re wondering if I’ll be applying for maternity leave, I can say that I’m very committed to my career right now …”

7. Be positive

You might be looking for a new role because your last position was unpleasant. However, avoid dwelling on negative experiences. Don’t speak negatively about former colleagues or leaders. If you do get asked ‘Why are you leaving your current post?’ use it as a chance to reiterate why you want this job:

‘I am keen to progress my career and this post offers me the chance to work in a different context. I have gained valuable experience in behaviour management and now I’d like to use those skills in a new school.’

8. Be conscious of your body language

These are the simplest of tips, but you would be amazed how often they are overlooked!

  • Turn up at least 10-15 mins before the interview time
  • Greet everyone you meet with enthusiasm (but not in a deranged way)
  • Dress appropriately
  • Make eye contact – and smile!
  • Give a firm handshake
  • Sit up straight – have good posture – and speak clearly and calmly.
  • Don’t drown yourself in perfume or aftershave!

9. Check you know your own CV and application

  • What was it you wrote on your application that made them think you were a candidate worth interviewing?
  • Did you talk about a fantastic school intervention you had led?
  • Was your CV packed with evidence of impact?

Your interviewer may well want to explore those details in more depth, as it could add value to their school. If it appears that you can’t talk confidently about those initiatives and achievements, they could suspect that your CV was embellished or exaggerated. Re-read what you wrote in the letter of application, and by all means, have a copy of that documentation with you! Your hard work and ability to explain how your track record will aid their school’s journey will be the factor that probably gets you the job.

10. Don’t give up!

Despite all the press about recruitment challenges, you are still likely to be up against at least 2-3 other candidates. Just because you didn’t get the job, don’t think that you had a disastrous interview. Send an email, or call the interviewer to ask for feedback. Reflect on some of the answers that you gave. Use it as a learning experience.

The 5 Minute Interview Plan by @TeacherToolkit (2018)

You will probably find that years go by between you looking for a new job, when you do go for that interview you may need some time to hone your skills and confidence. Just persevere… there is a great job out there for you! Remember to use our brilliant 5 Minute Interview Plan to help.


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