Get that teaching job! Surviving interview day

Written by: Adam Riches | Published:
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Teaching interviews can be daunting, especially if you are in your first years in the profession. Adam Riches offers job-hunting teachers some basic pointers...

Over the years, the process of applying to teach at a school has changed significantly. The process was once steeped in mystical traditions that intimidated new and experienced teachers alike – the very precise way in which cover letters needed to be worded and signed off, the ambiguity of instructions surrounding the tasks on the day, and of course the dreaded interview.

Thankfully, the proverbial fog seems to have lifted and there is now a lot more transparency and consistency around the processes of applying to teach in a school.
The thing that has not changed, however, is the rigour or the intimidation of the interview – and that part of the day can be a real challenge for new teachers. However, one thing is sure – you do not need to have had years of teaching experience to excel at interview.

Tip 1: Show them your passion

You are going to be asked why you wanted to become a teacher, or at least why you got into teaching – sorry for the spoiler. People often overlook this as a settling question, but it can tell an interviewer a whole lot about a candidate’s ethos and values.

Saying you liked your subject at school, or you want to teach because you did your degree in it is a wasteful response. This question can often set the tone for the rest of the interview and you need to stand out. Show enthusiasm for your subject, for learning, for being in a school and wanting to work with young people – it is what you are applying to do after all!

Tip 2: Talk openly and honestly

One of the first things an interviewer (or a good interviewer) is able to ascertain is if a candidate is talking honestly. It is naïve to think that you will be able to pull the wool over the eyes of somebody who knows what they are talking about – and in reality, you should not need to.

Speaking openly about your experiences and the areas where you wish to develop shows that you are adaptable and, most importantly, self-aware. One of the key traits that makes a good teacher, especially in their early years, is being able to reflect effectively on their practice and their own skill-set.

By no means should you go in and highlight all of your flaws, but do not feel as though you need to make things up when you are put on the spot. If you are asked a question about something you have not experienced, or maybe have not heard of, try to link it to a concept that you have experienced.

Tip 3: Know your stuff

Your subject knowledge is not likely to be tested heavily in the interview, but you may be asked about teaching a topic or an idea to a year group. Equally, you may be asked about the school or why in particular you want to work there. For both of these eventualities, you are going to need to know your stuff.

Being up-to-date with the exam boards that the school uses, their vision for the subject you have applied for and, more generally, their values as a school equips you to answer these questions. Not only that, it shows those on the panel that you are serious about working for them specifically.

Interviewers want someone who wants to work at their school and if you have done your research and can show that you know what working at this school entails the panel will see that you are taking the process seriously.

A lot of this information will be easily accessible on the school website and, if it is not there, you can ask key questions when you visit the school for a tour.

Tip 4: Do not waffle

Quite often when you are under pressure, you waffle – we all do it. In an interview, you need to try to overcome this. Try to answer the questions efficiently and effectively. To do this, ensure you answer focusing on the important aspects of the question. As such, give yourself a moment to think before answering (if needs-be ask for the question to be repeated).

Using a simple structure of introduction, answer, conclusion will show the interviewer that you are a logical thinker and will ensure you do not ramble on, repeating the same ideas or heading off on barely related tangents.

Tip 5: Link to experiences

Regardless of whether you are an NQT, a trainee or an RQT, you will have a huge wealth of experiences to call upon to contextualise your answers.
If you are asked a question about a situation in which you faced difficulty and overcame it, think back to a time in your teaching or training and use it. Again, do not make things up because if you are asked a follow up question you will quickly come unstuck.

Quite often, an interviewer is not asking about the experience itself, they are actually looking for how well you can reflect on your practice or the actions/steps you took.

It is really telling when candidates are able to link their answer to their out-of-school experiences too. Teaching is a job that is done in school, of course, but a lot of the skills that are required are evident (and can be developed) in other fields. So do not just focus on the experiences you have in the classroom.

Tip 6: You are not ‘just’ an NQT

Early career teachers are always great to have on-board. Just out of teacher training, they are cutting edge in terms of their understanding of the latest research and effective approaches, they are enthusiastic and, most importantly, they are willing to adapt and change. A lot of teachers lose these traits as they become more experienced.

So just because you do not have as many years under your belt as the candidate sat next to you, do not for a second think that you are at a disadvantage – and do not be afraid to boast about your strengths to the interviewer.

Show that you know about the latest learning ideas and different theories, draw on the research from your lectures and training. Schools are embracing evidence-led practice like never before and you are well placed to contribute.

Tip 7: Safeguarding and processes

Among the more generic questions you will get asked (another spoiler alert) will be those about safeguarding. Ensure you are up-to-date with your knowledge of the responsibilities teachers have.

This includes ensuring that you have read-up on current issues and latest developments, such as the Prevent Duty, female genital mutilation, mental health, and county lines, because it is likely that the question will be along the lines of: “What would you do if...” Most of the time the answer is a simple process response – but this is one of the key responses in the interview and will tell the school a lot about you.

It is likely that you will be handed a safeguarding leaflet when you visit the school for a tour. If so, look carefully at it – if you can include some of this information in your response it will impress.

One tip that often helps is dropping in the name of the school’s designated safeguarding lead during your answers. It is the little things like this that often make you stand out.

Tip 8: Questions

Do not ask questions for the sake of it, there is no obligation to. It is, however, a great (and potentially your final) opportunity to raise any queries before the board go to selection. Make the most of the opportunity to ask about specific aspects of the job or maybe about the potential for growth within the school.

Ask about other elements of life at the school, although do not ask too many questions that are not relevant to the post you are applying for, this is not the time or place for that.

Conclusion

Finally, relax and be yourself. If you are well prepared and have made sure to apply for jobs in the places you think will suit you and your skills then I am sure you will be successful. Best of luck!

  • Adam Riches is a lead teacher in English, a Specialist Leader of Education and an ITT coordinator. Follow him on Twitter @TeachMrRiches. Read his previous articles for SecEd at http://bit.ly/2DhTAJu


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