Job interviews

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05 July 2017
Teachers talking
If you’re a trainee or newly qualified teacher and you’re shortlisted for an interview, the tips below will help you prepare.

If you’re offered the opportunity to visit the school before the interview, take it. If you’re not invited to visit, aim to find out before the interview as much as you can about the size and locality of the school, its catchment area and the strengths of the school (academic, sport, music, drama, etc).

If, at any stage of the application process, you have second thoughts and decide not to continue, you are entitled to withdraw. Before the interview day, either write (if there is time) or telephone to explain your decision. Don’t simply fail to turn up.

Interview questions

During the interview, expect to be asked questions by each member of the panel. They’ll have a list of questions that they’ll ask every candidate, although the supplementary questions that will arise from your answers may vary. The first questions are usually designed to put you at ease and might include things like:

  • What did you find interesting about the school during your tour?
  • What attracts you to teaching?
  • What attracts you to this post?

Other questions that follow will focus more specifically on professional issues and the specific needs of the post:

  • What do you see as being the current issues in your subject area(s)?
  • What do you know about the foundation stage/ recent curriculum developments/citizenship issues?
  • How would you introduce a topic to your class?
  • How would you deal with an awkward pupil or parent?
  • How do you encourage achievement?
  • How do you stimulate enthusiasm?
  • What are your views on inclusion?
  • How do you ensure students do homework?
  • What do you consider to be your greatest strengths?
  • What issues in education interest you?
  • What aspects of this job do you consider to be most important?
  • What do others consider to be your strengths?
  • What motivates you?
  • What have you done that shows initiative?
  • What do you see yourself doing in five years’ time?

Answering questions

There are two basic rules to follow when answering interview questions:

  • listen to what is being asked (obvious, maybe, but it’s common for candidates to answer a question that hasn’t been asked)
  • don’t start to answer a question before you know how you will end your response.

If you don’t understand a question, ask for clarification rather than bluffing. Likewise, if you lose your thread, own up sooner rather than later. You’ll be admired for your honesty!

Interviewers may play ‘devil’s advocate’ by throwing in deliberately controversial comments.

You’ll be assessed on your responses, so aim for balance while giving your honest opinion. This way, you avoid the possibility of contradicting yourself.

You may well be asked different types of questions – for example, closed questions requiring short, factual answers (‘How long have you lived in this city?’) and open questions that give you the opportunity to expand on the basic facts (‘How have you ensured equality of opportunity in your lessons?’).

Make sure you realise when you are being asked a closed question, so that you don’t ramble – sometimes, just a short answer will suffice.

If you find that your interviewers are doing as much talking as you are, don’t be alarmed. Research has shown that the more an interviewer talks, the more impressed they are with the candidate.

Questions you may like to ask

You’ll almost certainly be given the opportunity to ask questions of the interview panel, usually when they’ve finished questioning you. It is wise to have some questions prepared. The following may give you some ideas.

  • What programme of induction does the school offer? How is the appropriate body (eg LA, Independent Schools Teacher Induction Panel or teaching school) involved?
  • Who will be my induction tutor? If it’s the headteacher, will the role be shared with other staff?
  • Are there opportunities to visit other schools to observe teachers, and to meet other newly qualified teachers?
  • As a returnee to teaching, what induction can the school offer me?
  • Will I be a form tutor? Is there pastoral support for tutors?
  • What are the main challenges facing this school?
  • What forms do the links with neighbouring schools or feeder schools take?
  • Does the school have specialist teachers of personal and social education (in secondary schools)?

Being asked to demonstrate skills

Many interviews now include a practical session. This usually involves having to teach a small group of hand-picked students for about 20 minutes.

Accepted good practice is to give candidates notice of a practical session, including the topic to be covered and its duration. If you’re given prior notice, you owe it to yourself to prepare thoroughly, and you may want to ask the advice of your tutors.

Although a practical session can be daunting, it’s best to view it as a challenge.

After the interview

Once all the candidates have been interviewed, you may be asked to wait while the panel makes its decision. If this happens, the chairperson of the panel will invite one candidate back into the interview room to make an offer of employment. As soon as the panel has received oral acceptance, the remaining candidates will normally be told that the job has been offered to another applicant.

On rare occasions, candidates may be released immediately after the interview and the whole process of offering and accepting the job may be carried out by telephone and letter.

Find out more in Ready, Steady, Teach.