To a certain extent, if you’ve worked in a school (or trained in a school), you’ll know what you’re letting yourself in for when you apply for a job. However, you will be asked your motive for applying, so it’s worth thinking about it. If you’re applying for a classroom teacher job, take some time to reflect on your subject and why you wanted to be a teacher in the first place. If you’re looking to become a Head of Department, Head of Year or seeking another promotion, have a good reason up your sleeve for why you want the promotion, preferably that doesn’t include the words “career progression” or any reference to money!
This is a tough one. It’s rare to find a school that stands out from the crowd enough to give interviewees a cast-iron reason to apply to that particular school, and there’s nothing worse than being asked the question, “Why did you choose to apply for … at …?” with only “Because I need a job and you were advertising” going through your head! Spend some time looking at the school’s website before the interview, and reading the latest Ofsted report. Find something special about the school that you like; perhaps its pastoral system is strong? Maybe it is the sort of school that encourages extra-curricular activities? Could it be somewhere that’s trying really hard to improve? Whatever the key feature is that you find and appreciate, refer to it in your interview. The school wants to know that you’ve done your research, and this is their way of finding out.
When I’ve observed interview lessons or been on the panel in a formal interview, I’ve always wanted to see something exciting to make it worth my time. To be involved in interviewing, teachers and managers are either losing teaching time or PPA time, and there’s nothing worse than spending a lesson observation wishing you were with your own class or feeling resentful of the time you’ve taken to set cover. It is absolutely worth taking a risk with your lesson planning for an interview to ensure that the lesson you deliver is exciting for the students and the observers, because if the gamble doesn’t pay off and the lesson is a disaster you have the chance to redeem yourself by evaluating on it in the interview. Teacher training is full of self-evaluation, which is what schools want you to continue doing when you are employed with them. Being able to reflect on what went well and what needed improvement in an interview is as essential a skill as it is during your training. Don’t forget, some schools use WWW and HTI (what worked well and how to improve) in their marking policy, and it’s a valid tool for teachers to use in relation to their own lessons, too.
Confidence is an attractive feature, whatever the context, and being able to show your prospective employer what you have to offer them is absolutely key to giving a good impression at interview. Before you arrive for your interview day, take some time to think about your best characteristics so that you’re aware of your strengths. It’s worth looking back over previous lesson observations to identify what observers have noticed, as you can then bring these points to your interview. You’ll likely be asked what your greatest strength is, or something similar, and it would be sensible idea to be able to give an example of whatever you choose to illustrate it.
There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and a healthy dose of humility is very appealing to a future employer. Don’t run yourself down, but when you have the chance to reflect on your weaker qualities, it’s a good opportunity to show that you’re realistic about your limitations. It can be frustrating to have to talk about something negative during an interview as you’re there to impress, not do yourself an injustice, but an employer wants to know if you’re self-aware enough to identify areas that need improvement. Again, it would be wise to identify something that you can then say you’re working on developing and giving an example of how you are working on it. Perhaps a reference to performance management would be a good starting point here.
There’s a feeling during an interview that you’re being watched every minute, which can make it very hard to relax. I can remember being told during my PGCE that there’s an opportunity to ask a question you must take it, because it shows you’re engaged and gives a good impression. It’s not a bad piece of advice, but it doesn’t help to make you relaxed while you’re at the school for your interview! Personally, one of the most important things I’ve looked for when interviewing is someone’s personality to see if they’ll fit in with the existing team. Being able to relax enough to be yourself is hugely important. There’s no point in being offered a job in a school where your closest colleagues will wind you up all the time, so try to be true to who you are from the word go. Even if it means the job isn’t the right one for you.
Withdrawing from an interview or turning down the offer of a job is a terrifying prospect for most people. I did it and I’ve interviewed someone who’s done it, and having been on both sides of the table I can’t recommend it enough. Ending up in a job that’s not right for you, for whatever reason, is not a good idea. You can withdraw from an interview at any stage of the process, which means you can spend the day at the school finding out more about it before you make a decision. Don’t forget: if you’re a good candidate, the school will want to fight for you, not just have you fighting for them.
They’re easy to use and easier to abuse! “I’m passionate”, “I’m a perfectionist”, “I’m a team player”, “I’d be an asset”…are you?! Why should someone who met you a maximum of 6 hours ago believe what you say? These are big claims. I’d recommend letting them reach these conclusions themselves, if it’s true. Your task is to show what you have done and what you are like. Don’t tell them you’re passionate: speak passionately! Don’t tell them you’re a perfectionist: give examples of how you’ve striven for perfection. Don’t tell them you’re a team player: tell them about when you’ve worked with and appreciated a team. And for heaven’s sake, please don’t tell them you’d be an asset to them! Make them want you by being fabulous, and they’ll decide whether or not you’ll be an asset!
Ensure that you’re prepared for your new role by attending one of our courses for teachers climbing the career ladder.
Having studied at Cardiff University and done her PGCE at Oxford University, Kathryn has taught for 7 years. After spending 3 years as a classroom teacher in a large Church of England school, she moved into a Head of Department role at a heavily oversubscribed, high achieving academy and then became Head of Humanities at an academy with a significant number of FSM, EAL and SEND students. She has worked in co-educational and single-sex schools, and she has experienced a wide range of student needs during her career. Her main focus is on delivering outstanding RE at all levels, but she is also interested in developing high quality teaching and learning across the school and improving the quality of PSHE and SMSC. Kathryn taught literacy to a small group of boys whose reading ages were between 6 and 8 in her first post, and spent her time as Head of Department at an all-boys’ academy where she increased the uptake at GCSE by 71% in 2 years and achieved 93% A*-C in 2015. Kathryn has always sought to develop her own teaching practice by attending a range of CPD events both in term time and during the school holidays, and she is keen to share her enthusiasm for teaching with colleagues through Creative Education’s courses.