Love them or hate them, interviews are an important part of the process of progressing your teaching career. Impress at interview and the road will be a lot less rocky, but put in a bad performance and even the best CV won’t save you. Hopefully the advice I’m going to share today will help you to prepare just a little bit better for your next interview. But don’t worry, if you get the job, I won’t be asking for a slice of commission!
Know what you said in your application and be prepared to back it up
You’ve done well to have even got as far as an interview – you must have put together quite a compelling application. Make sure you’re familiar with it and that you’re able to fully explain anything you’ve mentioned if questioned. Hopefully you didn’t embellish the truth on your application, but if you did – think about how you will remedy the situation at interview if pulled up on it.
Visit the school before your interview date
Most schools will offer you the opportunity to visit the school before the interview. This is excellent homework and will give you the opportunity to learn a bit about the school which you can build into your interview preparation. It will also stand you in good stead with your interviewers who will know that you’re dedicated to this job and thorough in your approach. As an interviewer I have always been less than impressed by candidates who turned down the opportunity to visit the school beforehand.
Do your homework
As well as visiting the school, get familiar with their latest inspection report, visit their website, see if they’ve been in the news lately and reach out to your personal learning network to see if you know anyone who works there who can give you the inside track. Also make sure you’re familiar with the job description and person spec and have a clear idea of how YOU fit these criteria.
Practice answering questions
Practice, practice, practice. Hop online and download sets of potential interview questions and practice answering them. Practicing aloud is a lot more effective than in your head. The best practice of all is a mock interview if you have a friend or colleague willing to help you. Ask for honest feedback though. Make sure in your preparation you’re not too easy on yourself, it’s bad news to feel wonderfully prepared only to find that the real thing is a lot tougher than you imagined as it may leave you stumbling!
Dress for the occasion
This sounds obvious but it’s crucial. Bear in mind that the wrong first impression is very hard to undo so you need to do all you can to cement a positive first impression. Dress more smartly than you usually would for the classroom, leave the comedy tie and socks at home and make sure you smell good. There is nothing more off-putting as an interviewer than the stench of body odour or garlic.
Bring with you all that you might need. This might mean bringing examples of any particularly relevant or innovative work you did in your last role and copies of your application and the job spec etc. to keep them fresh in your mind. Also, if you’re going to be teaching make sure you bring EVERYTHING you need with you. Do not rely on the school to supply anything – from hand outs to iPads. If you can’t bring it with you, don’t plan to use it as you never know quite what will be available to you and you’ll end up in a real panic if you have to re-plan at the last minute.
Don’t be late – but don’t be too early either
Arriving late for an interview is fatal. Just don’t do it. Carry the school’s number with you in case something completely unavoidable happens. If you’re going to be late, let them know in plenty of time. Don’t arrive too early either. As an interviewer this can be a real nuisance and set you off on the wrong foot and leave you unprepared. As a rule of thumb I’d say arriving 10-15 minutes early is perfect.
The interview starts the moment you arrive
Don’t be fooled into thinking that your interview starts when you shake hands with your interviewer. It starts much earlier – form the moment you set foot in the school. You need to engage with and impress EVERYBODY. That includes the kids and the office staff. Be warm, ask questions and show an interest. You will often pick up titbits in these few minutes before the official interview that will help you and you’ll set a great first impression too.
Keep calm, project, use confident body language
You’ve finally made it into the interview room. Don’t let the panic set in. These are just a group of people who want to see you do your very best so they can decide whether you’re a good fit for their team. Even if you don’t feel confident, using confident body language will make you appear so and often you can even convince yourself. Project your voice to ensure your points are all heard – however great your answers, they’re useless if no one can hear them.
Want the job
Some people go to interviews for posts they’re not interested in so they can practice their interview technique. This is fine in theory but you’re likely to do far better in an interview where you’re genuinely interested in the role. Your passion will shine through and impress your interviewers.
Make sure you understand and answer the questions
LISTEN! Very often people who’ve prepared well for interviews answer the question they’re expecting instead of the one they’ve actually been asked. Repeat the question in your head to ensure you know what you’re answering and ask the interviewer to repeat or rephrase the question if you need it clarified. Where possible refer your answers back to your past or future pupils and their progress.
Candidates often feel an over-whelming urge to talk, talk, talk from the moment a question is asked. It’s okay to take a little thinking time if need be. A considered answer that truly addresses the question will outshine a long-winded one that doesn’t. One approach is to answer questions in three parts – what you believe, how your experience has led you here and what you’ll do when you’re appointed.
Share your ideas but don’t assume you know all the answers
Make sure that your answers draw on your experience – and your ideas for your future role. But be careful in how you approach this, you need to work together with the current team, so don’t alienate them by implicating that their current practice is poor. Instead explore how you can build on best practice together.
Ask questions – but not ones you should already know the answer to
Asking questions is a great way to learn more, to show an interest, and to engage further with your interviewers so ask away… but it’s a real no go to ask questions you could or should have researched beforehand. That will do nothing but highlight your lack of planning and preparation.
Treat the interview as a true two way process
Remember this is your opportunity to decide whether you’re interested in working at the school so the interview is an important fact finding mission for you as well as for your interviewers. By the end of the interview you should be in a position to know for sure whether or not you’d accept the job if offered, so be sure to explore any outstanding issues or questions you might have.
Ask for interview feedback
Not every interview will be successful. If you’re unlucky this time be sure to ask for honest feedback and act on it next time around.
Good luck! If you have any advice or experiences to share, please leave a comment.
Thank you to the following for their input into this post: @Bobtoms100 @PivotalEllie @Chris_1974 @Stuart_g_Brown @thosethatcan @reallara @ebd35 @LouiW @Joga5 @TheHeadsOffice @bob_the_teach