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Blog: Interview Advice
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29th April 2019

Interview advice

Summer is coming , lighter nights, flowers are out, a bit of sunshine and student teachers everywhere are starting to apply for jobs!

It’s the culmination of all that hard work…..Hang on a minute – no its not! You are still on your course trying frantically to keep your head above water whist at the same time look for jobs and write the sparkiest application letter you possibly can!

A few student teachers have been contacting me on twitter asking advice and a few years ago @missrobertsuom (one of my former English GCSE students) who is now well into her brilliant teaching career contacted me at this time of year saying she was busy with applications. At that point I reflected that all our Alliance for Learning SCITT trainees had lots of support with the application process but we need to help our lovely young teachers think about the actual interview too! We have now got mock interviews as part of our course.

 

Don’t panic

A job interview invite shouldn’t be cause for panic, you have been a student teacher for a year now and no doubt your social media presence will be entirely appropriate. As a teacher, this is your chance to show that your personality lives up to your brilliant application. Like it or not, first impressions count, and they begin much earlier than you think. You are on interview from the moment you arrive on the school car park. If your sense of direction and parking is anything like mine you might want to think about a stress free arrival – drive the route beforehand! Be friendly to the receptionist and to the other candidates remember you are all in the same boat! Be bold, @WomenED have a great motto ‘be 10% braver’ this is manageable!

 

Don’t over-prepare your lesson

Keep your lesson simple, have a clear objective in mind and don’t try to cover everything. The 5 minute lesson plan @TeacherToolkit is a good place to start. Try to focus on an interesting part of the topic that you can be enthusiastic about. I once taught a terrible lesson on a Deputy Headteacher interview: I tried to do too much and with 5 observers at the back of the classroom I just couldn’t relax! I still got the job though because actually nothing is ‘make or break’ so stay calm and collected. Experienced interviewers can tell what kind of person/teacher you are, if you know your subject and if you are passionate. Think about timing- if it’s a short lesson- say 30 mins or so – you really are not going to be able to demonstrate lots of progress but you can show off your personality, relationship with children and love of your subject. Move around the room- this is not the time to hide!

 

Dress smartly

You are entering an eminent and highly regarded profession – wear a suit or at least a tailored jacket. I’m a shopping lover and a great believer in retail therapy so if you can afford it then splash out on a new interview item! If not borrow something. It matters how you feel so ensure whatever you wear is comfortable and don’t be afraid to wear something bright (but not garish). Think about foot wear; I love high heels but my feet don’t. Wear something you can walk in!

shoes

The actual interview

Your interviewers will almost certainly have formed part of their judgment on you before you have answered their first question, body language is important. Put the interviewers at ease by smiling and by pretending to be relaxed. This is not life or death. Make eye contact with the whole panel, it’s hard to define ‘presence’ but we talk about it a lot in the classroom and as well as about leadership. Be in the room, talk about your positives, don’t waffle and speak clearly. Imagine yourself working at the school- think positively! Humour is really important and, hard as it is, you have to try and build a relationship with the interview panel so a two way dialogue is better than just answering questions- try and make it feel like a conversation. Don’t be flippant though, this is an important role.

Interview questions

We want to know you are resilient because this is a tough job. So if you get chance to talk about yourself discuss how you balance work and life, what you do to keep yourself healthy, how you relax. One of the most important questions will be asking you how you thought your lesson went; be honest, say what you would do differently, and compliment the school on the children.

Safeguarding is a question you must get right! You may be asked about your understanding of safeguarding best practice, your involvement in safeguarding or your own motivation in working with children. For example: What training have you undertaken on safeguarding children in the last year? If you have a safeguarding concern about a child in your class, what action would you take? Safeguarding and the well-being of children is central to the ethos of a school. How would you contribute to making the organisation a safer environment for children?

In terms of your classroom experience, if you get asked how you would deal with something like a student not engaging then try to  talk using examples, this will make you sound more credible and experienced.

The final question apart from ‘are you still a firm candidate’ (which means do you still want the job if offered it) will no doubt be inviting you to ask a question. Be prepared to ask an interesting question, you could ask something topical or something philosophical. You could also compliment the Headteacher on something. Be memorable but be ‘teacher like’.

And finally – if you do get offered the job, seriously consider if it is the right role in the right school in the right location for you. If you can afford the luxury of choice – then choose wisely!

 

Good luck!

Lisa Fathers

Director of Teaching School and Partnerships

Director of Teaching School & Partnerships

BFET Executive Team

Mental Health First Aid National Trainer (MHFA England)

Twitter: @lisafathersAFL /  @AFLTeachingSch

Website: The Alliance for Learning