The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Elizabeth Holmes

Teaching interviews: 10 top tips

Interviews can be a nerve-wracking experience. Elizabeth Holmes shares tips to make them less painful and more productive. 

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Eleanor Roosevelt

Whether you’re helping colleagues to move on in their careers or thinking of making a change yourself, there’s no doubt that the prospect of an interview can be unnerving. Being scrutinised in an unfamiliar context and asked to perform to an audience of strangers may well not be conducive to showing what you’re really made of. But, for better or worse, the interview remains the method by which most schools (if not all?) select their staff.

So how can we make interviews work for us? The most obvious way is by deciding to learn from the experience regardless of the outcome. It is possible to derive professional and personal learning from just about everything we do at school and interviews are no different. If you get the job, great! What worked? Why were you successful? What can you store for the next time you go through this process? If you’re not successful, what do your reflections afterwards tell you?

While the feedback you receive if unsuccessful may not feel authentic at the time, there’s usually something to take on board and apply to the next interview. And maybe, just maybe, the very best outcome for the day is not to get the job so you are free to go for something more appropriate in the future.

These further thoughts may also help:

  • When preparing for an interview you may need to focus on three main areas: you; the question and answer panel; and the teaching. Don’t neglect one in favour of the others.
  • Research the school. Go there if possible and if the opportunity for a tour is offered before interview day, take it if you can. Take a good look at the school’s website and the information it contains. Use it to craft some questions for use in the interview.
  • It seems obvious but needs to be said, first impressions do count so make it good. Clean, appropriate clothes and appearance can only be helpful. Be comfortable and it’s easier to be confident. Having sat on many interview panels and watched prospective teachers interact with children it really is clear who is comfortable and at ease and who is feeling restricted and ill at ease (nothing too tight, too restricting or too high is a great rule to go by).
  • Remember that you are being interviewed from the moment you set foot in the school. Everyone you speak to could potentially feed back to the interview panel.
  • If you’re teaching, be prepared but not scripted. Be enthusiastic about the topic and allow plenty of opportunities for children to participate so that their enthusiasm can shine too. This isn’t just about showcasing your talents as a teacher but about demonstrating, for the panel to see, the great learning experiences the children will get if you are employed at the school.
  • Developing quick rapport with the group and giving them the chance to ask questions and contribute their thoughts will give a good impression.
  • Make sure your lesson is one that doesn’t need meticulous setup. It’s ideal if you can start with little or no notice so make sure you take everything you need with you including print outs, board pens, spare pens and paper for children and so on.
  • Never be intimidated by others going for the same job. If you let yourself get rattled by them your confidence will plummet and you as good as hand them the job. Tell yourself you’re as a good a candidate as any!
  • Be honest in your responses. Authenticity goes a very long way and is refreshing for interview panels to hear. Yes, it’s important to sell yourself, but it’s equally important to show your humanity in that process.
  • Smile, make eye contact, ask questions and show your interest in what the school is achieving. Interviews are always a two-way thing. Can you envisage yourself working happily there?

Never forget that simply being called for an interview is an achievement in itself, regardless of the outcome. If you get the job, congratulations! I hope the new challenge proves to be a wonderful experience. If you don’t get the job? Reflect, analyse and gear up for the next time you’re called for interview. You never know, it just might be a blessing in disguise.

Good luck!

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