Dear John: I have a whole day's interview ahead. What will it comprise?


I have been short listed for interview next week for a maths leadership post.  This morning I was observed teaching a class (in the school where I do supply) by the interviewing Head.  I feel it went well, but you do not know what they are looking for!!!  Obviously there is always room for improvement in any lesson. I have now been told that my interview will be a whole day - morning with an ‘informal group activity’ and the afternoon with a panel.  There will not be another lesson to teach.

Do you have any idea what the ‘informal group activity’ might be?



Congratulations, especially as you are being interviewed for a leadership post even though a supply teacher. I would guess the informal part will focus on ‘leadership skills’. Some aspect of team work is likely through a group activity to see who takes the lead and who follows. With everyone seeking a leadership post this type of activity can degenerate into a first class row with candidates sulking if they don’t get their own way. I once saw a group of heads fail to complete a task that a group of classroom teachers completed in half the allotted time as the heads couldn’t agree the way forward and everyone wanted to be the leader. The best leaders assess the situation, measure those they are working with, and support, encourage, pitch in to help and gradually assert their authority in a firm but respectful manner.

You may also be asked to complete paper exercises to show you can handle administrative matters within a given time frame. At this level, the psychometric tests beloved of some who appoint leaders, are unlikely. The best of these help provide a guide to your strengths and weaknesses, but are all too often not context related to education and the challenges of the classroom. After a morning of group activity the verbal tennis match of the formal interview may well seem like fun. Do remember, that you are interviewing the school as much as they are interviewing you. The arrangements for the day will tell you much about the attitude of the school to leadership and whether they value their middle managers. You have the right to reject the job as much as they have the right to either reject you or offer you the post. Good luck, and do let us know what you were asked to do in the morning session.


John Howson worked as a secondary school teacher in London for seven years before moving into teacher training and consultancy, including abrief period as a chief government advisor. John is now a recruitment analyst, visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University andhosts our Career Clinic where you can post questions to him.