What turns governors on and off at panel interview

TES Connect asked its own panel of governors to share their thoughts and compile a list of golden rules and gaffes at interview. Here are their recommendations:


  • Make eye contact with everyone in the room
  • Talk to each of the panel members at different points of the interview. “It’s normal for each of the governors to ask a question at some point and that’s a good chance to create a rapport with that particular panellist. You shouldn’t focus on the head governor to the exclusion of everyone else”.
  • Sell your vision. “We appointed a candidate without previous experience as head teacher over candidates who did. He really sold his ideas about where the school could go how he could take it there.
  • Prepare properly. “A candidate said they hadn’t had time to check on something. It didn’t make a good impression.
  • Let your personality show: the second set of panel interviews for short listed candidates will be about getting to know the person in more depth. Focus on communicating with everyone rather than getting the answers right.
  • Do think carefully about your achievements: I had one teacher, coming for a deputy head post, who claimed that in getting a group of teachers to stay behind after school for an hour was her greatest achievement - what does that say of her ambitions or aspirations?


  • Be over familiar. “I know it sounds old-fashioned but if someone lapses into Christian name terms without a specific invitation, it goes down like a lead balloon with the board of governors”.
  • Make assumptions about the school.  “We had a candidate who was from a school that was performing better in the league tables and then proceeded to make assumptions about our school’s intake. It didn’t go down well.
  •  Don’t give the impression that you’ve been there, done that and know what the school needs. You’re better off listening and asking questions about the school.
  • Be indifferent to the welfare of the pupils: This is an interview crime that is sometimes committed by managers rather than leaders. One candidate famously replied, when asked what they would do in a situation, ‘it’s not my job to talk to the students”.
  • Don’t waffle: If you say something in five minutes that can be said in 30 seconds, it’s not ten times better, it’s ten times worse.
  • If asked to do an initial presentation, don’t make it ‘messy’ or ‘bizzy’. Have a clear and concise view on what message you are trying to get across.  Do not attempt to cram too much into the presentation that leaves you no time to develop a point.  Do not just read - that does not indicate knowledge or confidence.

With thanks to Martin Nicholson, chair of governors at Danetre School, Daventry; Adrienne Taylor, chair of governors at Greenbank County Primary School, Liverpool and Chris Hallows, chair of governors at Blue Coat School, Liverpool.

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