A job interview invite shouldn’t be cause for panic. As a teacher, this is your chance to show your personality lives up to your on-paper credentials. To help you make the most of your interview, we asked a panel of experts for their top tips.
First impressions count
Like it or not, first impressions count, and they probably begin much earlier than you think.
“You are on interview from the moment you get to the school,” says Richard Fawcett, a former head and now a recruitment consultant for the Association of School and College Leaders.
“It is important to be polite to the receptionist and behave with the pupils as you would expect a teacher to behave.”
Richard says he has known candidates for senior positions lose out because they have walked into the school with their hands in their pockets and their tie at half-mast.
The interview room
Once in the interview room, your interviewers will almost certainly have formed their judgment on you before you have answered their first question, says John Howson, visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University and TES Magazine columnist.
He argues that the rest of the interview represents the search for information to endorse this judgment. “It’s a bit like an iceberg, where the words are above the surface but the non-verbal information is the two-thirds below the surface and that is what you make judgments on,” he says.
Once first impressions are out of the way, body language is important during the rest of the interview, particularly eye contact, according to David Tuck, president of the National Association of Head Teachers.
“You want to know whether they look at people, but if someone spends all their time apparently checking they’ve got the right colour shoes on, that doesn’t inspire confidence,” he says.
To stand out from the crowd, candidates need something else. “Presence,” says David. “It is hard to define, but it’s that ability to communicate and inspire confidence that people can trust you.”
There is a fine line between bragging and promoting yourself, but he says he is looking for someone who can talk about what they have done and can command attention.
Heads are also often keen to see how teachers relate to children. Some schools ask candidates to teach a practice lesson, while David, a primary head, says he has asked prospective employees to read a story to a class, so he can see how the pupils respond. “The relationship between the teacher and the child is the most important thing in education,” he says.
Lindsay Roy, rector of Inverkeithing High School in Fife, looks for qualities including presence, judgment, the ability to communicate and getting to the point without waffling.
Answers should be long enough to show that you know what you are talking about, but not so long that you lose the panel’s attention.
Interviewees should be passionate about what they do. “I’m looking for somebody who is enthusiastic and inspiring, someone who can engage with young adults and who can be a leader: every teacher is a leader in the classroom,” he says.
SmileAlthough the key to success is hard to pin down, it is important to try to build a relationship with the interview panel, says Richard Fawcett.
Humour and smiling play a role here, although while a sense of humour is good; flippancy is not. “The best thing is to establish a dialogue,” agrees John Howson. “The worst sort of interview is one where somebody asks a question, you answer it and then they move on to the next question. It’s better to get some sort of conversation going.”