What does a headteacher interview look like?

It is the most important job interview of your life, but do you know what to expect? Our guide explains what happens during the interview for a headship

Grainne Hallahan

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Headteacher interviews are by far the most intense and nerve-racking of any job in a school. And for good reason. The role commands the most authority and takes home the biggest salary; for that, candidates need to be put through their paces. So, what can you expect? Every school will use its own format but, as a guide, an interview for a headship will last about three days and comprise a combination of the following tasks:

The school tour

Students will give you a tour of the school, either on your own or with the other candidates. During this time, the pupils may ask you questions about yourself. It is likely that they will feed back their comments to a member of the interview panel.

The presentation

You will be asked to prepare a presentation on a given topic. A common request is “What would you do in your first 100 days of headship?” and you will then be expected to take questions on your presentation. The presentation will be delivered to members of the interview panel, and you can expect to be given guidelines on length and the type of equipment available to you. 

The assembly

Some interviews may include an assembly or a portion of an assembly. You will deliver it either on a subject of your choice or on a given topic. Your audience will probably be a year group or house group. While you are delivering the assembly, you will be observed by members of the interview panel.

The in-tray task

This part of the interview involves the candidate being presented with a list of “jobs” in their in-tray, and then ranking each one in order of importance. Clearly, this is an assessment of your judgement and ability to prioritise. Usually you will be observed during the process and then questioned on your decisions afterwards.

Panel interviews

During a panel interview, you may be the one being questioned or, alternatively, you could be the one doing the questioning. Or both. Panels could be made up of teaching staff, students, support staff, governors, parents and other stakeholders of the school. If you are the one who is asking the questions, you may be asked to present on your findings at the end of the interview.

Written task

The written component of the interview might involve responding to correspondence from a stakeholder — for example, a letter of complaint from a member of the community who lives near to the school and has been upset by students throwing litter into their garden.

The interview

It is common for the interview to be scheduled for the last day, and candidates who haven’t met the expectations of the panel in their other interview tasks will be sent home or not invited back for the interview day. As headteacher, you will be appointed by the governing body, and therefore it is usual for the governors to be the ones to conduct the interview.

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