5 ways to beat your teacher interview nerves

Nerves can get the better of the most brilliant candidates, says Mark Roberts – so make sure you're prepared in advance

Mark Roberts

Nervous interviewee faces two people at job interview

You smashed the application letter. Your CV gleams with impressive achievements. You’re a perfect fit for the school. 

There’s just one problem: you’re an anxious interviewee. Not so much butterflies as manic flocks of hummingbirds in your stomach.

Teacher job interviews: How to overcome your nerves

What can you do to make sure that, this time, your nerves don’t ruin your dream role?

1.  Practise key transition points

From a recruiter viewpoint, I find that candidates often lose their nerve at certain crunch points: it might be sitting down opposite the panel, or in the first 30 seconds of a presentation or when introducing themselves to the class during the observation.

For this reason, as well as rehearsing answers to questions, I recommend practising what you’re going to say and do in these tricky phases. It might just save you the embarrassment of doing something like knocking a glass of water over the chair of governors' golfing chinos.

2.  Expect the unexpected

The trusty A4 handout says your lesson observation starts at 9.25am. You’ll navigate the student panel at 10.15am and then be called for interview at 11am. The panel have planned half an hour for your grilling, so there’s a good chance that you’ll be home in time to catch Bargain Hunt.

Not a chance! Interview days rarely run to schedule. Get a decent breakfast down you and prepare to still be there when the caretakers start locking up. That way you won’t be thrown off balance when delays inevitably occur.

3.  Don’t obsess over the internal candidate

Over the years, I’ve seen way too many candidates waste time worrying about who they are up against, rather than devoting all their energy to ensuring their own performance is strong as possible. 

If you go into a recruitment process feeling anxious that the internal candidate has already got a leg up on you, then you’re handicapping yourself from the start. Focus on yourself and forget about the others – no matter how favourable their position might seem.

4.  It’s an interview, not Oprah Winfrey

Interviews are inherently stressful situations and it’s always good to be polite and courteous to other candidates. But there’s a limit to how chatty you need to be. This might sound cold but this is not a time for disclosing inner doubts to your competitors. 

I’ve sat in conference rooms before, listening to other candidates tell everyone how terrible they are at interviews and question whether they’ve got enough experience for the job. In talking down your chances in this way, you’re likely boosting the confidence of those you’re up against.

5.  Know when you’ve said enough 

A form of self-sabotage I frequently see is candidates struggling to recognise that they’ve already given a successful answer to an interview question. They give a fluent and thoughtful response and then, in a nerve-induced rush of the blood, they go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like “I don’t really see the point of tutor time”.

Watch the panel for cues. If they want a more developed answer, they’ll prompt you. But don’t bore them silly or put them off in other ways with your panicky outpourings.   

Everyone feels edgy in interview circumstances. Yet you can take decisive steps to manage nerves so they don’t trip you up at this critical stage. By anticipating hurdles and focusing on the things you can control, you’ll have a much better chance of getting yourself over the finishing line.

Mark Roberts is an assistant headteacher in the South West of England

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