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Best of times, worst of times

JAN KNIGHT - vice principal, Coleg Glan Hafren, Cardiff, soon-to-be principal at Pontypridd College.

"I have worked in education since 1976, mostly in further or adult education. I started as a supply teacher in a North London comprehensive school.

I went into teaching out of a sense of wishing to do something useful, and something engaged with social development and the development of individuals.

I moved into FE because I think I spotted fairly early on that further education really did have a very important role in general economic and social improvement.

Over the past 25 or 30 years the interview process has become much more orderly and professional. A more haphazard approach used to be common.

It wasn't obvious to see how some questions related to the job. In one of my first interviews, I was asked if I always wore the clothes I was wearing. Clearly the chair of the panel was trying to find out whether I always wore a tie. Its that very superficial, or erroneous line of questioning that I think has disappeared.

In contrast, my most recent experience was the interview for the college principal's job I take up in April. That was a very secure, transparent process involving quite a varied set of tasks, oral presentation, exercises clearly designed to test analytical skills, your general robustness as a person.

Quite an important facet of that was the presence throughout the two-day process of an external observer - that kind of professionalism is something which has developed over the years.

As an applicant, the experience from the other side of the desk teaches you a lot. It teaches you a great deal about the importance of preparation, and in a sense, just integrity and honesty.

There is no point pretending to be something you aren't, because you will get found out in the end. It's important to take an honest, open approach.

Martin Whittaker

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