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Suit yourself for the occasion

When deciding what to wear, you should pitch it somewhere between Worzel Gummidge and Carrie Bradshaw, writes Phil Revell.

3The letter drops on to the mat - along with an invitation to buy double glazing and a Readers Digest prize draw entry.You have an interview in - O-my-gawd! - two days' time. Here beginneth the stress.

Perhaps you should have told your school that you were applying for jobs - because the head is just about to open a letter asking for a reference.

Once you've sorted out the cover and the travel details, you have to decide what to wear. For men it's a cinch. Jacket, tie, trousers. A suit isn't essential - but make sure your outfit is clean and co-ordinated.

There are some advantages in standing out from the crowd - "That guy in the purple shirt made some good points" - but in general you should avoid the yuck factor. Shoes are a dead giveaway for a bloke. Clean them beforehand and have a wetwipe handy in case you step in something nasty.

Women face more of a challenge. The safe option is to dress down - the two-piece business suit with the gold stud earrings and sensible shoes. No short skirts, no cleavage and go easy on the make-up. But the idea of an interview is to stand out from the crowd. The risky option is to wear something flamboyant.

Whatever you decide, make sure it's something you can teach in, because the observed lesson is becoming part of the routine. You should be told in advance about the age group and subject. After that, it's up to you. Remember the basics - begin as you mean to go on: keep them busy and end on time.

The worst part of the interview isn't the half hour or so in the head's office. It's the hours - sometimes all day - spent hanging around the school. Typically, schools invite up to a dozen candidates and interview them all on the same day. Hopeful applicants have to wait their turn in the staffroom, where the residents spend the day running a book on who will get the job - "Three to one on the blonde, 13 to two on the rest" is not what you want to hear at this point.

Then there's the tour around the school, which you have to assume is part of the interview process. If the guide is a member of staff, you'll soon find the other candidates asking toadying questions designed to pad their self-esteem and boost their chances.

And there's the interview itself. There's no shortage of advice. "Be confident," say the books. "Don't answer questions. Respond to them."I "Make the interview a dialogue." All sound stuff, but most interviewees are a bag of nerves by this point.

Panels will exploit this and have read up on Gestapo interrogation techniques. A classic ploy is where one of the group sits to one side. Which leaves you with no point of focus.

But you can play the same games: one book recommends that candidates move the chair before sitting down. This apparently "renegotiates the power boundaries".

Sitting still for half an hour can be a challenge. Beware of unconscious body language. Don't bite your nails, or crack your knuckles, avoid tossing your hair and scratching your nose. Tony Blair uses "the steeple" - hands together, fingertips joined - to avoid distracting hand movements.

Some questions are like unexploded bombs and have to be defused. The classic is "What's the biggest problem you have had to overcome in a lesson?"

At this point, don't tell them about Wayne and Tracey climbing out of the window. Tell the story about the complex lesson plan that you had to refine several times before it worked. Give positive answers and don't slag off your previous school. And ask questions if you feel anything is unclear.

What scale points are on offer? This isn't interview technique, it's self-preservation. In six months' time, you could be working here.

Schools often expect you to accept or decline on the spot, but you are entitled to time to think about it, especially if you have another interview coming up. Be sure to claim expenses, but you'll forfeit them if you withdraw.

If you don't get the job, you should get feedback about where you went wrong. This advice can be positive - "It's clear that you will be going for departmental posts soon and we need someone long term."

But usually the commiserations are either bland or unwelcome."We weren't convinced that you really wanted this job."

Oh really?

Getting there. Enter the school's postcode into for a street map of the area. Read 'The Perfect Interview' by Max Eggert (Arrow)

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