At this time of year, educators' social media feeds are filled with announcements of new jobs and disappointed "not this time" posts.
But we hear much less from those who withdraw from the interview process on the day.
It perhaps isn't surprising. The whole process of getting to interview is gruelling and you would be forgiven for thinking that once you get over these hurdles, you have to go through the interview day even if your instinct is telling you that the school or role isn’t right for you.
But that feeling of obligation isn't one that should keep you in the interview room. Sometimes there are good reasons to withdraw from an interview. So how should you go about it?
How teachers should pull out of a job interview
Telling the school of your decision
Normally, there is a key person who will look after candidates throughout the day. If you decide that you no longer want to continue with the interview process, you should ask to have a private conversation with them and tell them that you want to withdraw.
Alternatively, you can inform the person overseeing the next task before you start it. You should expect that person to ask you why you want to withdraw and you may feel comfortable explaining your reasons, but don’t feel you have to. It may be more appropriate for you to call or email later with your reasons.
It is advisable to keep that conversation as professional as possible; education is a small world and it is possible that paths will cross in the future.
Reasons why you might want to withdraw
What happens next will wholly depend upon the reason why you want to withdraw. Here are a few scenarios, and my advice for how to tackle them.
The standard interview process for teaching roles certainly isn’t perfect, but there seems to be an increase in the number of candidates who report unusual tasks for interview or tasks that they weren’t told about when invited.
For example, being set a task that appears to be designed to trip you up may be considered unreasonable. The interview process should allow you to show the best version of yourself and match the level of responsibility of the role. Unreasonable tasks may indicate that this isn’t a school that has your wellbeing at heart.
In these situations, you might want to follow up with an email explaining why you felt the task was unreasonable, as this can be useful feedback for the school.
However, you don't owe the school an explanation for your withdrawal, and can simply leave with a more diplomatic explanation, saying that you felt you weren't a good match for the school.
Discrimination in the process
It can be incredibly challenging to face discrimination at interview and know what to do.
The Equality Act 2010 protects us from discrimination, but when you're being discriminated against at interview, you may worry that the experience is "in your head" due to the pressures of the day.
Trust your instincts. If you feel like you don’t belong in that environment, this isn’t the school for you and you should withdraw.
After withdrawal, complaints about discrimination don’t have to be made immediately. You can reflect and take action later and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about delay – discrimination is traumatic and you need to prioritise your self-care. There is clear guidance on how you can respond to discrimination on the government website, but in simple terms you can:
- Complain directly to the person or organisation who has discriminated against you.
- Use a third party, such as a person or organisation, to contact the school on your behalf, raise the concern and seek a resolution
- You can make a claim and go to court.
I would encourage you to explain your experience at some point to the school so that it can be clear that its processes need reviewing and improving, and it can discipline staff if, necessary.
WATCH: Questions to ask at the end of your interview
Sometimes there is nothing wrong with the school but you just don’t feel that it fits you, even if the reasoning is hard to describe. You are going to spend an awful lot of time in this building with these people, so it is vital that you feel that you can be comfortable there.
If you feel that the atmosphere of the school doesn’t match your needs then you are right to withdraw.
If, during the course of the day, you see something that you deem a safeguarding concern, then this must be dealt with on the day.
Safeguarding concerns about a student or member of staff should be reported to a member of staff, preferably a designated safeguarding lead, who should be identifiable on posters around the school. You should not ignore your concerns and leave them unreported and you can report directly to the local authority if you feel the situation warrants it.
The school is on interview, too
The interview should be a two-way process. It is as much for you as it is for the school you are interviewing for, so keep this firmly in your mind.
You are well within your rights to withdraw if you feel like you should, and any school worth its salt will thank you for that rather than going through the process only to decline an offer at the end. And remember: other opportunities will always be just around the corner.
Shonagh Reid is an assistant head at a secondary school in the North of England