Selling yourself

22nd April 2005 at 01:00
Wondering what headteachers are looking for in an applicant? Patricia Denison reveals all

Generally, the types of questions asked at interview are designed to elicit the extent to which the candidate meets the criteria that have been drawn up to identify the preferred person and job specification.

Does the candidate have the skills and the personal characteristics to do the job? Interviewers should look for:

* High emotional intelligence - resourcefulness, resilience and responsibility.

* Well developed interpersonal and intrapersonal skills.

* A repertoire of effective pedagogical skills and appropriate subject knowledge.

* A skilled manager of behaviour.

* Strong beliefs and values about the nature of learning and achievement.

* A positive outlook which seeks to identify and break down barriers.

* An understanding of how to create optimal conditions for learning.

* A learner.

* A potential leader.

Initial and open questions will invite the candidate to provide an insight into their views of themselves and their personal model of the world. Tell them your story. What brought you here? Provide authenticity and integrity, show a deep interest in the whole complex business of teaching and learning as well as a commitment to a desire to get better at it. They should get an idea of what motivates their candidate, what the drivers are. They are listening for evidence of personal responsibility - that decisions have been taken for a real purpose. "I wanted to...", "I decided... " Interviewers react favourably should a candidate tell them that the school itself was the draw - everyone is susceptible to flattery! They also listen carefully to the style, tone, timbre, picturing this person interacting with others on the team and with parents.

What are your expectations? Provide evidence of the desire to continue to learn, to work collaboratively and collegially. Let them hear the vocabulary of continued professional development - real aspiration. Can you visualise - crucial for effective teaching?

If they were able to visit your classroom, what would they see, hear and feel? This provides a real opportunity for the candidate to reveal all he or she knows about teaching and learning. The panel wants to see the extent and the depth of understanding about the learning climate, emotional and spiritual culture, learners and their individual needs.

How do you do that? What makes you do that? What specifically... ? When do you... ? Here they are probing more deeply into the thinking which underpins decisions about classroom management, teaching and learning. They want to search for evidence of the candidate using academic theory to inform practice, reflecting on and reviewing experience and using knowledge to shape future plans.

They're also looking for someone for whom reflection is second nature. They want to discover something about personal routines, organisation and pragmatism. How do you manage the big picture - work-life balance? Again, the panel wants to hear about self-management and organisation. They like to hear that you work hard, but effectively. They want to know about interests, demands and perceived pressures; they are looking for resilience, optimism and a lightness of heart - a sense of perspective.

And throughout, they are paying attention to body language, voice, facial expression and personal style: do they like what they see?

Patricia Denison is headteacher at a village primary school in Surrey

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