Time for a grilling

14th January 2011 at 00:00
You've made it through to the interview stage. Career coach Sasa Jankovic? explains how to make sure it goes as well as it possibly can

The secret to performing well in an interview is preparation. You'll impress the school if you show you understand its aims and culture and the role you are applying for.

Do your research

When you are invited for interview, the school may send some information or direct you to its website. However, the more you learn through your own research - looking at its Ofsted reports or visiting beforehand - the better.

Expect to spend at least half a day at the school for your interview. It'll usually start with a tour and you'll be asked to teach a lesson of about 30 minutes, where you can expect to be observed by a couple of people. You need to be prepared for all eventualities, so call the school in advance to find out the age of the class, their ability, class size and what type of equipment you'll have on hand for the lesson.

The interview

You will then have a one-to-one interview or meet a panel that could include the headteacher, a governor and the head of department. Be prepared to elaborate on the statements you've made on your application form and back them up with more examples.

Christine Dawson, head of maths at Queensbury School in Bradford, Yorkshire, recommends not rushing your answers. "Listen to the questions and answer them without rambling or going on about your personal life," she says. "If you don't understand the question, ask the interviewer to rephrase it. We don't mind - we want to help you give the best interview you can - but in return you need to be able to speak clearly and come across as a pleasant person who will get on with our pupils.

"As an NQT we don't expect you to know everything, but we like to see you're conscious of what you know you don't know and that you're not afraid to ask for help."

It's becoming more frequent to be set a task in the interview, such as evaluating the lesson you've just taught, or planning another one. Sometimes you may also have a group discussion with other applicants to see how well you'll fit into the existing team.

"I'm looking for someone who'll work well with my team," says Ms Dawson, "so ask about other staff in the department and what sort of experience they have. Once you know that you can probably work out where you might fit in and phrase answers accordingly."

Make a good impression

The general rule is that it pays to look smart for your interview. Shoes should be polished, shirts ironed and anything with rips, holes, stains or smells left in the wardrobe. Avoid strong perfume or aftershave, keep make-up to a minimum and have clean, tidy hair.

When you meet your interviewer(s) make sure you smile, say hello and shake their hand with a firm grip. Try to maintain eye contact, don't slouch in your seat and try not to cross your arms or legs because this creates a subconscious barrier between you and the interviewer and can also make you more tense. Good manners are also important. Turn off your mobile phone, don't chew gum and don't be late.

Job offers

You'll usually get an offer or rejection at the end of the day. If you're offered the job, you'll be expected to accept it, so don't ask for more time to consider. If you haven't been offered the post then you should get a short debrief, but if not ask the school to send you a written copy. If you get good feedback, ask if they know of other schools in the area that might also be recruiting.

"If you don't get the job but it sounds as if they liked you, ask them to consider you for any supply work or maternity cover," says Ben Noble, an NQT Year 2 teacher at St John's International School in Sidmouth, Devon. "You may well find the job was offered to a supply teacher they already knew, which means they'll be looking to replace them."

And remember: it's not a criminal interrogation, it's an interview, so if you're prepared you should sail through.


For more advice about job hunting, Sasa's new book Applying for a Job: the essential guide (#163;9.99, published by Need2Know, ISBN 9781861440990) is a straightforward guide covering the complete job-searching process, from finding vacancies, to writing application forms, going for interview and what to do once you are offered (or not offered) the job.

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