Their main chance - but interviewees go and spoil it all by doing something stupid

If prospective teachers want to land that job, they must rely on more than pure serendipity

Carole Ford

Success in most activities of life requires the appliance of both an art and a science. Success at interview, however, requires art, science - and pure serendipity. A close look at members of school hierarchies might suggest that, of the three, serendipity appears to carry the day.

But there are some subtle, or perhaps not so subtle, guidelines which may be helpful to aspiring job applicants.

It is useful to start on a positive note. In response to the rather well- worn question as to why the candidate was interested in the post, the response "I was made redundant and teaching is more secure" did not elicit much support from the panel. Certainly, one possible silver lining to the current attack on teachers' terms and conditions may be that in future no applicant will be accused of being in it for the material rewards.

And it is not helpful to alienate the panel, particularly the headteacher. The term "nippy sweetie" is somewhat distasteful, but one job applicant came pretty close to deserving the description. During an answer, she made reference to the current practice in the school for which she was applying. The headteacher politely demurred and corrected her description. Leaning forward and jabbing the table with her finger, she told him in no uncertain terms just where he was wrong. We politely continued taking notes, but our hearts were no longer in it.

Then there was the more hapless candidate who inadvertently referred to the school as "being in the mire". Too late, he realised this might be construed as insulting and tried to apologise. The very gentlemanly headteacher was kindness itself, told him he understood what he was trying to say, there was indeed room for improvement in the department, not to worry, no offence taken. The candidate relaxed. He did not get the job.

So keep the headteacher sweet, but perhaps not too sweet. One unsuccessful candidate repeatedly referred to the head as "flower". On the third or fourth repetition, the panel began checking for the hidden cameras.

Unfortunately, appearance and manner do have an impact. An extremely severe-looking lady, like a nun in mufti, as one parent later commented, made several references to her "vision", avoided eye contact and gazed into the middle distance. There was a palpable chill in the room when she left.

Enthusiasm for the job is essential. A janitorial candidate expressed horror that he would be expected to do overtime to cover school lets and night classes. No way, he protested. He had responsibilities. The HR representative asked what these might be. "Ma doos. I have to look after ma doos." Fair enough. Next .

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Carole Ford

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