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Hasan Chawdry says a little bit of self-respect goes a long way

AT one interview I had for a deputy head's post, members of the interview panel fell asleep while I was talking. There you are answering questions on how to raise standards, and you look around the room and see people nodding off.

I stopped another interview, this time for a headship, because I wasn't being listened to. I said I didn't think I could work there. People from the authority rang me up and asked why I did it. Why wasn't I interested? I said, "no eye contact, no positive body language".

I thought, "I'm good enough." If I've made out my application form, spent two hours on the pre-visit, another hour reading the literature, then two or three hours preparing for the interview, and finally coming to the interviewI I think I deserve some sort of respect. I always tell the children: "You've got to be respected. If you're respected, people will do their best for you."

In the main, my experiences of job interviews have been good, but there have been pitfalls. Sometimes I feel - and I've spoken to colleagues in a similar position - that they're seeing you as an Asian man or a black person and deciding you don't fit the bill there and then.

When you don't get the job they say: "Oh, you didn't have the experience."

But if I didn't have the experience, why bother to shortlist me? The experience showed in the application form, not the interview. It's exactly the same for women - the white male has the advantage.

Fortunately, I have a thick skin, because if I let those kinds of people affect me, I wouldn't be able to do myself justice. I've had to achieve and work 10 times harder than colleagues. I wanted to keep going to become headteacher; I wanted people to say, "Yes, that's a real success."

I would like people to see that, given the opportunity, anyone can succeed. That's what I tell the children here. There have been quite a few interviews where I've not been successful and the people who got the job were better than me. Although I was good enough to be shortlisted, other candidates were in their second or third headship. The panel was looking for someone with that bit more experience behind them. I didn't mind that - they might have rejected me but at least they gave me a reason.

But their loss is Edinburgh primary school's gain. That's how I see it.

Hasan Chawdry is head of Edinburgh primary school, London borough of Waltham Forest.Interview by Martin Whittaker

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