Interview preparation – teaching and leadership

Application and interview top tips:

  • Ensure all sections of your application form are complete and there are no gaps in employment history.
  • When writing your personal statement, do your research – look at the school’s website and latest Ofsted report to tailor your application and make it stand out.
  • Double and triple check your application form and personal statement for spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • If possible, ask a friend or family member to check it too!
  • If you are invited to interview, do a practice run of your journey to make sure you know how to get there and how long it will take.
  • For the lesson observation, preparation is crucial! Be original and memorable with your content and delivery, and create copies of the lesson plan for the observers and any teaching assistants.
  • Although you may be nervous when you first arrive for an interview, remember to be polite and friendly to reception staff at the school – they could potentially be your future colleagues!
  • It is said that 93% of our communication is non-verbal. Remember to be smiley and confident throughout the day with both children and staff. Also, remember to make eye contact with all members of the panel throughout your interview.

 How will I know if the school is right for me?

  • Make sure to ask your own questions about anything you are unsure of on the interview day.
  • Throughout the interview, hopefully you will have the opportunity to meet both members of the senior leadership team as well as subject or key stage leads; this will give you an idea of your colleagues’ expectations and the culture within the school.
  • Look out for students’ attitudes both in and outside the classroom; how do they behave during break times or in the corridor?
  • Ask about the marking policy within the school and how they demonstrate progress.
  • Pop into the staffroom at break or lunch and look out the for the interaction and engagement between members of staff.
  • Ask about staff wellbeing/workload management schemes within the school.
  • Enquire about Continuing Professional Development (CPD) so that you can have an idea of future opportunities and development.
  • If this is an ECT post, try to find out who your mentor will be when you first start and how you are able to keep in touch with them prior to starting if you are successful.

What do I need to do before an interview?

Give yourself plenty of time to:

  • Research the role and the school. For example, the school website will include statutory information such as the latest Ofsted report, curriculum information and examination results
  • Find out what the prospective employer is actually looking for and, if at all possible, arrange a visit to the school before you submit your application
  • Prepare any teaching materials or resources that you may need in advance. There is no set format for teaching interviews. Usually there will be some form of teaching or another practical activity, and a formal interview which could be with a panel of the headteacher, other senior teachers and governors. However, teaching activities vary from school to school. You may be asked to teach a small group or a whole class. This could be for a 10-minute oral and mental starter for a mathematics lesson, or a 50-minute lesson of your choice. The school should specify in advance what is required, including the age range of children you will be asked to teach. If not, ring up and ask the school to clarify what is required
  • Think about how well your experience, interests and skills fit the job and the school
  • Anticipate questions you might be asked, then prepare answers to those questions
  • Have some examples in your mind of times when you have demonstrated key competencies in your previous role - if the school want to see evidence of creative thinking, can you give an example from your current role?

You should also:

  • Plan the day of the interview, especially your journey, with an aim to arrive ten minutes early
  • Take care in deciding what to wear. Suits and businesswear are the best option, but ensure you will be comfortable to teach

How do I make a good impression at a job interview?

Stand out for all the right reasons by ensuring you:

  • Arrive on time or slightly early
  • Listen carefully to questions and answer them concisely
  • Use any preparation time available before your teaching activity to set up carefully. If there is a teaching assistant present, talk them through what you are going to teach and suggest how they can support the children. Ask about positive behaviour rewards, such as house points, and use these to motivate the children
  • Highlight your best attributes in the interview. Think beforehand about what you want the interviewer to know about you (in relation to the job) during the interview process
  • Pay attention to how you communicate – remember that non-verbal communication is just as important as what is said
  • Show that you are a reflective practitioner. If your teaching does not go as well as you would have liked, be ready to explain this in your interview, as well as how you would change it next time
  • Practise anything you're concerned about. This could be saying your answers aloud, which builds confidence, or having a trial run of the journey to the interview

What techniques can I use to control my nerves?

In interviews nerves can make you forget to do simple things such as smiling and listening, which can result in being thought of as unfriendly or inattentive. You're less likely to be nervous if you're adequately prepared so you should:

  • Give yourself time before the interview to think about the unique qualities you will bring to the post
  • Think of practical examples to demonstrate what you have achieved, drawing on all aspects of your working, educational and social life
  • Write notes and take these along to the interview
  • Use cues in your notes to highlight examples that you want to use
  • Pause before answering a difficult question, to give yourself time to think
  • Use positive language, as interviewers will be assessing your motivation and enthusiasm
  • Ask for clarification if you’re unsure of what a question means

What should I take to a job interview?

  • Your invitation to interview should detail everything you need to bring. Often employers request examination certificates, which can take time to locate, so make sure you check what you need in plenty of time
  • You should also receive a criminal records self declaration form, and should ensure you take that with you
  • It’s always worth having a pen and notebook with you. If you are giving a presentation, take a copy on a data stick (even if you have emailed it to the school beforehand), along with copies of the slides to use as handouts for the interview panel

If you take a mobile phone, make sure it is switched to silent or off before you go in!