Teacher’s Field Guide to Interview Success

What you’ll learn

In this article you will find out how to get that teaching job that you really want by nailing the teacher interview in style!

The problem

The problem is that you are a good teacher and you are confident in delivering lessons whilst being observed, but you are not adequately prepared for the teacher job interview and are unable to convey your message over clearly enough.

Typically teacher interviews will have a lesson observation as part of the process. This presents teachers with an advantage over other professionals, as there is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your ability as a teacher before the interview takes place.

In preparation teachers tend to focus solely on the lesson observation, taking the view that if they deliver the lesson well the teaching job will be in the bag!

Preparing for the interview that follows is often overlooked and the teacher who secures the job offer isn’t necessarily the best practitioner for the role, moreover they are stronger at communicating what they can offer during the interview.

This article will help you with you interview technique and help you to secure your perfect teaching job even when your lesson observation doesn’t go as good as you wished.

10 Top Tips for your Teaching Interview

Lesson observations rarely go perfect, the class you will be teaching is likely to be unpredictable at the best of times, especially given that you have never seen them before! There are too many aspects outside of your control that could affect how you deliver your well thought out lesson. So how ever confident you are about your lesson observation, it is very important that you are prepared for the interview that follows.

  • Is the school right for you?
  • Create a good first impression!
  • Focus on Eye Contact and Body Language
  • Keep answers succinct
  • Pre-empt questions likely to be asked
  • What are the interviewers looking for?
  • Have success stories ready
  • Finish the interview in style

Is it the right school for you?

The first step to interview success is ensuring that the school and the role at the school are the right match for you. You know your strengths, your short and long term goals and what you want from your next career move so you must be certain that the school and role are compatible. Research will help you with ascertaining whether it is the right school for you, a quick read through the website and the Ofsted report will tell you about the demographics of the intake, recent developments, what the school does well and what needs improving.

Once you are confident you are interviewing at the right school, then your motivation towards the role and the school will naturally shine through during the interview. You will also have a good factual knowledge to be able to match your aspirations to the school during the interview.

First Impressions count

Whether it be consciously or sub-consciously the general consensus is that the first impression you convey when meeting people initially will go a long way to how they perceive you moving forward. This couldn’t be more important for when you go for an interview at a school.

So how do you create a good first impression? Ensure you are dressed smart and you are in appropriate ‘school’ attire and plan to arrive early, there are no excuses for arriving late. It’s never a good start to arrive late and you will be playing catch up with the interviewers form the start. Not only will this leave a bad first impression, it will no doubt affect your confidence in the interview. If you are unclear how to get there or which entrance to arrive at, don’t be afraid to inquire with the school. A good rapport with everyone at the school can make you feel more comfortable during the process and leaving a good impression with even reception staff could have some sway on whether you are offered the job.

Remember the process starts as soon as you arrive at the school so you should have positive body language from the moment you arrive. Arriving on time and dressing appropriately will of course help you with this.

Eye contact is key

Typically in a teacher interview you will be interviewed by more than one person so it is important that you engage with everyone on the interview panel. Eye contact is important, especially when you are being asked questions from all angles!

When asked a question, naturally you will maintain eye contact with the person talking. When answering you should address all of the interviewers, this will give the impression that you are confident in yourself and your answer. Good communication is not just about what you are saying, but also about how you express yourself. The school’s impression will also be built on how you come across; remember good friendly body language will assure the interviewer that you are a good fit for the school. So maintain engaged posture throughout the interview, plenty of smiles and appear interested all times.

So how long should your answers be?

You will need to use your intuition on this one, which is why your eye contact is going to be vital. Certainly you don’t want to be answering any questions with a simple yes or no, the interview is a chance for you to express who you are as a teacher and what you want to achieve so your answers should be sufficiently long to convey this message. Conversely you don’t want to bore you interviewers with overly long answers. As you address the panel you will be able to gage how interested they are in your answer; if you gage they want to hear more, then you can elaborate on your answer and if they look like they’ve heard enough then you can bring your answer swiftly to a close.

Pre-empt likely questions and be prepared!

Remember the interviewers will have your CV and your personal statement. You must be thoroughly versed in both documents, be prepared to answer questions that might arise from them. All your answers should be positive, even where you are describing a negative experience or an experience that might be perceived to be negative. Perhaps there is a period on your CV where you have done various short term assignments, had a sudden job change, a gap in your career record or even blip in your academic record. If probed on these then take it as a welcome opportunity to explain the positives from the experience and what you learned. They definitely don’t want to hear excuses or any bad sentiments that you are harbouring about previous schools or how you felt you were wrongly treated. Please see our blog about questions that typically come up during teacher interview.

What are the interviewers looking for?

First and foremost it is of utmost importance that you show enthusiasm for teaching throughout the interview. This might sound obvious but feedback from school interviewers has suggested on many occasions that this does not shine through enough at interview stage.

So how do you show your enthusiasm for teaching? Remember why you got into teaching in the first place and what you most enjoy about your profession, be confident when answering questions and relate you answers to practical experience you have in the classroom.

Remember schools are looking for teachers who want to learn. Yes be confident but certainly don’t come across as a “know it all”. On several occasions we have had feedback from schools expressing that the lesson observation was positive but in the interview the teacher came across as though they perceived themselves as the finished article with nothing else to learn. This will throw up reservations about how you might fit in as a team player within the department. If you are unsure about a question don’t be afraid to be candid, explain that it’s not something you are familiar with but would be keen to learn about it moving forward.

If you need some time to think about your answer to get it right, this is better than jumping in with response that is not relevant. You will be kicking yourself after the interview when you look back and think about how much better you could have answered the questions. You can complement the interviewer with ‘that’s a very interesting question, give me a minute to think about that’. Having two or three success stories from your teaching career thus far that you can bring out at the interview is a good idea just in case you are asked about examples or your teaching practice.

Finishing the Interview

You will be given an opportunity to ask some questions at the end of the interview and should take up this opportunity – the interview is just as much an opportunity for you to confirm that you are a good fit for the school and that you are going to enjoy your time there, as it is for the school to see whether you are the teacher they are seeking.

We would suggest that you have 2 or 3 questions prepared that you would like to ask at the end of the interview. Certainly you don’t want to ask too many questions as you might find yourself talking yourself out of the job!

The questions you ask shouldn’t come across as though you are obliged to ask them for the sake of it. Have a think about what you really want to know about the school or the role you are taking up and ask the question in an engaged way. You can show your interest by following up on the answers and probing further should you feel the query has not been explained fully.

If you would like to see examples of questions you might ask after the interview, please see our post here.

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