Let’s start with a riddle:
I make some people feel great but leave others disappointed. I lead to both good and bad news – good for some and bad for others. I am a necessity and you will probably encounter me numerous times in your working life.
What am I?
Did you guess it? The answer is a job interview. Let me explain.
Job interviews are one of those things that only the rare, strange few enjoy doing. For most people they range from mildly stressful to downright terrifying experiences. It’s a necessary part of life for most and only the exhilaration that comes with success makes all the hard work and preparation worthwhile. Perhaps I’m being melodramatic because my husband just pointed out it sounds like I am talking about childbirth (!) but I’m sure you understand where I am coming from. For aspiring educators or teachers hoping to find a new post it can be all the more stressful since the hoops most have to jump through to secure a teaching job can be quite different to the average interview experience. You will almost definitely have a formal interview with anything from one representative staff member to a panel of important-looking people. You may have to demonstrate your subject knowledge through some kind of exam or test. And you will – surprise, surprise – have to actually do some teaching!
I am not an expert by any means but I’ve been involved in interview processes both as a candidate and interviewer/observer and I’ve gained some insight from those experiences that I thought I’d share here. Hopefully you pick up something useful that helps to make your experience of finding a teaching job that bit less stressful.
Here’s 12 quick tips that just might get you that job:
1. Know the school. Read through its website carefully, google it to see what else comes up and check out its most recent Ofsted reports. It’ll give you a good idea of what the school is really like and will help you to tailor your interview answers and lesson plans.
2. Plan a good question. Actually, prepare a couple of decent, relevant questions to ask an interview panel when they undoubtedly ask you if you have any. Don’t just nick one of the internet or ask them how long your lunch break will be (cringe!). Ask them about something you are genuinely interested in and that is relevant to that particular school.
3. Bring snacks. It’s going to be a long day and you don’t want the interview to be interrupted by the sound of your stomach rumbling! Choose wisely – dry, easy to eat foods like cereal bars are a good choice. Then check your teeth afterwards.
4. Imagine the worst possible class. When you’re planning your interview lesson(s), imagine that the class will be huge, with a extremely wide range of ability, and that none of the kids will do what you ask them to do. Have in your head a back-up plan in case the lesson plan goes awry. I once saved a lesson from near-disaster because I had brought with me an eraser in the shape of a pig and in desperation offered it as a prize for the hardest-working pupil. The bribe worked and I got the job.
5. Don’t rely on the data. Some teachers like to ask the school for information about the class they have been asked to teach like size, ability range, any SEN information and so on. I personally never do as I prefer to imagine the worst and be pleasantly surprised when my lesson goes amazingly because I have prepared for as many eventualities as possible. I once did an interview where one candidate had asked for data and been told that the lesson would only have seven pupils in it. This turned out to be wrong but it was too late for her to change anything once she arrived in the classroom to a sea of pupils and only seven sets of resources…
6. Wear a good watch. Preferably digital, or at least an analogue watch with actual numbers on it. They won’t care how fashionable your diamante watch is if you can’t actually read the time on it and run over in your interview lesson. A timer function can be useful too.
7. Water. Stay hydrated as you will be talking and moving about a lot all day. Bring a screw-top bottle to avoid the risk of it leaking all over your carefully-prepared resources. Coughing, choking, losing your voice or fainting is not a good look.
8. Leave early. Relates to number 6 – assume you will be stuck in traffic, your bus will be late or you will somehow get lost on the way. Arriving late to an interview is surprisingly common and whilst it’s not the end of the world it isn’t a good start either, plus it will leave you feeling flustered and unprepared.
9. Check and double-check. Read through your application letter and any resources for typos or other mistakes. Please, please double-check you have actually attached your Executive Summary to your application email and not a picture of you and your sister on a night out.
10. Executive summaries. Since I mentioned it in 9, consider doing one of these if there is room to do so in your application form. I like to write a detailed letter of application and back it up with one of these bullet-point style summaries. They help you briefly but clearly outline how you meet all the criteria that the school is looking for in a successful candidate. It’s going to be pretty hard for them not to at least offer you an interview if you can show you are everything they are looking for! Google it for more info.
11. Prepare your answers. There is nothing wrong with researching the kinds of questions you may be asked in an interview and practising your answers to them in advance. There may be questions that you are not expecting at all but there are lots that get asked time and time again at interviews. You might feel silly but I highly recommend answering these questions in front of a mirror or getting a friend to ask them to you as you will feel a lot more confident once you have taken the time to clarify your ideas and practised articulating them clearly and succinctly.
12. Be specific. When you answer interview questions or even when you are writing letters of application make sure you give specific examples to back up what you say. Nothing makes your application more boring and forgettable than filling it with a load of banal statements like ‘I am passionate about teaching’ and ‘I am great with behaviour management’. We want to know the hows and whys so make sure you give them to us! Don’t be long-winded but just give one or two brief examples as evidence and it will make your application and interview more memorable and hopefully successful.
13. Keep perspective. Okay, I know I promised to stick to 12 tips but I had to include this one. It’s undoubtedly a stressful experience looking for a new job and the reality is that if thirty people apply for one post and five get as far as the interview round, twenty-nine people are always going to be disappointed to some degree. If you get the job, congratulations! Well done! That’s amazing! You’re the man (or woman)! But if you don’t, it doesn’t make you a failure. There could be a million reasons why someone else got the job over you. Ask for feedback and try to learn from the experience but don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re still amazing and the right job is still out there waiting for you.
Let me know what you think and if these tips helped you by leaving a comment below. You can also connect with me on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest, or by sending me a message via the Contact Me page.
I also share free French & Spanish teaching resources here.