Does the thought of answering questions at teaching interviews fill you with dread?
For many, the answer is a resounding yes. Not only is the application process extremely time-consuming, but if you are lucky to reach the interview stage, you will deal with on-the-spot pressures too. Most schools will observe a lesson you’ve prepared before moving to formal interviews. If you reach this stage you’ve done well. However, this is often the point at which candidates struggle the most. After all, you can prepare a lesson, knowing to some degree how it will go. But how can you predict what will be asked in an interview? Answering questions at teaching interviews is a skill you need to develop. Fortunately, there’s a way.
Thankfully, most schools look for the same sorts of qualities in a candidate, regardless of the subject, or level of responsibility. The questions asked by schools then, are broadly similar, or at least they aim to draw out the same elements from candidates’ responses. Schools want to appoint someone who is hardworking, dependable, honest, self-evaluative and looks to develop their own skills and knowledge. If you are applying for a Leadership position, then you should prioritise extra qualities that are more specific to leading staff. These include having a clear vision and priorities for the role, developing successful strategies to solve problems, being able to lead teams of colleagues and being analytical and self-critical.
How would you deal with interview questions without preparing a detailed answer in advance? For most of us, the answer would be ‘requires improvement’. But in reality, with a little self-reflection, most of us have an arsenal of anecdotes that we could bring out to demonstrate capability in all of these questions. Take a look at the questions below and see how you would respond:
Popular Questions at Teaching Interviews
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why do you want this job?
- How would you deal with a difficult colleague?
- What would you do if a student disclosed X?
- How would you deal with apathetic parents of an underperforming student?
- How would you teach topic X to a more able / less able group?
- What is your biggest weakness?
- How do you think your observed lesson went?
- What value do you bring to the department?
- What does an outstanding lesson look like?
- What makes an outstanding school?
- What is more important: attainment, progress or achievement?
- How would you deal with a student complaint against a member of staff?
- What would you do if you disagreed with an instruction given by a senior member of staff?
- Do you have any questions to ask us?
General tips for answering questions at teaching interviews
- Be authentic. Headteachers and governors can smell a “fake” response a mile off.
- Don’t tell. Instead, show. Use examples of how you have dealt with situations from your own experiences.
- Go beyond your teaching experience and show how you have dealt with similar situations outside of school.
- Be reflective. The best teachers can evaluate their performance, showing how they could have dealt with situations differently.
- Do your research on the school. The role you are applying for is at THEIR school. If they have specific priorities then show your knowledge of them.
- Use data. Instead of saying “I have excellent results”, say “last year my classes achieved X% in their GCSE exams.
- Work out in advance what your vision for the role is. Keep referring back to that vision throughout your responses.
- Be a “Purple Cow”. Lots of candidates will give the same sorts of responses to standard questions. Be memorable by answering the questions in a unique way.
I loved and hated interview questions at different times in my career. Hated when I hadn’t prepared or rehearsed a good enough answer. Loved when my prepared answer showed my true ability and future potential.
Share this with anyone applying for teaching positions, I promise they’ll thank you for it!
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