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Teaching Interview Advice

At a job interview your primary objective is to sell yourself to your potential employer.

The interviewer's task, on the other hand, is to decide if you are the right person for the job, looking carefully at your experience, qualifications and attitudes and whether you are a good fit for the school.

There is only one person who can demonstrate that you are the best candidate for the job: you.


1. Types of interviews

There are several types of interviewing techniques. To help you prepare, find out beforehand the type of interview the employer will conduct, their name/s and position.

  • Telephone
    These are usually held during the initial screening process and eliminates candidates based on essential criteria. Successful applicants are usually then invited to a formal interview, usually at the school. Ensure you are in a quiet area without any disturbances.
  • Video
    Whether through Skype, FaceTime or YouTube, this type of interview is increasingly popular particularly when there are a high amount of applicants. They are usually held during the initial screening process. Ensure you have an account set up, your internet connection is working and you are in a quiet area without any disturbances.
  • One-to-one
    With one interviewer, these are usually formal and take place at the school. You could also be interviewed by different people at different times. It will give you a chance to view the school and meet staff members.
  • Panel
    With two or more people, often from different parts of the organisation who will be assessing you at the same time.
  • Group
    Several candidates are interviewed together. They're asked questions in turn, or discuss certain topics.
  • Assessment days
    These take place with several candidates over 1-2 days and used to assess a candidate's performance in a range of situations. Tasks involved include presentations, written tests, and group, role-play and in-tray exercises.
  • Teaching a lesson or part-lesson
    You may be asked to teach a class, so check the availability of resources at the school before you do your planning. During your interview you may be asked about the lesson, focusing on your planning, learning outcomes, assessment techniques and evaluation of how the lesson went.

2. First impressions count

It takes just 30 seconds for an employer to make a judgement, therefore it's important to make a positive one.

  • Dress the part 
    Dress smart and look professional.
  • Arrive on time
    Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at least 15 minutes early. Plan your journey beforehand so you don't get caught out on the day. Do a practice run and allow extra time during rush hour.
  • Smile and be polite
    From the car park, entering the premises to waiting in reception. Be polite and offer warm greetings to everyone you meet.
  • Turn your phone off
    This is vital and prevents you from being distracted.

3. Research

You most definitely will be asked questions about the school, so it's extremely important you have done your research.

You should have a good understanding of the school, its objectives and aspirations. Look at the school's website, social media sites, Ofsted reports, prospectus, school's results and even visit the school and identify where your skills and abilities can help support the school.

Make sure you review the job description in detail and link these to your skills, abilities and achievements. This will help provide a better grounding in answering and asking questions. Always take with you a copy of your CV and job description.

Research the Education and Teaching industry in general, so that you are aware of the current policies and practices, latest news and developments. It shows that you are knowledgeable and up-to-date.

The more you research the better your understanding will come across and impress the employer.


4. The 'Tell me about yourself' question

The dreaded first question all employers will always ask.
It is an opportunity for you to summarise your background, achievements and objectives in between 2-3 minutes.
Keep the information brief, focus on your work life, rather than personal and highlight your key points, making any relevant links to the role you are applying for. You will be able to go into more detail of your skills, achievements and goals during the interview.


5. Interview Questions

When answering interview questions, employers are trying to find out your skills and abilities (competences) that are vital for working in their school.

Usually these are carried out by asking competency based questions where you will need to draw on examples from your work experiences to demonstrate times when you have used particular competences. These questions usually start with 'Can you talk me through an example of when you…', 'Describe a time when you…' or 'How would you go about…'

To ensure you give an effective answer covering all the key points the employer is looking for, follow the STAR technique.


  • S First describe the Situation you were in
  • T Describe the Task that was involved
  • A Next describe the Action you took and skills used (be certain to say ‘I’ not ‘we’ when explaining this – employers want to know what YOU did, not the wider team)
  • R Finally, explain what the Result was and how long it took to achieve

Top 12 teaching interview questions

  1. Why did you apply for this role?
  2. How do you plan, structure and manage lessons?
  3. Describe a lesson that did not go well for you. What did you do about it? Or what would you change in the future?
  4. How do you envisage working with parents?
  5. What qualities do you think make a good teacher?
  6. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  7. What ways do you assess and evaluate students?
  8. How do you differentiate your teaching?
  9. How do you organise and participate in extra-curricular activities after school?
  10. How do you deal with disruptive or abusive students?
  11. Where do you see yourself in 5 years  time?
  12. How would you contribute to the school as a whole?

Interviewers may then probe deeper to draw out more information, therefore prepare a few examples beforehand so you are not caught out on the spot. Remember, always be honest as employers can always check up!


6. Portfolio

Employers love seeing work you’ve done; this will really help to create a positive impression and support the answers you give.

Spend some time putting this together and think about what would be relevant to the job you are applying for. You can include your teacher portfolio, references, reports, pictures, lesson plans and samples of your work.


7. The dreaded ‘What are your weaknesses?’ question

This isn’t a trick question to catch you out. Employers are looking to see if you are self-aware, how you'll address them and whether you are flexible to change.
Your answer should demonstrate proactivity in dealing with a weakness.

For example; a sufficient answer maybe: “At the beginning of my last role I found I was overwhelmed with the level of work expected of me, but I have since attended a number of time-management seminars and feel that this is no longer an issue.

Pick something that’s not too serious or integral to the role you are applying for. Researching the role and drawing back on your past work experiences will help you identify examples.


8. Do’s & Dont's

  • + Do be yourself and hold a positive attitude. Be confident in your answers as only you
  •   can sell yourself.
  • + Do stay calm and make eye-contact when listening and talking.
  • + Do watch your posture, sit up straight and watch the interviewer(s) body language.
  • + Do ask questions, it will help you feel more relaxed and build rapport.
  • - Don't talk too much or waffle - make sure you listen to the questions and answer them 
  •   with structure.
  • - Don't be negative - you may have already have had some negative experiences, but
  •   don't focus on them. Focus on the positive ones, or talk about what you have learned
  •   from the negative ones.
  • - Don't be unprepared for your interview - make sure you have thoroughly done your
  •   research and know what you have stated on your CV/application form. Take extra
  •   copies, pen, notepad, bottle of water etc.
  • - Don’t talk money until your value has been built and understood, do not seem
  •   primarily concerned with salary.


9. Do you have any questions?

Never say no! There is always something you can ask the employer. It shows you are interested, listened and want to know more. A few examples are:

  • Why has the position become available?
  • What can I expect from you in terms of development and support?
  • How would you describe the school culture and management style?
  • What are the most important issues the school is currently facing or potentially face in the future?
  • Are there any plans for the school to expand or change status?

10. Practice, practice & practice

You can never practice enough.

Rehearse out loud, in front of a mirror, to a friend or video yourself. Force yourself to sound enthusiastic and don’t rush. Take a note of your posture, where your hands are and your eye movements. Your tone of voice and body language have a greater impact than the words you say! The first few times you try out your pitch may be a bit uncomfortable, but it gets easier. After a while it will become second nature and remember, it means one less thing to worry about at the interview!

Finally, think it through….

Before accepting a job, ask yourself whether you like the place, the people and the area. If you’re spending all your working time there for the next few years you want to enjoy it. Even if you are looking for a tough challenge, you should aim to be with like-minded people who share and empathise with your goals and objectives.

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