It’s Monday morning. With a cup of coffee in your hands, you open your emails for the daily inspection. One particular email in your inbox catches your eye; it’s an email inviting you for an interview in a few days’ time. You find yourself feeling excited but nervous as well.
Don’t panic; here are some tips which will help you prepare for an interview and know what to expect.
Preparation is the key to success
You might already know that the better you are prepared, the more possibilities of succeeding you have. When you are well prepared for an interview, you look (and are) confident and you know what you’re talking about. This is a very important first step to a successful outcome.
Do your research
When you’re called to an interview, you should do some preliminary research on the school concerned. You should be interested in getting to know the school where you might be working, its values, any latest news and anything unique about it. This is because, first of all, you want to know about the place and second, you want to be prepared if the panel asks you any questions about the school. Imagine an interviewee who is asked something about the school and doesn’t know what to say because he hasn’t done any research. The interviewers will immediately think that he has no interest in working there at all and they won’t spend any more time on him.
It’s essential that, when you’re preparing for an interview, you make sure that you are informed on education policies and current issues in education. Here are some “hot” topics that Scotland pays attention to and interviewers like to include in their questions:
- Assessment & planning. This is a topic that I personally have been asked about in all my interviews. The interviewers want to know not only that you know what this is all about, but whether you are able to use it effectively in practice as well. That’s why they expect you to give them specific examples and talk about the techniques you use when you plan and assess.
- Behaviour management. How do you manage challenging behaviour? Most interviewers want to hear what strategies you use to deal with negative behaviour as well as how important you consider the value of building positive relationships and using restorative approaches. An example demonstrating this will be helpful.
- Inclusion. Scotland supports inclusive pedagogies, so this is an important issue in education. All schools in Scotland, especially in big cities, are multicultural, therefore, demonstrating that you have the skills to deal with diversity in an effective way is important.
- Scottish Attainment Challenge Policy. This is one of the “hottest” topics in education right now. In Scotland, a lot of children live in deprivation, which means that they are likely to have low attainment levels at school. On the other hand, many children live in less deprived circumstances, so there is a gap between these two categories regarding students’ attainment. The interviewers want to know that you are aware of the existence and importance of this policy and that you know what to do to support closing the attainment gap (for more information read this).
- Teamwork. Interviewers will want to know how you work as part of a team, whether you are flexible and ready to take initiatives. Even if you don’t have a teaching example, you can use one from your university years or any other occasion that you believe will show what kind of team worker you are.
- Your contribution. Many interviewers ask this question “What can you bring to the school?” or “Why should we hire you?” So, here is your opportunity to talk about any particular experience you have that makes you stand out, any skills, passions, etc., which would make you a valuable addition to their staff.
- Classroom appearance. Some interviewers ask the question “If I stepped into your classroom, what would I see/hear/feel?” This might seem awkward to you, but in fact it’s a very clever question. Through your answer, they will be able to understand what kind of teacher you are, what is important to you, what kind of learning environment you will offer to your pupils and, ultimately, if you are suitable for the role they’re offering.
- Professional development. Interviewers might ask you a question about any training you have had or generally, your views on professional development. Through this question, they want to find out if you’re a person who seeks training opportunities, who wants to learn more and who is willing to undertake further training. Remember that this is an important and essential part of a teacher’s work; a teacher is always a learner.
Reflect on your “selling” points
I know that this might sound shallow, but during an interview, you are “selling” yourself. You have to show the interviewers that you are the right person for the position. So, reflect on your learning, skills, passions and experiences and make sure you mention them at some point. Of course, I don’t mean that you should say something just for the sake of it, if it is not relevant to the question; just find a clever way to “throw” it into the conversation. For example, if you have completed an internship abroad, you could include this by mentioning your multicultural experiences and your ability to deal with pupils from different cultures.
Set up a “mock” interview
When you have spent time reflecting on your skills and your answers to possible questions and you feel that you’re ready, ask somebody else to give you an interview. Seriously, this helps a lot. If you talk to another person rather than just talking to yourself, it will feel more like giving a real interview. That person can also help you get into the psychology of the interviewee and point out any of your answers that need further development.
Next step: The interview
So, the preparation stage is over and it’s time for the interview. Here are some useful tips which will help you appear professional and earn you some extra points:
Don’t be late. In fact, be there 15 minutes before the scheduled time. Let the school office know that you’ve arrived and sign in.
Dress smartly. It’s important to be smartly dressed, clean and neat. You don’t have to wear a suit if this doesn’t represent the kind of person you are, but you shouldn’t turn up in your exercise trousers either.
First impressions matter. A warm smile, a handshake, good eye contact and enthusiasm are vitally important and will give your interviewers a good impression of you.
Take some time to think. If you’re asked a question you’re not sure you understand, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. The interviewers will be happy to repeat it or rephrase it to make sure you understand what they’re asking. And keep in mind that you don’t have to answer immediately; you can take some time to think if you need to. The panel knows you’re nervous; they will be considerate.
Use the “pyramid”. When you answer questions, use the “pyramid” technique. For example, if you are asked a question about the attainment gap you can start by talking about the attainment gap in Scotland in general (What happens at the national level?), then talk about the school you used to work at (How does your school manage this issue? What does it do?) and then take it down to the classroom level (How do you, personally, help to close the gap in your classroom? What techniques do you use?)
Some more tips
Use positive terms to discuss children. So, if you want to talk about behaviour that was difficult to manage or disruptive, use words like challenging, rather than bad or negative. The same applies for children; never say “a bad child”. It’s better if you say “a challenging child”.
If the interviewers ask you a question that isn’t applicable to you because you haven’t had any experience with it so far, you can answer “I haven’t used/tried this yet, but I would…and I’ll certainly make it one of my priorities in my professional learning”.
If you forget to say something during the interview, you will have the opportunity to mention it at the end.
Always ask for feedback.
Remember: Everyone thinks of better answers on the way home. Don’t worry, you did the best you could at the time.
The most important thing to remember is that if you’re prepared and informed, you’re going to have a very good interview. You can’t know the result beforehand, but just keep in mind that, even if you don’t get the job, you will have had a very valuable experience and this will help you do better next time. Bring your positivity and enthusiasm to the interview and, sooner or later, your efforts will meet with success.
Sara Tsompanidi is a primary teacher and freelance writer, living and working in Edinburgh. She has been providing guest posts for a year. Her educational background in primary teaching and her multicultural experiences have given her a broad base to approach many topics. She especially enjoys sharing her experiences and providing practical advice to individuals who are making their first steps in Scotland.
(You can contact her here: email@example.com)