Posted 26 March 2021
Working your way to become a teacher takes you down a path of considerable box ticking before you can start. From studying an Access to HE Diploma (Education) or A Levels to an undergraduate degree and PGCE. The journey to NQT status takes substantial time and effort.
It’s all worth it in the end, but the last thing you want to do is fall at the last hurdle – your job interview.
This is a far more involved process than it is for many other jobs. For instance, you must let the head teacher know that day if you’d accept the job offer or not. Plus, you’ll generally need to prove you can do the job by delivering a mock lesson, as opposed to just saying you can.
This is because, unlike the private sector, schools can’t cope with staff shortages. Classes cannot run without teachers. Besides needing to know if you’ll take the job, they must be confident in your ability to do it.
They’ll also be assessing whether you’re a good fit for the school and the pupils or students. So, you can see there’s a lot that goes into hiring the next generation of teaching personnel.
Alongside this process is the more formal interview scenario most people are familiar with. In order to get hired, you need to perform well in each aspect. Which is why we’ve summarised some common questions below and how to answer them.
What makes you want to work in this school?n
This is one that’s asked in almost every job interview. And while that makes it one you can practice, it also makes it harder to come up with a unique response.n
The best thing you can do in this instance is research ahead of time. Find out about the school’s history, the extra-curricular activities they offer, the head teacher’s background and work experience. You should also look at their performance in the last Ofsted inspection.n
From here you can start to shape your answer. Identifying areas you can put your skills to best use and any additional activities you could set up and run. By recognising where the school’s priorities are in terms of their development/improvement allows you to discuss how you can contribute.n
This gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your personal skills and attributes specifically in relation to the hiring school.n
Why do you want to become a teacher?n
This one requires a little self-searching as your motivations will no doubt be different to the next candidate.n
What catches many aspiring teachers out here is falling back onto wishy-washy clichés. Any head teacher worth their salt will be able to see through them. The best thing you can do in this instance is be honest about why you want to teach. But also give genuine context to surround your reason.n
You might not feel you have a compelling tale to tell. However, take the time to consider your origin story, your teaching inspirations or external factors that influenced your decision. You’ll be surprised by what springs to mind when you think about why you chose to teach and enlighten others.n
Once you’ve identified your motivator/s, prepare this and its context into a small anecdote that’s concise and to the point. Practice it a few times so it’s familiar and you’re confident delivering this response. Then you’ll be ready to set yourself apart from the other candidates.n
Tell us what your strengths and weaknesses aren
This is another favourite in interviews which catches many job candidates out. Usually, because they haven’t pre-considered their responses or because they feel uncomfortable talking about themselves.n
Either way, you’re likely to be asked this one so it pays to prepare. Again, be honest, but consider your approach to teaching, your soft skills and communication abilities.n
Before the interview, make a list of the things you excel at. Whether this is lesson planning, empathising with the children or communicating complex ideas clearly and simply.n
Then think about the things you could do better, we all have something we’d like to improve. This could be time management, organisation of your classroom or a slow response time to parent queries.n
Get a list ready that notes both your strengths and weaknesses, with examples and your plans to improve.n
What do you think makes a great teacher?n
This is the opportunity for a little self-praise, so be sure to take advantage of it.n
Talking about communication and other practical skills is important, but so too are the soft skills you possess. Empathy, humour, relatability, and trustworthiness are all essential personality traits for a teacher.n
As with the other questions, consider these ahead of time and compile a list of the qualities you think matter most. Don’t forget to include examples so the head teacher can see you’re genuine and a cut above the rest.n
How would you manage a student who consistently hands work in late?n
Another question similar to this is ‘how would you manage a student or pupil who was regularly challenging in class?’n
Discuss what happened, the professional way you handled the situation and how it was resolved. Reflecting on what you could have done better also demonstrates your self-awareness and willingness to learn.