Interviews Interviews form part of the recruitment process for most organisations. The main purpose of an interview is to give the potential employer the opportunity to assess your abilities and personality and for you to assess them and to make sure that the job and the organisation is right for you. There are different types of interviews including telephone interviews which are usually used to initially screen applicants; video interviews which may occasionally take place when the position for is overseas, and face-to-face interviews, including one- to-one, panel and sequential. Interviews - General Preparation Before you go for a job interview you need to be prepared, not only the obvious ways - dressing smartly, knowing where you are going and how to get there – but also to answer the questions you will be asked. What are you going to say if/when you are faced with these: * Why do you want this job? * Why should we give it to you? * What interests you in this organisation? * How have you benefited from your time at University? * What have you learned from your working experiences? * What is your major weakness? * What will you be doing in 5 years time? * How would your friends describe you? * Tell me about yourself. These are all aimed at finding out if you are the most suitable person for the job. Try sketching out your answers. Do not try to learn them verbatim but have a clear idea of what you want to include in your answers. Employers are looking for your personal evidence of your skills, qualities, knowledge and experiences which match their requirements. They want you to be specific and not vague and general. They want honesty but do not put yourself down, i.e. what did you learn from your biggest failure? How are you combating your major weakness. Employers expect you to be ready to answer the above list of questions. If you want to compete successfully, you need to do some preparation. As well as being prepared to answer questions, you also need to prepare two or three questions that you would like to ask. These need to demonstrate your keenness to develop within the organisation and to take on responsibility. Interviews - Checklist Below is a checklist to enable you to prepare for an interview The information below is comprehensive, but not prescriptive - use your common sense. Try To Find Out: A) How long the interview is going to last? B) If you need to prepare anything? C) Are there any group exercises? D) Are there any psychometric tests being used? Before You Leave Home: * Dress appropriately. * Make sure you know how long the journey will take and where you are going. * Check for any planned disruptions to road or rail services. * Leave in good time so that you are not rushing. * Check if travel and overnight accommodation (if required) is available. * Check the physical access to premises if you have a disability and indicated any additional support that you may require in the interview. * Put in a copy of your CV, letter, and/or application form, directions of how to get to your destination, a copy of the letter offering you the interview and details they have sent you, and a pen that will not leak. * Money for a taxi (if you are running late). * Mobile phone but remember to switch it off before you go into the building. * Mints and tissues. When You Get There: * Smile. * Good eye contact is essential. It conveys your interest in the job. * Firm handshake with everyone you meet (Same at the end with any contacts you have made during the day). * The style, tone and delivery of your voice is important. Don't talk too fast and moderate the tone of your voice. * Be honest and don't waffle. If you don't know the answer to a question, then say so. * Don't mention salary unless invited to or when offered the job. * Ask questions. * End positively as well as starting positively. Interview For A Teaching Position - Preparation And Checklist Preparing For Teaching Interviews This section will introduce you to some of the questions which are likely to come up in an interview for a teaching post. There are no right or wrong answers so preparation has less to do with drafting replies than with thinking about the obvious areas beforehand. At the interview you will need to be relaxed enough to be yourself but at the same time ‘keyed up’ enough to demonstrate to the interviewer what you are capable of. By getting yourself ready in good time and arriving at the school punctually, you will be able to focus on telling the interviewers what you have to offer. Your interviewers will probably be working to a tight schedule, so attempt to strike a balance between brevity and being long winded. If you do find yourself involved in a long and detailed description of your course/teaching experience, you can always pause and ask ‘Do you require further details?’. Remember that you are also finding out whether you want the job, so be observant and ask searching (but tactful) questions. What Are They Looking For? In the interview you will be assessed on your answers, on the feel which the interviewer gets about you and on your past record. The areas which are critical are: * Acceptability: Will you fit into the staffroom, with colleagues and with pupils? The way to impress is to talk to staff and children on your preliminary visit * Qualification/Experience: Has your course and your teaching practice provided you with the right academic background and experience to do the job? * Adaptability/Flexibility: Will you be able to cope (e.g. discipline)? Could you teach other subjects? * Motivation/Interest: Do you really want to work here? * Circumstances: Can you work here? (or are there personal reasons why you might move after a short time or always be keen to get away from school finishes to your family and friends?). Be wary of discriminatory questions such as ‘Have you got a steady boyfriend?’ or ‘As a single man, you’re not looking for a future wife at this all girls school are you?' These questions are illegal. What Questions Might I Be Asked? The degree of special knowledge of what you are saying will inevitably be varied around the interview table from the subject specialists to the lay member, but be wary of underestimating what they know and seeming to talk them down. Be prepared to be constructively critical of yourself and others: perceptive balanced criticism of e.g. your course and what you made of it is far more impressive than either excessive praise or blanket criticism. EXAMPLE QUESTIONS Introductory Questions Have you enjoyed your visit to the school? (This is a good time to bring up anything interesting you have noticed on your tour). Why have you applied for this post? When did you decide to apply for a place on a teacher training course and why? The Course Tell me about your degree/PGCE course. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your course? (Avoid making negative judgements of others – emphasize positive statements wherever possible). What parts of the course did you find most interesting and why? Why did you choose this subject/these curriculum specialisms? I was interested to read about your project on __________________. Tell me about it. How have you developed in your subject (e.g. P.E, Maths) during your course? Teaching Interests * Why did you choose to teach this particular age range? * What are your views on the National Curriculum? * How might you use computers in your teaching? * How would you use the locality of the school and its immediate environment? * How would you structure projects to give equal access to all pupils? * What are the important things to consider when setting up a classroom? * How much noise and moving around in the classroom do you permit? The School * What makes a successful school? * What importance do you attach to co-operation with colleagues, e.g. those teaching parallel classes? * How would you cope with lack of enthusiasm from colleagues? * Are you a member of a religious denomination (Which)? * Would you take part in the religious life of the school? * What is your impression of the school? Provide an honest yet balanced answer, stating the aspects of the school that impressed you and areas you feel need attention is better than blanket praise. * Why do you want to work at this school? Professional Issues * What are the main qualities of a good teacher? * What are your particular strengths as a teacher? * How would you develop them further? * What are your weak areas and how are you overcoming them? * Are there any areas you would particularly want to address during induction? * Which of your teaching practices was the most successful and why? * Describe the best lesson you have given - how did you know what the pupils had learnt? * Describe the worst lesson you have given - how would you approach it differently now? * What are your views on assessment? * How do you go about it? * How would you ensure that you respond effectively to the differing needs and abilities of individual pupils? * Do you differentiate in relation to outcome or task? * How would you ensure a pupil was making progress? * If I came into your classroom how would I know you were committed to equal opportunities? * How would you accommodate children with English as an additional language? Primary Interviews * How would you plan the day if given a fairly free hand by the headteacher? * How do you see the literacy/numeracy strategy contributing to raising standards? * How would you evaluate its effectiveness? What is the place of topic work in school and what is your experience of it? * Which reading/mathematics schemes have you used? * How would you display children's work? * What are your views on the balance between creativity and basic skills? * Can you give us an example of a good teaching and learning session? * Why was it good? * What are your views on school organisation/ streaming/family grouping/team teaching/ integrated day/open plan schools? * How would you go about managing children’s behaviour, especially that of a child with specific behaviour problems? * What would you do if you had a persistently disruptive pupil in your class? Secondary Interviews * What do you like about teaching your main subject? * What other subjects could you teach and to what level? * What examination syllabuses/text books are you used to? * How would you motivate a group of year 9 pupils who have lost interest in the subject? * What part do you think your subject can play in the education of the less able pupil? * What would you say to a student considering taking your subject at 'A' level? * How important do you think it is to make links with other subjects? * What are your views on streaming/sets/mixed ability teaching? * Do you think pupils work better in single sex classes? * How would you address the under-achievement of boys/girls in your subject area? * Have you had any experience of Pre-vocational courses? You are also likely to be asked questions specific to your subject, including possible future developments which might affect it. Pastoral * How would you feel about taking on the responsibilities of being a form tutor? * What is the role of a form tutor and what relevant experience have you had? * What is your experience of having parents in school? * To what extent should this be developed? * How would you deal with an awkward or aggressive parent? * How would you assess your ability to make relationships with children? * How would you seek to promote the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of the children in your care? * What would you do if a child cut him/herself? * If you overheard a child in the corridor calling another child names what would you do? Career Development * How will you develop yourself as a professional teacher? * What are your plans for the future? * How would you like to see your career develop? * Are you prepared to go on courses? The Extras * What personal interests or hobbies do you have that could be of value to the school? (Say what interests you have but it is unwise to commit yourself irrevocably until you have had time to see how you cope with the rest of your teaching load). Yourself * What is the relevance of your previous experience to teaching? (Other work experience vacation work, bringing up a family etc). * Did you work during the 6th form or at University? * What are your interests outside college work and how involved are you? * What have been the major events in your life - both good and bad - and how have they affected you? * If we were to offer you this post are you in a position to accept it? (If you are offered the job you will normally be expected to give an answer there and then and abide by it, so if you have other interviews arranged with schools you prefer you will have to think carefully about how to respond to this). Pool Interviews * Why have you applied to this LEA? * Are you applying to other LEAs? * What type of school would you prefer to work in? Why? * What age group would you prefer? Why? * What are the advantages and disadvantages of the infant/junior system as opposed to the first/middle system? * Which would you prefer to work in and why? Equal Opportunities You may find that you are asked some personal questions which you feel may be contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of equal opportunities legislation. Questions should not be based on gender or race stereotyping and you should not be asked about marital status, family commitments or, in a non-denominational school, about religious beliefs. There are differing ways of dealing with discriminatory questions – (above all they should cause you considerable concern about whether the school is one in which you wish to work) – you can challenge the interviewer as to the legality of such a question. You could refuse to answer on the basis of discrimination, or you could politely enquire as to the relevance of such a discriminatory question to your abilities as an NQT. Ask for help from your union, the Careers Advisory Service or your tutor if this happens to you. Your Own Questions Interviews should be reciprocal affairs, giving you the chance to learn more about the job, the working environment, colleagues etc. You will almost certainly be asked whether you have any questions towards the end of your interview. Prepare two or three questions to which you genuinely want the answers, and which could not be discovered otherwise, e.g. by reading the prospectus. You could ask about induction arrangements, pastoral responsibilities, numbers of other recently qualified teachers in the school, or the school’s position on major national developments (e.g. Vocational A Levels). You may find that the answers to one or more of your questions arise naturally during the interview day. If so, you could acknowledge that you wanted to know about the issue and that it has been adequately covered. Of course you are not going to be asked all these questions and there are many others you may be asked, but this gives you a flavour of the possibilities. Trying to think of persuasive answers on the spot can be difficult for some of these so some time spent beforehand considering the likely questions and your responses will be time well spent. Perhaps even try out some of your potential answers on a friend. Participate in the mock interviews available through the Education Faculty and the Careers Advisory Service. Remember that whilst the content of your answers is very important so too is your body language and the clarity of your speech. Always sound positive, enthusiastic and make sure everyone can hear you! Maintain eye contact and avoid distracting mannerisms. Salary Classroom teachers start on the Main Pay Scale, which has six points, M1-M6. Teachers usually start at point M1, but if you have other teaching experience, you may start higher up the scale. Schools may also reward discretionary points for other relevant experience. Each school’s pay policy should explain how these points are awarded. You will receive a salary rise each April when the pay scales and allowances are uprated, and each September teachers on the Main Pay Scale move to the next point on the scale subject to satisfactory performance. Classroom teachers may receive other payments, e.g. if you take on additional management tasks, or have particular special educational needs responsibilities. If you work in the London area you will receive extra payments each year. How you describe your past experience on an application form, and to some extent at interview, is therefore important in supporting any claim you may want to make for increments above the usual starting point. It is quite likely that, unless you have come straight from doing a degree and your teacher training, you will find different schools and LEAs will offer you a different starting point on the scale. The difference has on occasions been significant. In the past it has been common for people to accept a teaching post and be told some time later, when the LEA have looked at their experience etc, what their starting salary will be. It is up to you to decide at what stage you want to raise this issue. It will depend on how much you want that particular job and what the competition is like. Acceptance Of Offers It is common practice, within education, for applicants for a specific post to be asked to wait around after their interview for the panel to make their decision. The successful candidate is then called back into the room and offered the job and they are then expected to say whether or not they accept the offer. If you find yourself in this situation it is possible for you to ask if you can let them know in a few days’ time, perhaps because you have another interview arranged and want to know the outcome. However, you must be prepared for the possibility that the school will not agree and then offer the job to someone else. Once again, as with the question of your starting salary, what you decide to do will depend on how strong a position you feel yourself to be in and how much you want the particular job. It is also normal practice for LEAs to require applicants to confirm acceptance of an offer in writing. However, even a verbal acceptance constitutes a contract and it is considered unprofessional behaviour to continue applying for other teaching posts. After a verbal acceptance of an offer you would expect to receive a written confirmation of appointment which should also confirm your starting salary point. You should then reply in writing accepting the offer and perhaps ask for details of the school's induction programme, schemes of work etc. At a pool interview you should check how far an offer from the LEA is a contractual obligation on your part and on their part. In the past, if you accepted a pool offer you had in fact agreed to work for the LEA in whichever school was designated, taking into account your subject and age range specialisms. However, some LEAs are now giving successful pool applicants a letter of intent and not issuing contracts until after candidates have been interviewed and accepted by a school. It is not until you have signed a contract with the LEA that you can be certain of a job with the Authority concerned. If unsure of what you are being offered – ask. Debriefing If you are not successful you may be given some feedback on your performance, and it is worth asking if this is not offered. This will enable you to improve next time. Schools will often offer the debriefing over the telephone and this allows you to make notes of what is being said so you can reflect on it afterwards. Although you may be reluctant to approach the school for feedback, it can greatly improve your performance at the next interview. Assessment Centres You have successfully got through the interview stage and have been invited along to an assessment or selection centre, usually a one or two day event held at the company’s head office, a conference centre or hotel, where you will be expected to take part in a series of assessment activities along with other candidates. For each activity there will be a set of competences which the selectors will use to assess you by. These competences will include skills (e.g. team working, communication) and personal attributes (e.g. motivation) required to do the job. Below are a range of assessment centre activities: Psychometric Tests These are a series of timed exercises testing such things as your verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning. They are used to check your level of ability/aptitude against that required for the job. Make sure that when doing these tests you manage your time appropriately, read the questions carefully and answer as many of them as possible. Don’t waste time on trying to solve questions that you find difficult. Presentations You may be asked to give a presentation to assess your ability to speak in front of an audience, organise material and manage time. You may be asked to prepare the talk prior to the centre or they ask you to do it impromptu. Remember to speak clearly, maintain eye contact and keep the structure simple. Don’t mumble or talk for too long! In-tray Exercises These are business-related simulation exercises where you are asked to deal with a typical tray of paperwork and prioritise it. Employers use them to assess your ability to prioritise, to communicate, analyse and plan. It is important when doing these exercises to go through the tray before dealing with individual items and to manage the time given appropriately. Group Discussions And Activities You may be given a topic to discuss or an object to build. These exercises are designed to test your teamwork, listening, problem-solving and time management skills. Remember to work participate enthusiastically and encourage other team member. Don’t sit on the sidelines not saying anything or talk over others! Personality Tests These tests assess what you are like as a person and how you might react in different situations. Employers are looking to find out if you will suit the role for which you have applied and if you will fit into the culture of the organisation. Remember to answer honestly and complete the test. Social Events You may have to meet with employees and other candidates over drinks or a meal. Employers are trying to gauge your interpersonal skills and interest in their organisation. Try to be enthusiastic and ask well-thought out, intelligent questions. Don’t be late and definitely don’t drink or eat too much as it shows a lack of respect for your potential employer!