Gail Larkin is the vice president of NAHT as well as a long-serving Headteacher. In a talk she gave at a Randstad Education Seminar in August 2013, she spoke about the interview process for teachers. From what are the typical teacher job interview questions to her opinion on college references, Gail offers great insight and some teaching interview tips you don’t want to miss.
Common teaching job interview questions - video transcript
Think through possible questions. You'd be amazed at the number of people who obviously haven't given any consideration to what I might ask. You can guarantee almost 100% that the first question is “why have you applied for a post at this school?” Again, make it personal. “I've applied at a post to your school because I've been in. I've met this person. I've done that. I've seen it's got a great reputation in the area. I saw the Ofsted report and it looks like a place I think I could really contribute to and become a good team member.”
You are often asked, and we're really bad at this in England. I have interviewed in America and they're brilliant at blowing their own trumpet. I've got an American daughter-in-law, so I'm allowed to say this. They're great at telling you what they're good at. British people, and this is very general, are not very good at it. “Well I think I'm quite good. No, no. “I'm absolutely brilliant at piano playing.” No, actually I'm not very good at all or “I'm great at teaching English. I love English. I love literature, I love reading and that's a real skill that I have.”
When I did the mock interview with the students at Kingston I say right, tell me your skills and quality and we'd go around. And they say “ummm, I can’t think…”. You must be good at something.
You wouldn't have gotten a place on the course if you can't do something well. As the interview goes on and they get a little bit more confident, they go “I've come up with loads”. I said you didn't come out with that in the beginning. You didn't answer that very well. Think about your skills and qualities. What are you going to bring to the school?
The other question always stumps everybody and it always surprises me. “Give me three current educational issues that might be stressing out or making teachers anxious or people in schools anxious at the moment”. You'd be surprised how many people don't have any up to date knowledge of educational issues in the media.
I would say anybody working at a school should read the TES. It's got great tips in there. It's got great resources and I don't get paid for doing this even though I know the editor quite well. It does have a lot of information that you need to know.
The number of people where I say, “Give me three,” and they can only give me one, and it's usually something that's not very stressing at this particular time. Make sure that you’re really up to date and you can think of three things you're going to talk about.
I then might ask your opinion about them, which is always quite interesting particularly if it's not in line with mine, but I'm always willing to listen to other people. Think through at least three. Make sure you've got in your head some up to date educational issues that you could talk about.
"anybody working at a school should read the TES. It's got great tips in there"
I don't do it, but I know a lot of heads in a lot of schools who ask you to teach. To be honest I couldn't better what was in [the Randstad] guide and I'm sure you're going to talk about this in a minute, but on page 13 in the guide was ‘how to teach a lesson at interview’. I don't do it only because I think it's a bit of a false situation isn't it?
You're going to be asked to teach a group of kids that you don't know that you've never probably met before, difficult to ascertain the levels that they're at, difficult to know what they've just done before that because nobody teaches a lesson, or shouldn’t do, in isolation. It all comes as part of a program of learning.
You put these people in the most stressful situation and then they've got people sitting there watching them and you only need Billy and Joe in the corner to start causing trouble and if it was Ofsted they'd fail you immediately because not all the kids have made good progress in that lesson. You're trying to deal with that in a most unrealistic situation.
I've argued this a lot with colleagues on the national executive of colleagues in my branch in Surrey and my head teacher friends. I'm in the minority I have to say about that.
I don't go by references from college to be honest with you. The universities and colleges that you've been to will give everyone a glowing reference. They want to give you a job, but I go by what their schools say at your practices where they've got some knowledge about you, where you've done some work recently. I would contact the head.
If I see that you've been a cover supervisor in the school, I'd phone that head teacher to see “what are they like?”. We talk about candidates all around the place like that. If I've interviewed somebody, we were saying today, sometimes you do say “you were really a close second. It was really difficult to decide.” If I know the teacher down the road is looking for a teacher I'll phone them, and I'll say look, I've interviewed this person. They were great. They just weren't offering me music, but they'll be great in your school.
It is quite important that you do that, but I don't get people to teach, but I thought your tips were really good in [the Randstad guide], so I couldn't better that. Look at that one.