I have been in paid employment since the age of 15. My very first job was in Next! I was so chuffed, I had to wear a shirt, tie, trousers and shoes. For me, I felt like I was walking into my office in Canary Wharf! However, it was only short lived, when I realised that getting paid £3 something an hour was not actually that much! From there, I continued to work on Saturdays, sometime Sundays and every holiday. I continued working throughout my GCSEs, A Levels and University.
I think, I feel, I may, I probably, have been extremely lucky in my interviews. As I have got every job and promotion I have ever gone for. (Apart from one internal post- but that story is for another blog!). With this in mind and with the number of interviews going on in my school at the moment, due to a very large scale staffing review we had to carry out I have felt inspired to write this blog.
These tidbits of information/advice/opinions are based solely on my experience, please accept them as that. I am not professing to know all the answers, but have had success with the following thought processes.
Before you apply, find out what you are applying for. Look at every available source of information about the post. Even if you are an internal applicant! Ensure you know where the strengths are and all the areas of weaknesses/development. In this modern era, everything you need can be found online about the school you will be applying for, if it is not, why not?
Look out for local news stories, are they on Facebook? Twitter? Do a search? Find their Pupil Premium Information, their School Development Plan, School Improvement Plan, their Governor information? What does it say about the school? Think about the area the school is in, the catchment, its size, the local, neighbouring schools.
Here are some useful websites to look into the school in more detail:
- Ofsted Data Dashboard
- Ofsted Reports Centre
- DfE School and College Performance Tables
- School Catchment Areas
- English Indices of Deprivation
Researching the school could also include visiting them. I would strongly recommend this, make an impression right from the offset.
Ensure you know the difference in the school you are applying for… E.G
- State schools – funded by the government, open to the public
- Grammar schools – funded by the government; students must complete entrance exams to be considered for admission
- Religious schools – privately funded, open to the public
- Independent and/or private schools – funded through tuition fees, may require entrance exams
This should be no more than two sides of A4, try not to stretch the margins and reduce the font! This letter is your opportunity to show who you are as a teacher based on evidence/impact. Do not write about what you have simply done. Make sure your cover letter shows strategic leadership, i.e how has what you have achieved helped the whole school? Most importantly. how does it correlate to the job at hand. Ensure you reference specifics from the application via your cover letter!
Do not forget that the cover letter is your chance to remind everybody why you actually became a teacher and why you love your subject. This should be done whatever the job you are going for. Ensure it is proof read and you use a variety of vocabulary, (but, not swallowed a thesaurus!) Also, that you have personalised the letter for the job and school you are applying for!
- Dress well, smell nice, use mouth wash and if you are a smoker, ensure you do not smoke right before your interview. Eat something, so your stomach isn’t rumbling.
- Arrive early, but not too early that it becomes an inconvenience to others!
- Shake hands firmly and look everybody in the eye when saying hello and nice to meet you!
- Keep a bottle of water with you, keep hydrated to ensure you do not get croaky
- Say hello to EVERYBODY, smile, introduce yourself, even the students. I shake students hands too, for example in the student panels.
- Engage with students if on tour, they will usually be giving feedback to the interviewers.
- Ensure you give specific examples in the interview. Refer to your cover letter and show that you have researched the school, mention the Ofsted, recent achievements and so on! Do not feel shy about being a larger than your everyday character on interview.
- Do not use slang or contractions! Do not over do the demonstrating of your vocabulary either!
- Talk about the school and the students and the interactions you made with them there, that day.
- Ensure your body language is positive- ‘smiling, eye contact, solid posture, active listening, nodding.’ Avoid negative body language- ‘slouching, looking off in the distance, playing with pen, fidgeting in chair, brushing back hair, touching face, chewing gum, mumbling, leaning on palm.’ (Ref.)
- Practice interview questions- Really useful website here with interview questions/videos/links!
- Always have questions to ask the interviewer. Show you are prepared. Have these written down on a pad.
- If you are an internal applicant, then ensure you sell your experience to the interviewer, Make it clear that you know the students, the staff, the systems, you are well versed in the safeguarding procedures. Do not assume the interviewer knows anything about you! Say more than you have to, rather than not enough. However, do not speak for too long, you should take note of any subtle signs that the interviewers are wanting to ask you another question.
- Do not answer any question with a simple yes or no!
- Refer to concrete examples in your answers. Remember not to slag anybody off from your previous setting!
- Do not be afraid to say, I am not sure, but I will find out, learn and become extremely good at. I once said, everything is new to somebody at some point, the difference is whether you choose to continue to learn from once it becomes habit.
- Ensure your safeguarding stock answer is clear, accurate and up to date.
- Ensure you have two references available that will answer their phone/respond to an email!
- Have all your documentation ready and clear. Do not turn up with something missing!
- Get on as many additional courses/qualifications as you can. Think about referring conferences such as Northern Rocks or WomenEd?
- Ask questions from people currently in the position you would like to go for, ask them about their interview, their application. Asked them to evaluate their day.
- Always ask for feedback, even if you get the job!
Just a point to note; as much as you can research the school, they can also research you. So, think about your online presence, your twitter, google images, your blog. Does it reflect you in a positive light?