Are you application ready?
Whether you’re moving on, moving up or looking for your first teaching post, the application and interview process can feel equally exciting and challenging. We’ve pulled together our best advice as you begin (or continue this process). Good luck!
1) Research the school
With the wealth of information now available on school websites, there really is no excuse for not knowing basic information about your potential school. Are they known for arts, sports or science? What are their results in your subject? Will you be looking to improve upon or maintain those results? What challenges can you foresee from what you learn about the school? This research is not simply for the benefit of your potential employer - it is vital that you find the right school for you, and a little careful research could save you a lot of time and energy applying for a school that simply doesn’t suit you. If you do choose to apply, your application will be personal and strong thanks to the pertinent information you have gleaned.
2) Visit the school prior to application
This advice is not always possible, for example if you are moving country or a significant distance in the UK, or if the deadline is too quick for you to make arrangements. Your current school or employer may also not wish to release you for a visit. Unusual circumstances notwithstanding, the top candidates going into the interview itself have visited the school beforehand. It shows planning, commitment and an interest in this particular school. Just remember, if and when you do visit, that your interview starts early, from the moment you arrive! Also use this visit, as we’ve mentioned earlier, to judge if the school is a good fit for you.
3) Ask for data on your interview class…
And ask for it well in advance! In fact, your acceptance of your interview should include a request for data on the class you will be teaching. Follow up if it doesn’t come (with a healthy dose of understanding that the people you are asking will have full schedules) and be sure to thank whoever provides you with the relevant information. Use this data to plan your lesson effectively, but not excessively (we’ll come back to lesson planning!) and only make use of the information that is useful to you. For example, I once interviewed at a girls’ school where the class data showed me that the majority of the girls were from BAME backgrounds. I chose to teach them a poem by Maya Angelou and was able to explain the empowering purpose of my choice at interview. It also (most crucially) made the lesson I taught engaging and positive for the pupils. Which leads us very neatly on to...
4) Plan a simple, pupil-centric lesson
So many interview lessons fall down because they are far too long and complicated. Keep it simply (not simplistic - those pupils need challenge!) and don’t provide a showpiece of your oratory skills. Teach a lesson the pupils are likely to enjoy and from which you are able to demonstrate progress. They should be talking far more than you and opportunities for them to take the lead are to be encouraged. Don’t be tempted to try to show your interviewers every good lesson idea you’ve ever had. You’ll run out of time and be terribly flustered by the end!
5) Professional dress
We know that schools place themselves on a spectrum of formality when it comes to professional dress, and you may well discover that the you end up dressing less formally when and if you accept an offer of employment. However, the interview is the time and place to dress formally and professionally, whatever the school’s day to day standards. Make sure you are well-presented - no one wants to be remembered as ‘the scruffy candidate’. This concession to formality shows that you are taking your interview process seriously.
6) Be ready to ask how you will be supported
Almost all interviewers will end by bouncing the questions back to you - what would you like to ask? Always be ready for this question with an enquiry about the support you could need. This does not weaken you - it shows you to be a reflective professional who has considered their own strengths and areas for development. One for NQTs could be, ‘how is the induction programme structured?’ A sideways-mover could ask, ‘since this school’s demographic is different to that of my previous school, is there specific CPD I could undertake to support the new behaviour management techniques I will need here?’ An applicant seeking promotion might ask, ‘is there a member of SLT/other core group who would allow me to shadow some of their responsibilities?’ Whatever will challenge you about your new school or role, ask about it. This gives you a great opportunity to see if the school has even considered such challenges, or whether you could be left struggling without any support structure in place.
Wherever your next interview may take you, we wish you all the best!