Whilst many parts of life at the moment are stalled, other parts are continuing with some semblance of normality. If you are looking to apply for a job at a new school, you will currently be applying and interviewing online. We’ve reviewed our advice in light of these circumstances to make it appropriate to online applications. Good luck!
Research the school
With the wealth of information now available on school websites, there really is no excuse for not knowing key information about your potential school. Are they known for arts, sports or science? What are their results in your subject or year? 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 more personal to the school and strong thanks to the pertinent information you have gleaned.
‘Visit’ the school prior to application - virtually!
Usually we advise, if at all possible, to visit your potential school beforehand. Whilst this is not feasible under the current Covid-19 restrictions, there are some creative ways to maintain some of the benefits of a school-visit virtually. Firstly, check the website for a ‘virtual tour’ - many schools offered this facility even prior to the closures. Secondly, look at photos of previous events such as school shows, trips and open events to get a feel for the atmosphere of the school. Thirdly, this is an occasion when reading the last OFSTED report could give you an insight into the workings of the school and its priorities. Finally, do some comparisons with your own school by using the government’s school comparison site (https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/find-a-school-in-england). None of these solutions is perfect or replaces what would have been a school visit, but they are a starting point and may fill in some gaps.
Ask how the online interview process will work
Schools are in the midst of figuring out how to run themselves almost entirely remotely and it seems likely that some of those changes will remain for the long term. When and as they get to the interview process, they may or may not wish to see some evidence of your teaching. This decision will largely depend on how they have chosen to conduct their remote learning. Contact the listed person on the job advert for clear information about how the online interview will work and to ask how you can best prepare. Then leave them be to attend to the myriad tasks they are currently navigating and follow up after a few days. If a response is still not forthcoming, consider carefully if you wish to jump into an online interview process without any prior information - schools are doing a magnificent job of maintaining professionalism under these unprecedented circumstances, so a complete lack of response from your proposed school may help to make your decision for you.
Professional dress and environment!
This advice is as pertinent now as it was before the shutdown. A video interview will still clearly demonstrate how seriously you are taking the process, so dress accordingly. We know that schools place themselves on a spectrum of formality when it comes to professional dress, and you may well discover that 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. Additionally, a new element that comes along with a video interview is an awareness of your surroundings. School leaders will be very understanding that your house may not be entirely neat and organised right now and they will be sympathetic (to a point) if your children accidentally wander in during the video interview. However, do be aware of what image you wish to present to your potential employers and make every effort to carve out a quiet, suitable space from which to conduct your interview. This will also help you to ensure that you are as calm as you can be during the interview and present yourself in the best possible light.
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? This question is now more appropriate than ever. 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?’ or ‘my current school’s induction programme was interrupted by the shutdown - how could you help me to fill in the gaps in my professional training?’ 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. Check out some of our other blogs at www.fulcrumlearning.co.uk/blog to help with reflection, planning and other key professional practices. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn by searching for ‘Fulcrum Learning’.