Interviews: putting your best foot forward

It’s that time of year again. Jobs are being advertised, CVs are being prepared and the dreaded letter of application is causing a few sleepless nights. But the preparation pales into insignificance if we get shortlisted.

Some people are naturally good at interviews, they have no issue in putting their best foot forward. Whereas for some others, an interview is an absolute nightmare.

When you know you have the skills to get the job, the pressure is on to convey that in such a short space of time.

Having been both an interviewer and interviewee it’s obvious there are some questions that appear in almost all interviews. So here’s five general questions to help get the preparations started:

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself or give us a sense of who you are

This is such an open-ended question that it’s difficult to know where to start. Essentially it’s a verbal summary of your CV. I usually start with my college education then dive quickly into my various teaching experiences.

I’ll add detail to what I’m saying if I want the interviewers to  ask a follow-up question in this area, detail I know isn’t obvious from my CV. This allows me to give a greater sense of some of my previous work experience. I also make sure to add anything I do that can be of interest for extracurricular. For example, I have taught in India with a charity organisation or that I play hockey.

2. Expect a question on the school’s ethos

I’m always fascinated to know how people would answer this question. Essentially the interviewer is looking for evidence that you have researched the school’s ethos and how they embed their culture. Most schools will include development of the whole child but will word it differently so try to use their wording in your answer. This will let them know you are fully aware of what the school is offering to their student and give examples of how you will support this.

3. If I was observing your lesson, what would I expect to see?

I loved asking this question as it really shows how strong someone is at reflecting on their own practise. Key to answering this is showing you know the basic mechanics of a lesson, like AfL opportunities, literacy, numeracy, highly effective questioning, use of ICT but also never forget to say ‘students enjoying their learning experience and actively taking part in learning’. The detail in your answer will depend on level of experience but I make sure to mention the latest ‘buzzwords’ in education for example reporting and feedback is a current topic of interest.

4. Given the amount of curriculum reform going on, I would expect a question to do with the new junior cycle

Your answer here again could include specifics on your experiences with the reform. As a science teacher, embracing the rationale of inquiry-based learning has been at the forefront of all training sessions I’ve attended. I try to give an example of how I have implemented the changes into my teaching and what might now be different in my planning using the learning outcomes.

5. Prepare a question for the when the interviewer utters the dreaded ‘is there anything you want to ask us’

By the time this question is asked, I always want to run for the hills. I know the end is in sight and the stress is nearly over. But the question you ask can tell the interviewer a lot. I always asked about the continued professional development available in the school, as a newly qualified teacher, but as I ‘ve gained experience my question now varies. Questions on whether the school has 40 minutes or 1 hour lessons can be good as generally panel members seem to happily engage in discussion on this. (This has been my experience anyway)