Interviews – the interviewer’s perspective

I’ve had a fair few interviews over the years – for teaching posts, Middle and Senior leader posts, and at headship level.  And in the latter part of my career, I have sat on the other side of the table a significant number of times, too.

So, taking into account the interviewer’s point of view, is there any advice I can offer to interviewees that might be helpful?

  1. You do need to prepare thoroughly so that it’s clear to the panel that you have a secure understanding of the school, and the role, and an assured conviction that you are a good match.  You also need to show that you really do want this job, and you’re not simply applying because you DON’T want to do the job you’re currently doing….
  2. Although you will inevitably have considered what you will gain (should you be successful in the selection process), you need to focus in the interview on what you bring to the role, to the team, to the school.  This requires you to give some thought in the interview to starting from where the panel/school are, rather than where you are.
  3. Ensure you recognise, and show that you value, the strengths of the team you would join.  If this is an interview for a post with leadership responsibility, demonstrate how you might build on these strengths.  The selectors will want you to make your mark, but they also want to see that you are respectful of the legacy you will inherit and how you plan to make the most of it.
  4. Practise beforehand to check that you can keep your answers relevant and succinct – anticipate possible areas of questioning and give careful thought to what you might include in your responses, and any examples you might cite.  Answers which ramble, are repetitive and lack conviction do you no favours, especially as your interviewers will need to keep a watchful eye on the time so that they stick to their schedule and don’t keep the next candidate waiting too long.
  5. Watch body language – try for steady eye contact, avoid fidgeting, and smile.  It’s important!  Consciously listen to how you express your answers and try hard to avoid the informal fillers (“like”, “kind of”, “sort of”, “you know”) which we all use in everyday speech but which can be irritating in a formal context.  They also suggest you aren’t sure of what you’re saying.
  6. If asked if you have further questions at the end of the process, have one or two good questions ready, but don’t pull out a long pre-prepared list.  Remember they will be gearing up for the next candidate at this stage.  There should be other opportunities during the day to find out anything you need to know.

For further advice about the interview process, especially for headship, see ‘Making the leap – Moving from deputy to head’.

And this post by Vivienne Porritt, about shortlisting from a Chair of Governor’s perspective, should be useful, too.

Good luck!

Photo credit: John Berry. (I never normally look this stern…)

This post was originally published on @staffrm earlier this year

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