5 Tips for Job Interviews
We are now in the midst of interview season, and I am seeing so many messages coming into me and seeing public announcements from teachers who have secured a job for next year. For many of you, you are possibly still on the job hunt, and in many cases receiving some emails of regret.
In the summer of 2019, I applied for jobs as an NQT for the first time. It was daunting and nerve wracking.
However, that summer I applied to 5 schools, I attended my first interview in a school I had never taught in before, and secured a fixed-term job straight away. I am telling you this story as today I am going to share 5 top tips I have for interviews that may help you this year. Remember, I am a teacher and not a coach. I am always here to share my own experiences but if you feel like you need more support during interview season, there are lots of coaches, particularly on Instagram that can help you!
With regards to applying for schools, one tip I would have for that element of the process is not to apply to every school that you see if you genuinely wouldn’t like to work there. As I mentioned, I applied to 5 schools that I knew I would love to work in. This allowed me to do in depth research on all 5 schools, and to really ensure I could ask teachers in those schools that I knew, some questions before the interview. Therefore, my Standard Application Form (SAF) was tailored for each school too.
After that, if you receive an interview, here are my top 5 tips:
1. Be true to yourself
One thing I would always say first of all is to never try to be anyone else but yourself, especially in your interview. Don’t create a version of yourself for your interview that doesn’t exist in real life. One thing I always tell myself going into an interview is that I want to see if this school is as much of a fit for my own values as a teacher, as I am for theirs. If you don’t find that an interview brings out the best of you in your true self and you don’t get the job, then in my opinion, it was not the right fit for you.
I am fortunate that in the majority of my interviews, I have felt excited in the interview, like I could relax and ramble on to my heart’s content authentically and really listen to the questions being posed and wanting to give my all at my answer.
Interviews don’t always feel this way, but it is important to continue to be yourself no matter what. If the question asks you about STEM for example, but you don’t have an interest, any knowledge or experience in that area, I would say personally not to try to fill time by trying to create an impression that you do love STEM. When you start in your role, you may be called upon to lead STEM initiatives or set up extra-curricular activities in the school, so you don’t want to be led to this if you are passionate about another area, or if there is something else that you could offer to the school. If you have done your research, you will know what else the school needs that you can then speak about instead, which leads me to my next point!
2. Do your research on the school
As I mentioned above, applying to a select few schools that you could truly see yourself working in will ensure you have more time to do research on those schools, tailor your application for a specific school and also to be more aware of what kind of questions may arise in an interview.
Ways I have researched schools include asking teachers who are, or who have previously worked in the school about potential interview questions that may arise, some programmes they have in their school i.e. Mata sa Rang, Literacy Lift-Off, or Power Hour and about areas that the school is working to improve on after a Whole School Evaluation (WSE) or through a School Self-Evaluation (SSE). You may also ask these teachers questions around DEIS initiatives in the school, if it is a DEIS school, as these would be important to know too. You may be asked a question in an interview that does not directly ask about the DEIS initiatives, but you should always know them and have them ready to mention if you feel the question was exploring your knowledge of them.
The school’s website will also give you an excellent overview of the things that the school have been working towards i.e. Green Schools, or perhaps may show you some initiatives the school has not yet begun that you may hope to start in the school, i.e. The Amber Flag. You can also see what the school values highly by the clear emphasis the school puts on certain subjects or extra-curricular activities by looking at their website. This may stand out as anything including any of the primary school curriculum subjects, or more specific areas like wellbeing, GAA, or STEM.
3. Have a good lesson example for every subject
One question I always seem to be asked is to describe an excellent lesson that I have taught. Going into an interview, I always have an example or memory of a lesson ready for each of the subjects on the primary school curriculum. In preparing for this, I would always think about the elements of an excellent lesson that should exist, and weave these into my answer with my example.
Psst… read more blog-posts with interview tips HERE!
4. Know some of the skills and characteristics needed to be an excellent teacher
Sometimes you may be asked in an interview about something, as I mentioned in my first point, that you really don’t know much about.
In my first interview I was asked if I ever did Student Support Plans (SSP), I could have tried to pretend I did just to try to seem more knowledgeable and to get the job, however, I was honest and said that I didn’t know, mentioning that I had worked with IEPs in a substitute role but not extensively. I continued to tell the interview panel about a characteristic of mine, where I say yes to everything and figure it out afterwards. I told them that I was a fast learner and gave them an example of when I had to learn something new in a short space of time. It was related to football coaching, but still portrayed that I had the skills of persistence, diligence and agility necessary to deal with this and that I would learn straight after the interview what SSPs were.
As teachers, there are always going to be things we don’t know how to do yet. The wonderful thing about being a teacher is that you are always learning, upskilling and growing your skills and expertise. Therefore, you must be resilient, agile and flexible to deal with such changes and the need to learn new things.
Some skills and characteristics you may want to reflect on and think of examples for, are having excellent communication skills (reciprocal), patience, organisational skills, teamwork, flexibility, agility, time management skills, creativity, leadership skills and also being kind, caring, understanding, bubbly, friendly, diligent and persistent. This is not an extensive list and you may have some personal and unique skills to add, but will get you started!
5. Child protection
One area that you can be sure to be asked about in an interview is around child protection and the Children First Act 2015. It is extremely important to know your role as a mandated person. You must familiarise yourself with your legal obligations as a mandated person to protect children in your care from harm by reporting any child protection concerns to your Designated Liaison Person (DLP) or Deputy Designated Liaison Person (DDLP) who will then report this to Tusla.
You can read more about and understand the role of a mandated person here but you also must complete the Children First E-Learning Programme training which you would include on your Standard Application Form before interview under ‘additional qualifications’. Make sure to refresh your knowledge of this before your interview and before starting your role in a school if it has been some time since completing the programme. You must complete this training every three years.
I know I could talk at length about interview tips and my experiences, but I hope this gives you a little more to think about when approaching your interviews this year. Always stay true to yourself, do your research, have personal stories and examples of your skills and characteristics as a teacher at hand and always think first about the protection and holistic development of the children in your care.
I want to wish you the best of luck with your applications and interviews, and remember that you are looking for your happy place as much as you are looking for a job.
Take care and talk soon,
This event aspires to inspire, motivate and share valuable insights to our newest teachers.
We explore topics such as Essentials for an NQT Classroom; Planning & Preparing for the first day, week and month; Classroom Management; Supporting Students with Additional Education Needs; Effective Lesson Planning in 4 Easy Steps; Teacher Wellbeing and Jobs.
We hear from experts in education and teachers who have walked the road before you and are willing to share their experience.
This year has been a unique year and while it can be a time of joy, rest & relaxation, the holidays can bring a lot of demands such as financial, social and family commitments. While, you can’t choose when Christmas comes, you can choose to help yourself get through it.
It’s that time of year again!
Let’s be honest, the Late Late Toy Show is the official start of Christmas in Ireland!!
If you want to bring the festivities into your classroom, here are some resources we found (including a game for teachers!!).
Primary school principal of St Brendan’s Ns, Blennerville, Tralee, Co. Kerry. I love my role as school Principal, in particular it’s variety and the daily interactions of all within the school community. I have an Instagram platform where I share my philosophy, it’s called @positiveprimaryprincipal.