How to ace your first teaching interview from lockdown

By Jared Cawley

@JaredCawley

Posted on 25 June 2020. This piece was orginally published on Tes 6 May 2020.

If you are a newly qualified teacher (NQT) or student teacher, the coronavirus pandemic may have placed you in an uncertain, perhaps worrying, situation. As if looking for your first teaching role wasn’t a concern enough in itself, you’re now having to do so knowing that you won’t be able to visit your prospective school or meet your new team. The likelihood is that you’ll be recruited remotely. But what does that look like?

In a regular interview process, you would often be expected to teach a lesson in a classroom, being watched by an observer. Now your face-to-face interview – where you are asked questions about your knowledge of pedagogy, your practical experience and understanding of education – will probably play a more significant role in a school’s decision. And this will probably happen remotely, through an online platform. This type of interview process is more common in the international sector, where teachers’ first interviews are via a video link, as they are mostly hired from overseas.

Here are some topics and questions to think about, in order to best demonstrate your professionalism, knowledge and commitment during your interview.

Coronavirus: Tips for online teacher interviews

Before your application

  • Research. Research. Research.
  • Look at the school’s website, get a good understanding of its mission, values and policies. 
  • Read the latest Ofsted inspection report, if available, and if the school has a Twitter page or other social media platforms, look at what it has shared; this will give you an idea of the ethos, vision and culture. 
  • You need to have a good flavour of the school’s rhythm and life. Ask yourself the question: can I see myself working at this school?

Before your online interview

  • Treat it as you would a face-to face interview. Smile. Dress professionally.
  • Make sure you’re in a quiet space, check your internet connection and test that your camera and microphone are in good working order.
  • It could also be worth having a back-up device or your phone to hand in case of any technical or bandwidth issues.

Possible questions

1. What does outstanding teaching and learning look like in the classroom?

School leaders will want a clear image of your approach to teaching. They may be looking for you to tick some boxes here, to see if your approach to teaching marries up to their expectations as a school, and you can complement their school’s ethos, vision and culture. Consider how the school describes its students and mimic this (it may be children, pupils, students or learners).

Below are some answers you could elaborate on. You may want to include something different, which is fine, but ensure any answers are authentic and you can back them up with more detail or examples. 

  • Students will have a strong, trusted relationship with the teacher shown through respect, kindness and high expectations.
  • Students will be engaged, and challenged appropriately, and have opportunity for discussion and sharing their opinions and views.
  • The teacher will be responsive, reacting or adapting in the moment, having the confidence to go off-piste, steering away from the planning if appropriate. They will redirect teaching and learning in response to a student’s needs, misconception or question.
  • Students are confident to make mistakes or demonstrate vulnerability.
  • The teacher gives effective, manageable and constructive feedback throughout a lesson.
  • Students are well-behaved, and the teacher has good behaviour management strategies to ensure a safe and engaging environment.

2. What is your knowledge of effective assessment and feedback?

Be ready to give some examples and strategies you have used or would like to investigate further in your own practice.

You could use some of the points below: 

  • Formative assessment is the teacher making low-stakes judgments on a student’s knowledge and ability through various methods and approaches.
  • Formative assessment could involve different types of questioning.
  • Using online quizzes through a website like KahootQuizletQuizziz, etc.
  • Using mini-whiteboards for instant answers during whole-class discussions.
  • Think. Pair. Share. Giving students some time to think independently, sharing their thoughts with a partner and then sharing their thinking in a whole-class discussion.
  • Using retrieval practice to recap learning – allowing students to revisit previously learned objectives from the previous lesson, previous week or month to see if learning has happened.
  • Marking: what marking strategies have you used? I’ve previously written about whole-class feedback, and other favourites include live markingyellow-box feedback, and peer- and self-assessment.

3. What is your knowledge of safeguarding?

It is critical that you have a clear understanding and definition of what safeguarding is. The Department for Education has clear definitions of what this is in its statutory guidance.

It is necessary you demonstrate your knowledge about an appropriate level of confidentiality and those members of staff who need to be involved, such as the school’s designated safeguarding lead.

4. How would you manage challenging conversations with parents and carers?

Your interviewer will want you to demonstrate a level of competency in communication and awareness of conflict resolution approaches.

  • Explain why building a productive relationship with parents and carers as early as possible will help you in the long run.
  • Give examples of how you’ve formed relationships with parents. Perhaps, early on in the first term, you contacted parents and shared something positive about their child. Some schools may have a preferred method.
  • Illustrate how you made a positive first impression that has got parents on your side.

5. How do you support students with SEND and/or EAL?

This is an opportunity to demonstrate how you have adapted, reflected and changed your teaching and approach to meet the needs of students.

For students with SEND, you could talk about your experience with education, health and care plans and talking to your previous school’s special education needs coordinator and any external professionals, such as educational psychologists or speech and language therapists.

For English as an additional languge learners, give examples of strategies you use in your practice. For example, this may be giving more thinking time, using visual/pictorial resources, vocabulary banks or flash cards, playing language learning games, using their other languages in your resources and providing plenty of praise.  

6. How do you ensure that you continue to develop your practice?

This is a good opportunity to share what educational books or articles you have read, and how they have influenced your thinking or had a direct impact on your teaching practice. You can also talk about formal and informal courses and the training you’ve experienced and why you found them useful.

Have an example ready about a topic or area of CPD you would like to pursue and gain a deeper understanding in. Impress your interview panel with your willingness to reflect and to continuously develop as a practitioner.

7. How can you contribute to the wider community of the school?

Think about what other skills, hobbies and interests you have that could contribute to the wider school community. For example, what after-school clubs or lunchtime clubs might you want to be involved in? What is your experience of providing pastoral support?

Your questions for the panel 

This is an excellent opportunity for you to gain a better understanding of your potential workplace.

There is a myriad of questions you could ask but do think about what is important to you and what you would like to know.

Here are some example questions you might want to ask the interview panel:

  • What does the NQT induction programme look like in this school?
  • Will I have a mentor and who would it be?
  • What types of CPD do you offer?
  • Are there any challenges the school is facing that I should know about?
  • What is the atmosphere like in your school?
  • How would you describe this school’s culture?
  • How visible are the senior leadership team around school?
  • How is the relationship between parents and school?
  • How do you ensure that your staff have a work-life balance?
  • What have you learned from the recent school closures?

Have confidence  

You are a real teacher. You have already had an impact on students.

Whether you are an NQT or a student teacher, you are a real teacher. You have already had an impact on students. When you are being interviewed, it is important to remember that the panel who is looking directly at you is seeking your potential and your willingness to further develop. They also want to have confidence that you have students at the heart of your practice. 

Good luck!


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