- Find out about the school - you'll most likely already have done a lot of homework about the school, including a visit and tour before you completed your application form. Now is the time to consolidate that research. Revisit the school website; read key policies; read any school newsletters; have a look at the most recent OfSted Inspection Report. Being able to comment at interview on something that the school does and how you can contribute or add to it will help the panel to see you as the missing piece of their school jigsaw.
- Plan your answers - When I've had feedback from unsuccessful interviews, particularly where the headteacher knows me, I've been told that I don't say enough at interview. Even though the headteacher knows that I do something or know about something, when the opportunity to say so comes up in the interview, I miss it. I've now made myself a set of Key Interview Answer index cards. Each card has a potential topic on, and a brief note of the key items I must get across when I answer a question on that topic. So I have cards on Safeguarding, Outstanding Lessons, the Curriculum, Behaviour Management, and Assessment. I've also made a note of specific examples from my own practice that I can talk about in each area. Before the interview I am looking at these cards daily, and I'll take them with me to look at as a refresher just before the interview. Hopefully when the questions come up I'll remember to cram in every point and not miss the chance to show what I know and can do.
- Update your knowledge - Make sure that you are up to date with changes to the curriculum or assessment. If there have been changes then they will almost certainly ask about what you think about them in your interview.
- Prepare your lesson - Almost all teaching interviews now include an observed lesson to give the panel the opportunity to see how you really interact with children, and how you operate in the classroom. This is another area I've had feedback on from unsuccessful interviews. Each time I've been told that while I clearly know my stuff and have a great rapport with the children, my lessons are too complex and busy. So the first rule here is to Keep It Simple. Have a very clear idea of what you want the children to learn from the lesson, and work on how you are going to achieve that. If possible, get in touch with the Class Teacher beforehand to find out what topic or area of work the class are currently covering so that you can fit in with or refer to it. The teacher should also be able to give you information on class groupings and abilities and whether there will be a Teaching Assistant in the room, so that you can plan accordingly. The panel don't want to see the top of 30 heads working in their books, they want to see you interacting and teaching, so the more interaction in the lesson the better. Don't be scared to use practical activities and games - yes, the children will get excited and the noise level may rise, but as long as you are on top of this and the children are engaged then some good learning will be happening. Be wary of relying on technology - finding out that the interactive whiteboard is different from the one you are used to, or that the computer won't read your memory stick minutes before your lesson just adds an extra layer of stress that you don't need. There's plenty of time in the interview to talk about how you use technology in the classroom, for your observed lesson aim to do without (unless its a Computing lesson!).
- Practice - Practice answering possible interview questions (back to those index cards), and if possible practice your observed lesson. While every class will respond differently to any lesson, by running through it you'll at least have a clear idea of potential pitfalls, time-scales and the resources that you need, as well as feeling more confident when it comes to actually delivering the lesson.
- Plan your day - we're now on the logistics side of the interview. What time do you need to arrive? How will you get there and how long will it take? Where will you park? Do you need to take a packed lunch? What time will you expect to finish? What will you wear? What will you do afterwards? (Usually the Headteacher or Chair of Governors will phone later the same day to let you know the outcome of the interview, so you can either be driving home, pacing nervously up and down your sitting room, taking your kids to their swimming lesson and sitting in a noisy swimming pool, relaxing with a book in your favourite cafe, or out for a nice walk with the dog - whatever you will be doing, make sure that you can hear your phone and will be available to take that call.
I've written this post because I'm in the middle of making all these preparations. I have a job interview on Thursday for a part-time post starting in September teaching Key Stage Two. I had applied for a couple of permanent and full-time posts, for which I wasn't short-listed (boo). But with all the issues with my health at the moment (which seem to be getting more rather than less complex), I think part-time or even Supply Teaching is probably the best option for me for the moment. I'll let you know how I get on.