Schoolzone: Preparing for interview

Preparing for interview

Once you get the call for selection, congratulations! You have reached first base. You should take heart that your CV, letter and application form have made the cut whereas a good number have not.

There is still a long way to go, however, before you clear out your pigeonhole. Here are a number of ideas that can give you the edge before the big day.

The first point to make is that round two of this selection process will take time. You probably put quite a bit in just filling in the application papers, but the truth is you need to put in some more if you want to give yourself the best chance of winning this job.

Take a tour
If you haven't already, now is the time to visit the school before the day of the interview. If the official papers do not make this an open invitation, try ringing the secretary. It should be easier to arrange a tour now you are an interview candidate.

Do not make the trip too long, but prepare yourself well and take every opportunity to make a good impression. In other words be pleasant, interested, confident, knowledgeable, meagre to offer your own opinions and enthusiastic.

Study background material
You now have more time to gather background material to give you a more detailed picture of the school. Apart from the obvious website research, check recent OFSTED reports, school newsletters (probably on the website) and the like to give you angles to compose questions and prepare suitable responses in time for selection day.

Know your application
They like your letter, CV and application form. That's why you were shortlisted. Read these documents again and get to know your own story. Use the main arguments for your candidature as a framework. Around this framework you can blend in additional knowledge and ideas to make it even more compelling and appealing.

Interview practice
In all probability you'll dislike this intensely, but it's very good to find someone (preferably a senior colleague with interview experience) to give you a mock interview. Insist upon frank and honest feedback. Afterwards, make the necessary changes and ask for a repeat performance. You would be surprised how many people practice interview even though their last performance was years ago.

Clothes and cleanliness
Interviewing is all about impressions. That may not always be fair but you want nothing to count against you. So, ensure the simple things are right. Get a haircut if it looks unkempt. Get your best suit or outfit dry cleaned and make sure it fits you. Shine your shoes. Use anti-perspirant and invest in a small pack of breath fresheners. Buy a pack of the most expensive razors. In short, make sure you look the part.

Summarise your beliefs and values
How do you prepare for the inevitable interview? One systematic way is to make a list of topics that could legitimately be the subject of questioning - assessment, careers, special needs, classroom observation and so on. Then try to think of three points that could make up your response and write them down in bullet-point style. This then provides you with two or three sides of A4 that can be learned by rote. Try asking a friend to test you on each topic.

Planning the journey
This part may be irrelevant if the school is round the corner, but assuming it is not then you have two choices. On the eve of selection day you may wish to spend it at home making finishing touches to your preparations. In that case you should very carefully note the location of the school and make a realistic appraisal of the time required to make the journey in rush hour traffic. The last thing you want to do is be late on such occasions.The other alternative is to travel down the night before and stay in a bed and breakfast. This is often the best option because travel times are considerably reduced at night and you awake refreshed without having to beat the clock on the outward journey. Most schools will reimburse your expenses anyway.

Packing your bags
You don't want to be scrambling around on selection day for reprographics materials when you need to have all of your wits about you. If you are making a presentation it pays to have slides printed beforehand in case of technology failure.

If you don't know the title in a two-day selection programme then you need to take a lap-top with PowerPoint loaded. Take a printer too so that you are self-sufficient in your hotel room.


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