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Interviews for permanent posts

In part two of her job hunting feature, Elizabeth Platfoot discusses preparing for interviews and reflects on her probationary year.

Primary Teacher, Balgreen Primary School, Edinburgh

(Read the first part of this feature, Finding a permanent post.)

Although I'd planned for every eventuality, when it came to job applications, I was lucky to get an interview for the first job I'd applied for.  That was when the real work kicked in.

Preparing

To prepare, I asked everyone that had recently attended an interview for examples of questions they'd been asked, also asking the school's Senior Management Team for advice.

I prepared my answers to each question and got various "critical" friends to check these for me. You could also ask these "critical" friends to give you mock interviews to prepare you for that scary experience.

I set about researching the school for a second time using their website. Find out what you can bring to the school. Perhaps you can add to existing expertise or bring new talents that the school requires.

Look at what's important to the school, their ethos for example, and see how you can fit in with this. Ensure your knowledge of A Curriculum for Excellence and Assessment is for Learning is up-to-date, you never know what you might be asked!

I also compiled a small folder of:

  • placement profiles
  • feedback from this year's observations
  • forward plans
  • pictures of my classroom displays

This went down very well at my interview as it showed that I was prepared and enthusiastic.

Although you should only ask one question at the end of an interview, I created a small list which I memorised so that I would always have one question up my sleeve which they would not have already answered.

Appearance is everything

Teaching has come a long way in recent years but a scary fact is that many people will still judge your suitability for a job by the shininess of your shoes! So dress to impress, a suit is a must.

Ladies, it doesn't matter if it's a skirt or trouser suit, just don't make the skirt too short! Also, classic make-up, manicured nails and tasteful jewellery will also look good.

Gents, wear that good silk tie and don't forget the polished shoes!

The interview

I arrived for my interview 15 minutes early so I could suss out my surroundings and take a short walk. This gave me a chance to calm down, gather my thoughts and breathe! I then walked through the school's door ten minutes early which is a pretty respectable time to arrive.

In the interview you really have to follow the etiquette set by the interview panel. This is also where you have to be yourself.

Although you'll have a rough idea of how you want to answer each question, don't give standard rehearsed answers, instead show you're original and can think on the spot.

When I was given my interview feedback, my interviewer stated that they gave me the job because they felt that they got to know the "real me". They told me that I "danced" in my seat. I waved my arms about and basically did everything that you're not meant to do!

They liked it as they felt that they saw my true teaching style in the interview and were not given "boring" standard answers. As a young, new teacher the main thing that the panel are looking for is enthusiasm, if that comes across in your interview then you're half way there.

Reflection

It can be hard when you near the end of your probationary year.

I feel very settled in my school and it'll be difficult to leave all my friends and my class behind. I've experienced the most fantastic learning curve and I've been challenged in every way. However, it's lovely to know that I'll be starting out next year as a "real, proper teacher" with a permanent job.

I'm confident about my next teaching post as I've been so well supported this year. My mentor has pushed me to achieve every goal and has always been there for me when things have been tough.

Finding a job is mentally and physically exhausting. It can be very stressful and you will have to warn your friends that you'll turn into a rather crazy person over this time! But the feeling of elation you get when you secure that post makes it all worthwhile and gives you the confidence to face your next challenge. The adventure's only just begun.