Practical tips for helping colleagues with their interview technique, plus a look at the TDA’s School Improvement and Planning Framework

Quote of the Week

“It is easier to appear worthy of a position one does not hold, than of the office which one fills.”

− François de La Rochefoucauld

Practical Tips

Giving a polished performance in interviews

As a professional learning leader you may have been asked by colleagues to support their career development, from sourcing additional training to going for promotions − both within and outside your school. You may also be involved in supporting colleagues through preparation for promotions, including mock interviews and general interview advice.

We’re fast approaching the time of year when many interviews will be taking place. Performing well in this most unnatural of situations has little to do with your skills, talents and aptitudes for the job in question. It has far more to do with your ability to represent yourself accurately (your better side at least!), think on your feet and work out what it is that the interview panel wants to hear.

Having sat through many interviews across a variety of educational settings it is increasingly clear to me that interview skills have little connection with ability in general, and that the greatest talent an interviewer needs is that which allows him or her to discern what isn’t being said as much as what is. This will lead to deeper and more perceptive questioning which should in turn lead to the selection of the right candidate for the job!

For those colleagues who may be seeking development and promotion within or beyond your school, here are some tips for successful interviews, which you may want to pass on:

  • Focusing on appearance before the interview will raise confidence and help you to concentrate on the questions rather than worry about how you look. Choose your outfit carefully − for example, linen is a great summer fabric and might look fresh when first put on, but you could end up looking a crumpled heap by the time you reach the interview. Candidates at all levels of the career ladder make sartorial errors − in some cases, experience counts for nothing! If in doubt, go for a smart, pressed look with a minimum of fuss in terms of bright colours and accessories (men, I’m talking ties and socks here!).
  • Try to anticipate the kinds of questions that will be asked. This means having a good understanding of the job in question and the needs of the school.
  • Answer the questions asked. This sounds ridiculously obvious but frequently the answers don’t relate specifically enough to the question asked.
  • It’s a cliché, but interview candidates need to think ‘outside the box’. There are key questions that are generally very poorly answered. For example: What can you bring to this job? Pitch answers with the right blend of evidence from experience and idealism. This is the time to feature unique selling points! Aim to take the question forward in the answer too. This will show that you can see solutions from a range of angles.
  • Some interview panels will want to ask about a candidate’s perceived ‘weaknesses’. It used to be the case that interviewers were looking for the ‘positive spin’ kind of answer. Now, however, the emphasis is much more on the realistic approach. We all have areas for development and potential employers need to know that candidates are ready and willing to do some self-analysis and respond as necessary. Whenever asked to talk about ‘weaknesses’, do it in terms of your improvements and progress to date. Be genuine and you’re more likely to succeed. This kind of question is far more about future development plans than it is about past failure or weakness.

Mock interviews can help in many ways. They get colleagues used to talking to each other in professional dialogues as well as being effective preparation for the real thing. As a professional learning leader it may well be that you’re in an excellent position to match up colleagues for this purpose.

Find out more

See blogger Mrs O’C’s top links and tips for interview preparation click here.

Issues and Information

School improvement planning framework

The Training and Development Agency for Schools has devised a school improvement planning framework that ‘puts the child at the heart of your school improvement plan’. The pilot of the framework had very positive results, showing increased pupil achievement as well as savings in time.

The framework helps to enable schools to:

  • Improve the Every Child Matters outcomes
  • Raise standards of achievement
  • Demonstrate impact and maximize its potential

There are some key factors which help this framework to stand out, including those highlighted below:

  • The tools are accessible, adaptable and can be easily built into existing school improvement activities.
  • Schools can tailor the tools to fit their own circumstances.
  • The tools make it possible to engage staff, parents, pupils and the wider community in a meaningful way from the outset.
  • The framework enables schools to monitor and measure the impact of their planning activities on pupils.

To find out more or to order your copy click here

This e-bulletin issue was first published in March 2008

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.