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Getting ready for any interview can be a daunting task and demands that you allocate enough time to prepare. So, where do you start, what are they likely to expect from you, and how should you craft strong examples to use in answer interview questions for a Head Teacher role? Additionally, how can you answer more direct questions about your motivation for teaching, and leadership and management style?

The starting point must be a thorough review and dissemination of the job description and person specification if there is one. It is also useful to review the job advertisement, as this will often provide a succinct summary of why and how the role has come about and some key opportunities and challenges facing the school or college. We work with many clients each year who are applying to SLT roles in schools and universities, and we know that the behaviours detailed in this article are typical of those assessed at senior level. Although not exhaustive, it will at very least provide an essential checklist as you analyse the Job description.

Having identified the relevant competencies from the Job specification, the next stage is to craft strong examples from your career that demonstrate each required behaviour, typically in the STAR format, which is a simple and recognised structure for delivering answers at an interview. The reason for using the STAR format is that it allows you to logically move through each stage of your example and present it in a clear and concise manner. This includes a brief and to the point outline of the Situation and Task at hand, with the main body and focus of the answer being on your Actions and HOW you achieved the task. The STAR format also demands a brief synopsis or Reflection, to conclude the example.

Before you start work on your competency examples it helps also to be clear on how you will approach any opening questions. Opening questions seek to understand your motivation and knowledge and usually provide you with an opportunity to deliver your personal sales pitch. If your personal sales pitch is strong then you should feel naturally confident in demonstrating why you are an excellent candidate for the role. Broadly speaking, the opening pitch is a summary of your academic accomplishments, followed by a walk-through the relevant achievements from your career which show that you are a prominent contender for the role, and demonstrate why this is a natural next career step for you.

Note that most schools and colleges will also be proud of their values, and you must be clear on what these are, how they are currently put into practice and how they resonate with you own values.

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Example Opening Questions:

How has you career path in education led you to apply for this position?

  • What have you done which provides evidence that you have planned your career progression?
  • Demonstrate that you are motivated and enthused by this school/college and that you fully understand both their challenges and opportunities.

What core skills and experience will you bring to this role that will help the school deliver against its key objectives and how will you set your priorities and objectives to make a positive impact from the start?

  • You will need to have sight of the school’s development plan, if possible, from which you can identify the key strategic intentions. You will need to appreciate all constraints and risks facing the school and particularly to understand its financial health.
  • You must demonstrate that you will ensure optimal delivery of day-to-day business as usual whilst thinking and planning your longer-term strategy. This strategy will take time and necessitate research whilst listening to those around you, for instance The SMT, your staff colleagues and the Board.

Once you have completed this important groundwork it is time to practice your competency examples against some typical example questions for Senior Department Head and Head Teacher roles, which are listed are below.

Competence 1: Collaboration & Teamwork

  • When considering the stakeholder groups that you will be working with, for example the Board, can you tell us what a strong working relationship should look like and how you will ensure that this happens?
  • How will you ensure that there is a collegiate approach and an effective team spirit? What methods will you use to build and strengthen relations?
  • When have you worked effectively with a senior team to deliver a robust school development plan?

Competence 2: Communication

  • How will you develop and build strong communication with parents to fully engage them in school activities?
  • When have you represented your school on a wider stage?
  • When have you effectively used a variety of communication methods to address a wide audience?
  • How will you ensure that your colleagues and the wider team are clear on the vision and objectives for the school?
  • What is you approach to ‘pupil voice’?

Competence 3: Leadership & Pastoral Care

  • What is your leadership style?
  • How are you going to develop a culture where teaching excellence prevails?
  • Can you give us an example of when you had to deal with poor performance?
  • What should a safe school look like?
  • What does good governance mean and how is it achieved?

Competence 4: Decision Making

  • When have you had to make a decision when all the relevant facts were not available?
  • What kinds of decisions are you responsible for in your current role?
  • When have you made a decision and realised it was the wrong one? What action did you take?

Competence 5: Self & Staff Development

  • How do you ensure that you remain abreast of the major issues impacting schools and colleges?
  • What have you done to help your colleagues develop their professional skills?
  • When have you identified an opportunity to help a colleague who was failing?

With all your answers you will need to demonstrate that you are highly organised and that you continuously seek ways to improve the efficient running of the school.

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Your time is precious, and so is that of the candidates that you are interviewing. Knowing what type of interview questions to ask interviewees is important. You want to spend enough time on the interview process that you select the right candidate, however you do not want to waste time by asking questions that either do not add value or, even worse, which confuse or mislead. Interview Skills Clinic run in-house Interviewer Training Courses to help your Hiring Managers interview more effectively.

Research has shown that the less structured an interview is, the more likely it is the interviewer will go ‘off piste,’ with the resultant risk that this supposedly objective exercise either descends into a cosy chat with no real insight gained into the candidate’s skills or motivation, or that it will become an interrogation leading to defensive answers. Without a structured approach, the interviewer is more likely to exhibit bias and offer the position to someone who shares their own attitudes, values, and speech patterns; someone that they would like to have a drink with.

The more structured and linear the interview process is for each candidate, the less likely that conscious or unconscious bias can creep into the process, and the less risk of a successful appeal against the verdict, or even a claim for discrimination. An example of an organisation that runs a highly structured interview service is the UK Civil Service. The Civil Service has a statutory duty to represent and reflect the society that it serves and, precisely for this fact, has a rigorous and egalitarian recruitment process designed to assess candidates solely on their relevant skills and experience, and to eliminate bias.

Book Free Consultation to learn more about our Interviewer Training Courses and cost options.


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