Teaching interview questions

Rachel Swain, Editorial manager
December, 2023

The key to a successful teaching interview is good preparation - discover the questions you could be asked and how to approach them

If you've secured an interview, this means your chosen school wants to know more about you - and your potential as a teacher. A teaching interview is your opportunity to demonstrate that you've got the knowledge, skills and experience to become a teacher.

The questions you'll be asked vary between schools, but there are some common themes in teaching interviews - whether you're interviewing for a place on a PGCE course, with School Direct, another teacher training route, or your first teaching post.

Read on for some common interview questions and guidelines for finding your own answers.

Tips for answering interview questions

Structuring your responses to interview questions using the STAR method will ensure you're getting your point across:

  • Situation - give context for your anecdote
  • Task - explain what you were asked to do
  • Activity - describe what you did
  • Result - explain how the situation played out.

Keep your answers concise. Describe your maximum achievement in the minimum time, and be sure to finish on a positive note so your interviewers are left with a strong overall impression of you.

You need to personalise your answers to the school, so make sure you do some research and also try to visit them in person. Talk to people who work, train or study there, and find out what you can online about their curriculum, academics, recent Ofsted report, catchment area and specialisms.

Mention at least some of your findings in your answers to show your genuine enthusiasm in them as a school or organisation. This will help your answers to stand out.

Ask someone you know to give you a mock interview as practice, such as a friend, tutor, teacher or careers adviser.

Why do you want to be a teacher?

You need to demonstrate that teaching is your first choice, not a plan B. Talk about your motivation and emphasise your passion for teaching. Provide good examples from your time in school and the specific teaching elements you find satisfying. Avoid broad responses such as 'I have always wanted to be a teacher'.

Why do you want to work in our school?

Often one of the first questions in most teaching interviews, preparation is vital to successfully answer this question. Think about why you would be a good fit to work or study in the school you're interviewing at. Talk about why you're interested in their school specifically, mentioning what you know about its ethos, values, demographics, educational goals and objectives, initiatives, or extra-curricular activities.

How will you manage challenges at work?

Interviewers want to hear that you're aware of the challenges in your PGCE, teacher training or NQT year and have the stamina and dedication to cope. Perhaps describe how you successfully managed a demanding situation. This could be your experience of studying and working at the same time - experience of preparing lessons and managing a teaching caseload would be especially relevant.

What experience do you have in schools?

Look beforehand at the experience the school is asking for and emphasise where you have gained it. Your interview is where you can give more evidence to support your CV and application. Draw on your past experience of working or observing in a school. Describe the school and reflect on what you learned, as well as what most interested or surprised you. Experience in other settings and with different age ranges than those you're applying to teach in, such as nurseries, youth clubs or play schemes, is also relevant.

What are the core skills and qualities that pupils look for in teachers?

Match the skills you have with those you know the school are looking for, as outlined in the job description or person specification. Sought after key skills in teaching interviews include:

  • passion for teaching/the subject
  • good communication and organisation
  • critical thinking
  • patience
  • sense of humour
  • ability to communicate new ideas and concepts
  • liking young people.

It's not enough to simply say you have the skills; you need to provide examples of when you've successfully demonstrated them.

What qualities do you have that would make you an effective teacher?

Reflect on a teacher you liked at school, university, or have worked with in the classroom. Analyse the qualities that made them successful - these might include:

  • enthusiasm
  • pace
  • resilience
  • subject knowledge
  • a range of teaching methods
  • an ability to hold the attention of the class
  • empathy
  • encouraging children to think rather than being told.

Tell your interviewers about the qualities you have which they're looking for. This isn't the time to be modest - talk positively about your achievements, thinking carefully about the words you use. For example, use the term assertive as opposed to bossy, or calm instead of laid-back.

Focus on what you'll bring to their school and how your skills will benefit them.

Safeguarding and equal opportunities

In any teaching interview there is a question about safeguarding, which may take the form of any of the following:

  • What is a teacher's responsibility in keeping children safe?
  • Tell us how you dealt with a safeguarding issue in school.
  • What would you do if a child disclosed a personal issue?

Prepare for this by reading a safeguarding policy - preferably for the school you're applying to or the school you're at.

You're also likely to be asked a question about equal opportunities, such as:

  • What does the term 'equal opportunities' mean to you?
  • How would you approach teaching a class of mixed-ability pupils?
  • What is your motivation for working in special education?

Approach any of these by demonstrating that you understand the issue at hand. Be honest - if you haven't been in that situation say so, but talk about what you would do if you were.

How would you evaluate [the lesson you just taught] and what you would do differently next time?

This is a crucial question. Don't just describe the lesson - talk about what could have gone better, as well as what was successful. Be prepared with some suggestions of what you would change with hindsight.

Acknowledge that you probably don't know the pupils very well. By asking if you can have a seating plan or list of the pupils' names before the lesson, you'll impress your assessors. Consider the progress of individuals in the lesson, remember some of their names if you can and give the panel some suggestions of what your follow-up lesson would be.

If I walked into your classroom during an outstanding lesson, what would I see and hear?

Give a full list, as your interviewer may have a checklist to see how much you mention. Demonstrate your passion for high-quality teaching but limit your response time to two minutes.

If you have a portfolio with you, show any examples of children's learning and positive feedback you've received. You could take certificates, resources you have made and/or examples of lessons - these are all things that will help you remember outstanding things you've done.

Tell us about a behaviour management strategy you have used to help engage an individual learner or group.

You could talk about how you've successfully handled a disruptive pupil or student. Give an example of a situation where a strategy you used has been effective in the classroom. Talk about the effective behaviour management strategies you've come across or heard about.

Give an example of when you have improved teaching and learning in the classroom and how you knew you had been successful.

Think of evidence before the interview so you are prepared with clear examples of success. Consider taking a few examples of your work, maybe feedback from others or data around student improvement. Don't be shy when talking about where you have improved teaching and learning, as this is something your interviewers really want to know about.

Can you give an example of when a pupil refused to cooperate in class?

This is likely to entail some follow up questions:

  • What did you do?
  • How did your actions affect the situation?
  • What would you do differently next time?

Your interviewers want to get a sense of you as a teaching professional. This could be where you mention good working relationships with parents and carers, school policies, working together as a staff team or your behaviour management strategies. Be prepared with a good example of where you have made a difference and any successful results.

Why should we appoint you?/What would we be missing out on by not appointing you?

A related question is 'what are you bringing to the role of a teacher?'

Don't be modest in putting across your strong points during the interview. You might start with, 'As you can see from my application…' and then lead into a quick rundown of your qualifications and relevant experience. If you haven't already, present your strengths and how you'll utilise them to enhance the quality of teaching in their school.

What are some of the current issues in education?

Be ready with a few specific examples of topics you have heard about recently. Consider how they impact teaching and learning, always using examples from your experience where you can. You could refer to a discussion in the staff room, a news report or something you have heard about in your training. Often this may be something that is putting pressure on teachers at the moment. Keep up to date with at least one issue that relates to your subject or age group.

You may then be asked a follow-up question around your opinion on this topic. Discuss how this would impact teaching and learning and, if at all possible, illustrate your point with examples from your recent experience. This might lead to additional questions specific to your personal statement or application, designed to give selectors a sense of you as an individual. Your answers should be authentic - interviewers will easily spot a textbook answer. Relax and be yourself.

Learn more about current educational issues.

Finally, is there anything you'd like to ask us?

This would be a good time to find out about the school's induction process, if it hasn't yet been mentioned - this is particularly important if you are an NQT. Who will mentor and support you?

Prepare a couple of questions to ask at the end of the interview. Some of the best types of questions focus on processes in the school, such as:

  • How is PSHE delivered?
  • What is your vision for the future of the school?
  • What key developments do you have planned?

With some advance planning, preparing and practicing of your answers, you'll be able to handle yourself confidently. Think clearly and leave the interview knowing you've told them all they need to know.

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