An interview is your chance to confirm in person that you've got the skills and experience to be a teacher. This makes preparing answers in advance especially important
You've secured an all-important teaching interview - congratulations. This means the school liked your application, and want to get to know more about you and your potential as a teacher.
What will you be asked? Questions 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
There's no such thing as a typical answer but structuring your responses using the STAR method will ensure you're getting your point across:
- Situation - give context for your story
- Task - what you were asked to do
- Activity - explain what you actually did
- Result - how well 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.
Personalise your answers. Do your research on the school and visit if you possibly can. Talk to anyone you know who works, trains or studies 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 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 give evidence that teaching is your first choice, not a plan B. Tell them about your motivation and aim to show your passion for teaching. Provide good examples from your time in school and the specific teaching elements that 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. Tell your interviewers why you're interested in their school, and what you know about their ethos, values, demographics, educational goals and objectives, initiatives, or extracurricular activities.
How will you manage challenges at work?
Interviewers will 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 a demanding situation, giving details of how you successfully managed the varying demands. 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 they are asking for and emphasise where you have it. Your interview is where you can give more evidence to support your CV and application. Use evidence from your teaching practice, work in school or observing in a school before your interview. Describe the school and reflect on your learning as well as what interested or surprised you. You can also talk about experience in other settings and with different age ranges than those you're applying to teach in such as nurseries, youth clubs or playschemes.
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. Key skills looked for in teaching interviews include:
- passion for teaching/the subject
- good communication and organisation
- critical thinking
- sense of humour
- ability to communicate new ideas and concepts
- liking young people.
Draw attention to your assets, however obvious some of the points on this list might seem, by giving great examples of when you have successfully demonstrated them.
What qualities do you have which would make you an effective teacher?
Reflect on a teacher you liked at school, university, or have worked with in the classroom. Analyse what qualities made them successful - these might include:
- subject knowledge
- a range of teaching methods
- an ability to hold the attention of the class
- encouraging children to think rather than being told.
Tell your interviewers about the qualities you have which they are looking for - this is not a time to be modest. Talk positively about yourself, think carefully about the words you would use here, for example -assertive rather than bossy, or calm rather than laid back. Talk about what you would bring to their school.
Safeguarding and equal opportunities
In any teaching interview there is always a question around 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 xyz?
Prepare by reading a safeguarding policy, preferably for the school you're applying to or you are at. In general, don't handle a safeguarding issue yourself but pass it on to the safeguarding officer in the school.
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?
With any of these, demonstrate that you understand the issues for yourself and outline the theory if you can with a successful example from your own experience. 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 was successful as well as how it may have gone better. Be prepared with some suggestions of what you would change with hindsight.
Acknowledge that you have just met the pupils and probably don’t know them very well. Before the lesson, ask if you can have a seating plan or list of the pupils' names. Consider the progress of individuals in the lesson and try to remember some of their names if you can, giving the panel some suggestions of what your follow up would be.
If I walked into your classroom during an outstanding lesson, what would I see and hear?
Give a full list as they may have a checklist to see how much you mention. Demonstrate your passion for high-quality teaching, but limit your response to two minutes. Your answer will help interviewers see how you would deliver an outstanding lesson in their school. If you have a portfolio with you, show any examples of children's learning and positive feedback you have received. You could take certificates, resources you have made, examples of lessons, things which will help you remember what you have done which is outstanding.
Tell us about a behaviour management strategy you have used to help engage an individual learner or group.
You could talk about how you have successfully handled a disruptive pupil or student. Give an example of a situation where a strategy you used has been effective in the classroom. Think about the behaviour management strategies you have come across or heard about and talk about what you have seen to be effective.
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?
- What effect did your actions have on the situation?
- What would you 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 can utilise to enhance education 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, or a news report, or something you have heard about in your training. Often this may be something which is putting pressure on teachers at the moment. Keep up to date with at least one issue which 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 and genuine - interviewers will be able to spot a textbook answer. Relax and be yourself.
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 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.
Find out more
- Find out how to prepare with our interview tips.
- Read up on current educational issues.
- Optimise your application by preparing for your professional skills tests.