So, we should probably start this with a disclaimer to say that we are not professional career coaches by any stretch of the imagination, but, we’ve received a lot of interest in this particular topic over on our Snapchat so we’ve gone ahead and put together a blog post for you, which we think will help prepare you for interview.
We’ve put “Teacher” in the title but these guidelines essentially apply to any job (just replace the word “school” with “company”).
Before you apply to any job, you should do your research into the role, the type of contract, number of hours, the school itself, etc. So many people apply for everything and anything, and it’s only when they are called for interview, that they really look into things properly.
Check their website. What is the schools ethos? Is it a DEIS school? Does the school use textbooks / solely iPads? Do you have any contacts in the school already?, etc.
Cover Letter & CV:
Your cover letter (letter of application) and CV is the first thing a potential employer will see and it is often the difference between you being shortlisted for interview or not. There is no excuse to have typo’s or grammatical errors here. This is not something you’re going to want to rush and by all means, get a second opinion if needed, hand it over for proof-reading to someone good at English, compare with friends, do whatever you need to do.
Make sure all the key information is there and is easy to find, such as contact details, your qualifications, subjects taught, teaching council registration and garda vetting.
When it comes to layout, there are many ways to format a CV and often depends on the job. Creative jobs lend themselves to more creative CV’s. Teaching positions generally require a traditional CV, however don’t be afraid to use a modern format to demonstrate your IT skills. The obvious rule here is to be consistent in terms of heading size, font, etc. no matter what format you go for. Stick to 1 page for your cover letter and 2-3 pages for your CV. Make sure your referee’s know that you’ve listed them and are currently job-hunting, so they are prepared to receive a phone-call.
If you’re fortunate enough to be shortlisted for interview, you’re CV will then often be used as a road map for questioning. Be ready and able to talk through everything on there. Try to get your highlights / strengths across on your CV and be prepared to elaborate on these points if the opportunity arises.
Take the time to prepare. A few days before the interview, write down a list of questions and rehearse your answers out loud, in front of a mirror. Speaking out loud will help you to fine tune your answers and by doing so in a mirror, you can also gauge your body language and visualise how you come across. It will get you into the “interview mind-frame”.
You can’t learn everything off by heart, because you can’t predict the exact questions you will be asked, however, you should be able to formulate appropriate answers around what you have already researched and practiced. You will likely be asked to give solutions to hypothetical situations, such a misbehaving student, a mixed-ability class, an irate parent, etc. Have real-life examples prepared for this type of question and how you overcame the problem. (You could discuss how you are proactive in preventing problems like these in the first place and ways in which you deal with challenges should they arise.)
Dress appropriately. Wear something that you feel confident in, which is also smart and business like. Look your best, feel your best! (I was once told that navy and baby blue is a winning combo due to these colours being associated with “safety”, such as nurse and garda uniforms. Interesting!!) Wear comfortable shoes that you can walk in. Tie your hair up if you’re inclined to fidget when your nervous. Don’t go overboard with make-up. You can let your creativity flow after you’ve got the job.
Have something to eat before you leave. Interviews can be awkward enough without tummy rumbles. Bring bottled water with you if you like.
Know where you are going. Arriving late is a big no-no. Plan your journey in advance and give yourself more than enough time to get to your location. Be there 15-30 minutes ahead of schedule. When you arrive, identify yourself to the receptionist and what you are there for. Go to the bathroom if you want to check your appearance and calm your nerves.
During the interview itself:
Be confident in yourself and your abilities. You would not be in the interview if you were not qualified for the job.
Body language and demeanor are very important in creating a first impression. Practice shaking hands, smiling, greeting people, introducing yourself, etc. with a family member if this is something you are nervous about. In the interview, sit with good posture, lean forward slightly to demonstrate you are interested in what they are saying and are listening, nod if you are in agreement with them. Don’t forget to smile! The interview panel are normal people and want to see your personality shine a little bit as well, as they will often be looking for someone who will be a good fit with their current staff profile.
When asked a question reflect on it momentarily before you answer, take a deep breath if you need. YOU HAVE GOT THIS. You’ve done your prep and you are ready to nail it. If you don’t understand the question, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. This should help you to avoid waffling. Be familiar with the current “buzz words“ in education/your subject area and use them. Engage in a professional dialogue. This is not just a regular chat, and don’t be fooled into thinking that it is, just because you have a particularly friendly panel in front of you. Speak like a professional. This is where rehearsal is key.
Be honest about extra-curricular talents. Not everyone can be good at coaching sports or playing music. Your particular talents might be something which is more unique to the school, and this is not a bad thing. You like to animate your own Comic Books? Set up a Comic Books club! Just be sure to have ideas in mind or examples of extracurricular work you’ve been involved in. You want to illustrate how you will become part of the wider school community. Perhaps you could say something along the lines of “I see from your website that you have an annual school musical, I love helping out with costume design and theatrical makeup” or “I love planning and organising events and celebrating special occasions, so I’d really like to be part of the social committee”.
Be up to speed on incoming curriculum changes, be a member of your subject’s association, listen to the news, follow the education minister on twitter. JUST IN CASE. You don’t want someone on the panel trying to have banter with you about something happening in Irish education and you’ve no idea what they are talking about!!
If there is something that you feel you didn’t get a chance to say, don’t get hung up about it during the interview, as it can distract you from the question at hand. If there is something you want to say or want to clarify something you’ve said, leave it until the end of the interview.
Finally, always thank the interview panel for their time.
Post – Interview:
If you get the job, fantastic!!
If not, rejection is never a nice feeling, but you have to look at every interview as an experience which you can learn from. If the school is somewhere you would still love to work some day, don’t be afraid to ask for constructive feedback and to express your interest in being considered for future opportunities.
Good luck & lots of love,
The Shee Side Xx
Featured image from http://www.mycutegraphics.com