With any job interview, it can be tricky to learn everything you need to know about a candidate in a short amount of time. This article will explore the most common and effective teacher interview questions, and considerations for how candidates might answer them, to ensure a successful interview process.
When schools are interviewing potential applicants for teaching vacancies, not only are they looking to ensure that they meet the Safer Recruitment guidelines to protect and safeguard children, but they will be looking to see the impact their potential new hire will have on the futures of students through their teaching.
When choosing questions to ask at interview, schools will be considering the contents of the teacher’s application form, and any candidate should be prepared to elaborate on the contents of their application, with real-world, tangible examples.
Soft skills are essential for teachers – to be successful in their role, they need to be engaging, informative and knowledgeable, and communicating these skills at interview is crucial.
Here are seven of the most effective interview questions employers can ask.
1. Why did you decide to become a teacher?
Employer: This is a very important opening question. It provides you with the chance to understand the applicant’s motivation for teaching and whether they are dedicated to the role. Teaching can be a very demanding job, so you’ll want to assess whether applicants have the passion and commitment to teach well. Teachers can be incredibly influential, so this question will help you to understand their dedication and philosophy toward teaching.
Candidate: Interviewees need to take a personal approach to this question. It’s recommended to discuss your motivation, while providing good examples from your time in previous teaching roles. The hiring manager wants to know you are dedicated to enriching the lives of pupils and students, so honest answers will help paint a clear picture of your journey to becoming a teacher.
2. What is your teaching style?
Employer: Inquiring about an applicant’s teaching style (known as their pedagogy) in an interview will help you understand whether their teaching style is a good fit for your school, matches your ambitions, and if it can provide proven results. You’ll also want to gauge if an applicant’s answer portrays a teaching style that engages, energises, and empowers your students.
Candidate: This question can be difficult to define and answer. You’ll do best to be honest about your style and mindset when teaching, drawing upon examples of lessons to demonstrate your abilities. Interviewers want to know how you support students inside and outside the classroom. You’ll need to demonstrate your flexibility and ability to differentiate to meet the needs and learning styles of your students – it's about being adaptable.
3. Tell me about a time you’ve dealt with a difficult parent/child/colleague.
Employer: Dealing with adversity can be tough in all professions, none more so than teaching as it can come from multiple sources: fellow teachers, parents and the students themselves. The best candidates will use the STAR method. This involves describing the situation, task, action and result – allowing you to gain clear examples. This question will help you to understand how a candidate responds to difficult situations and if their methods match your expectations.
Candidate: Hirers want to hear that you're aware of the challenges in your teaching role, or teacher training if you’re newly qualified – and that you have the desire and ability to cope. Describing how you successfully managed a difficult situation to a positive outcome, with relevant examples, can go a long way to ensuring that the interviewer understands how you react when faced with a problem. All situations are different, so make sure you highlight the ones that required a calm and authoritative presence to rectify.
4. How do you assess students’ progress?
Employer: Data analytical skills are vital to determining grades and other indicators of progress as classroom technology advances. Being able to create a strong learning environment is imperative – and comes down to being able to assess the progress of students and react accordingly. This question allows you to learn more about an applicant’s process for monitoring, tracking and acting upon students’ academic and developmental progress.
Candidate: This question gives interviewees the opportunity to discuss lesson plans and promote the methods for managing students’ development and progress. Consider using previous examples, explaining the type of activities and assessments you put in place to analyse students’ strengths and weaknesses throughout the academic year and beyond. Give insight into how you use reports, projects, and group work to determine what's needed to allow students to succeed, both in the classroom and in their end results.
5. How do you encourage parents to support their children’s education?
Employer: Getting parents to be active in their child’s school can be difficult, but it’s an important part of a student’s educational growth. Asking this question allows you to gain an understanding of a candidate’s methods for engaging parents in schoolwork. Encourage applicants to share their best practice examples and outline what the end results were, while explaining the reasoning behind their methods.
Candidate: The teacher-parent connection is imperative but can be difficult to navigate. Interviewees are encouraged to answer this question with examples where possible. It’s important to be empathetic to the situation and understand the parent’s motivations. Interviewees should consider mentioning techniques such as maintaining regular contact with parents, providing useful updates on both positive and negative events, and helping parents with resources that can be used at home.
6. Could you tell me about one of your biggest successes in teaching?
Employer: Encouraging applicants to mention their past successes will help you further understand their motivation and what they hold in high value. This question will give a clear indication of what success looks like for an applicant and how relevant it can be to your team’s needs. Look out for answers that solved a problem or clarify the outcome – did it help the school grow? Did it help a student overcome difficulties? Are there demonstrable results?
Candidate: This question provides an interviewee with the opportunity to share details of how they’ve helped students or schools succeed. This could be examples of where you have helped a particular student, or a whole class, but it is important to talk about tangible outcomes. Talk about how the success helped you reflect and grow as a teacher and a person. If you’re in teacher training, you can still talk about past successes – from a recent placement or when studying at university. This is your chance to sell your achievements so far.
7. What is a teacher’s responsibility in keeping children safe?
Employer: Anybody who works in an education setting has a duty to protect the welfare of children who attend, and so teachers should expect schools to ask this question. In any teacher interview, there should be a question surrounding safeguarding and duty of care to vulnerable people. This line of questioning will reveal whether an applicant possesses the necessary safeguarding knowledge, and if they know how to identify, recognise and act upon any concerns, and also alert the school to any possible concerns with the applicant.
Candidate: Interviewees should prepare for this question by understanding up-to-date safeguarding policy – preferably that of the school to which you're applying. Approach any safeguarding questions by demonstrating that you understand the issue at hand, have a firm grasp of the responsibilities of a teacher and know how to act if any issues arise. It’s important to also note your most recent training dates, and any additional responsibilities that you have held, such as pastoral lead or safeguarding lead roles.
No interview is the same – but one thing interviewers should be interested in is how interviewees present themselves and the way they answer the questions. Answers should be sufficiently detailed to show clear understanding and should include examples when possible. Applicants are encouraged to think before giving a well-constructed answer, while being unafraid to ask for clarification if the question is unclear.
Within the education sector, the interview process is most effective as a two-way street, as teachers are also assessing whether a particular school is the right one for them. As such, throughout the recruitment process, it’s important for the school to be inviting, and to ensure that they give teachers plenty of opportunity to ask questions of them too.