Teach in the UK• 3 Min read

7th July 2021

How To Answer Difficult Interview Questions

Job interviews tend to take a similar format for many careers. The interview should give both the hiring manager and candidate the chance to find out if the role on offer is right for them. By it’s nature, you can expect to answer plenty of questions in an interview, but how you deal with the more difficult questions that might come up? We’ve covered some of the top tough questions that come up in teacher recruitment (and many other sectors!) and how you can craft a great answer that will help you land the role of your dreams.

Why did you leave your last role?

Often one of the first questions asked in an interview is often the hardest. There are many reasons you may be choosing to move on from your current role, from a lack of progression to personal differences in the staffroom, although some are obviously more interview friendly than others! It’s important not to lie, as your next employer will almost certainly require references from your previous one.  Location, culture and lack of training or mentoring opportunities are all good reasons to be seeking a new role. “I’m looking for a role with a lot more progression” is a great answer if you feel that the new role will offer more opportunities. You could also mention your Professional Development Plan and how a move fits in with it.

Always stay positive when talking about your previous employer!

Can you explain your recent employment gap?

If you have struggled to find work or have been out of work for a while, you can expect this to be asked in your interview. It might be that personal reasons such as looking after a family member has prevented you from working during the gap and that’s completely fine to say. If you’ve struggled to find work, your interviewer might wonder why. Emphasize any additional training or volunteer opportunities that you took during this time and be as honest as possible.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

You are probably more than aware of your strengths and should be able to reel off relevant attributes easily by the time you get to the interview stage. Weaknesses are harder – although we all know where our weaknesses lie, pointing them out doesn’t come naturally! A few years ago, the recommended advice was to spin your strengths into weaknesses – “I’m just SO organised, it’s a real pain!” It’s now generally accepted that it’s better to state a genuine weakness and how you are working to overcome it. Honesty, integrity and the ability to identify and improve upon your personal weaknesses are crucial skills for great teachers, so use the question as an opportunity to show your dedication to self-improvement. Keep it short and relevant, you don’t want to spend too much of your interview talking about things you need to improve on!

“I realised in my last placement that I could do with some additional behaviour management training, so I’ve been seeking out relevant CPD since I left the role”

“I’ve never taught a larger class before, but my experience working at St John’s has taught me a lot and I am really up for the challenge!”

Do you have any questions for us?

This question will come up in nearly every interview in every sector. It’s a final chance to show your enthusiasm for the role. If you’ve done research before your interview, it’s likely you’ll have some questions of your own anyway – don’t be shy about asking them! Your interviewer will be expecting you to have questions and to not have any shows a lack of preparation, or worse, interest. The best kinds of questions are ones that relate specifically to the role you’ll be fulfilling. You might ask what the immediate challenges are that you’ll need to address, or how the role is expected to change in the future.  You could ask what training opportunities they currently offer their staff or what their plans for growth and development over the next few years will be. It’s not just a chance to prove you are a great match, it’s the perfect way to find out more about the school that you might join, so don’t waste the opportunity!

Top tip: Prepare a list of questions beforehand and narrow them down if they get addressed during the interview!

More Top Tips!

  • Research as much as possible beforehand, at the very least you should know the school’s ethos and mission statement and a little bit about the area
  • Prepare key examples. Talk through your top achievements with a friend or colleague before your interview so you get comfortable discussing them – most people aren’t used to talking about themselves positively, so this practice can really help you seem relaxed in an interview
  • If you are thrown by a question, repeat it. This is a great tactic for buying yourself some extra time to think about your answer. Having a glass of water to sip works well too!
  • Team up with a great agency that will support you before, during and after your interview! We’re currently recruiting for great UK schools in 2022 and 2023.

Register Now For UK Teaching Opportunities In 2022

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