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Your Career• 3 Min read

8th December 2019

Head of Department Interview Questions

How to prepare answers for head of department interview questions

To help you prepare for the interview, run through commonly asked interview questions for a head of department and work out some answers. After you have completed your own answers, spend some time reflecting upon them. In the interview, you can alter the answers as required to meet the exact question you are being asked. 

It also helps to learn what qualities and skills the interviewer will be looking for, so that you can think about how you meet them. Although each head of department position will be different, there are common qualities and skills which the interviewer will be looking for. Prepare for this by thinking of some examples of how you are proficient in the following: expertise in your teaching subject, teaching skills, using assessment data, student care, organisation and people management. Be alert for suitable moments during the interview to appropriately tie in any examples of these themes. 

Attending an interview is daunting enough, but when you’re up for your school’s Head of Department role, or – even worse – interviewing at a new school for a Head of Department role, teachers will quite rightfully find themselves nervous. As with many things, interview fear is often just fear of the unknown, so we’re here with a few sample Head of Department role interview questions that you can practice before the big day.

1. If you got the role, what would you bring to the department after a week, a term, or a year?

This is your chance to get innovative. Very few schools want “more of the same” from their new department heads, so come up with a few changes you’d like to see implemented, and be ready to explain how you would bring them to fruition.

2. Describe a time something didn’t go as planned. What did you learn, and how would you address it next time?

Reflection is an important part of being a teacher, and here your interviewer is looking for evidence of your reflection practices. Every educator has scenarios they remember that went terribly, or where they made a mistake. Share that experience here, and make sure to communicate how you would do things differently if faced with the same scenario again.

3. Being a Head of Department is a job that demands high organisational skills. How do you manage to keep on top of your work?

Your interviewer needs to know that you are not the kind of department head who runs things by the seat of your pants, and instead has processes and contingencies in place for anything that comes up. Do you keep lists? Spreadsheets? Calendars? Do you delegate some of your responsibilities? Whatever your system is, show how it works for you here.

4. How would you respond to a parent who contacts you to express concern about the teaching of someone in your department?

This question, or some variant of it, is really the interviewer wanting to find out how you can be a fair and balanced mediator – someone who listens to parents and teachers alike to get to the bottom of a situation and take fair action. If you have examples of how you have dealt with parent complaints before, you can discuss them here. Essentially you want to mention that you don’t procrastinate, genuinely take everyone’s concerns on board, and be assertive without being abrasive.

5. What do you think are the most important functions in a Head of Department role? How would you prioritise them?

A head of department is required to lead, manage and develop the department, and provide strong academic leadership. Within this, put your personal spin on which you think are most important, especially for the school in question. Perhaps your department is lacking good mentorship for teachers, or needs extra assistance providing pastoral care for pupils.

Commonly asked head of department interview questions

  • Why do you want to lead the [your subject] department?
  • How will we notice that you’re the head of the [your subject] department?
  • What were the strengths and weaknesses of the [your subject] lesson you most recently taught?
  • How would you develop a team ethos within the [your subject] department?
  • How will you improve teaching and learning in the [your subject] department?
  • How will you find out about the performance of your department?
  • Using the attainment data you have collected, what are the ways in which you can look to make changes?
  • What one change would you introduce to improve results within the department?
  • How could you improve [your subject] take-up at GCSE?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

Moving on up

If you’ve mastered the questions above, here are two things you can do to take your teaching career to the next level: 

  1. Register with Engage today to connect with your own personal Engage consultant, who will work tirelessly to find you your dream teaching job, whether you’re ready for leadership, or you’re just starting out.
  2. Subscribe to receive updates from the Reading Corner. We have over 500 informative articles and blog posts, and will email you with competitions, prizes, industry news and free resources to help you at every step of your career.

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