Although applying for a new role, especially ones with large amounts of responsibility, can at first seem a little daunting, take a little time to celebrate the fact that you have been shortlisted. That means, your application, and your initial tour of the school was successful. You are sure to have made a great first impression. So, now you have been invited to interview, what is that going to look like?
Firstly, it is important to note that the style of the interview itself is organised at the discretion of the school itself. That means you could be interviewed by a panel of teachers alongside the head and perhaps a school governor. Or, you could be interviewed by a panel of current senior leaders. More than likely, regardless of the panel you are interviewing before, your interview will be supplemented with a task that assesses both your suitability for the role and your capabilities. If you are applying for a senior position in a school you already work at, do not be deceived by the amount of preparation you will have to undertake. Although knowing the interviewers can be seen as an advantage, you will still need to convince the panel that you are the right candidate for the role.
Prior to your interview taking place, it is essential that you begin to consider some questions you may experience, and how you may use your prior experience, skills and knowledge to answer them effectively. It is crucial at this stage that you do your research into what you may be asked. Why not write down some of the questions you are expecting to see and partner up with a colleague or friend to rehearse your answers?
Regardless of how many questions you have prepared for, there is bound to be a moment where you have to spend a little time thinking about how to answer. Or, possibly there is a question you weren’t expecting. There is nothing wrong with asking your interviewer and the panel for a moment just to collect your thoughts prior to structuring and delivering your answer. The key here is not to rush your answer and to consider how it conveys your abilities to lead, and your capability to enable the school to succeed.
As is the case with all interviews, the way you communicate non-verbally is just as important as the answers you give. It is important to remember those first impressions last. So, you want to be confident and calm. Some of these tips here go without saying. Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to create a great first impression.
Some further things to note here relate to the wider context of your visit to the school on the day of your interview. You should treat every individual you come across including both pupils, teachers and office staff like it is part of your interview. You can never be too sure who the headteacher might ask for feedback. Seal your meetings with a firm and confident handshake where appropriate, too.
One thing that you should expect from your interview, is to partake in a task. This is more than likely going to be unseen prior to the interview day itself. This task will be designed to assess your competency within the senior leadership role and can range from data analysis to performing a learning walk.
However, the most common task you will come across in your senior leadership interview is the ‘in-tray task’. In this case, you will be given a series of tasks related to unforeseen circumstances that you may come across and have to deal with in your role.
Here is a list of the circumstances you could potentially come across:
You will also be asked to consider the more predictable elements of the role, too. Your senior leader role will prioritise each of these scenarios, with a requirement to justify the reasons for your ranking of priority.
When sitting down to start your task, begin by reading them thoroughly and carefully. It can be guaranteed that this list of essential daily tasks will not be simple, and by completing this ranking exercise effectively you will therefore demonstrate your knowledge of policy and procedure and this should inform your justification. For example, anything to do with safeguarding policy is of main priority and these types of issues should be dealt with as a matter of urgency. You can also explain how you would potentially delegate some of your lower priority tasks to maximise efficiency, and save time effectively.
After you have completed your interview, make sure to send email correspondence to the interviewer/school, thanking them for their time and the opportunity to interview with them. Include the date and time of your interview, as there will be a range of other candidates who have applied for the role, too.