Q: “I am a qualified and experienced teacher looking for a permanent teaching post. I have subbed, filled-in and temped for two years now. I know I am a good teacher; I love my job and my students, but am always being pipped at the post when it comes to interview. What might I be doing wrong, please advise?” – AQ (email).
Securing that coveted permanent, contracted position or Contracts of Indefinite Duration (CID) within teaching is a competitive and highly contested process, writes Deirdre May, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers, Limerick .
I have met many brilliant and enthusiastic teachers, both primary and post-primary, who are disheartened with their situations. The merry-go-round of applications, short listing and interview process will take its toll on the hardiest of teachers, but when ‘nearly but not quite making it’ is a constant, disheartenment can slowly turn to complete disillusionment.
The following points may help in your next interview.
Do your homework
As obvious as it seems, you must prepare for each interview as if it were your first time interviewing for a teaching post. A board will expect to hear about your classroom management skills, your ability to collaborate with colleagues and the fact that you are up to date with developments in education practice and policy.
The onus is on you to present this to the board. Do not assume they know this, even if you have taught in this very school before.
Maintaining the level of enthusiasm required can be difficult if you have been through it all before. Although you may have answered these questions previously, it is the first time this board is meeting and hearing you.
If you are finishing with high scores, chances are you are a strong candidate and interviewed well. However, a tired and disheartened interviewee can translate as a tired and disheartened teacher to an interview board. You must show your resilience and determination.
What to research
The clue can be in the question: dissect the job specification and / or competencies found in the application form. This can provide a good place to start preparing what you want to get across at interview.
If the application form required you to provide information on your communication and interpersonal skills, you will be more than likely asked to expand on these points, so you can prepare accordingly. Have your examples ready and relate them to the job and the value you bring to teaching and education.
The chances are that all applicants shortlisted for interview have somewhat similar qualifications and experiences. A strong candidate will identify the extra value they can bring to the school. Again, this comes from researching the school and identifying what is particular to them. Do they stage a school musical production, have they entered BT Young Scientist Expo, do they need an underage football coach? What extra value can you bring that pushes you past the strong candidate result and onto being the winner?
Tailor your approach
Finally, tailor your preparation to each different school. There is little point spending your time talking about something you identified as important to the last school you interviewed with if it has no relevance in the school you are now chasing.