Even if you excelled during your studies, having your first NQT interview can be a nerve-racking experience. This might even be your first-ever interview.
If you fail in an interview it can make your next interview even harder. But please don’t stress out too much. This is why we want you to be prepared from the beginning. We’ve got you covered.
This article is designed to help you prepare your interview skills so you get the teaching position you really want.
The tips and action steps we’ve included will take you through what you need to do to succeed in your NQT interview while avoiding common mistakes.
With proper preparation, you’re going to do a stellar job in your interview.
We have prepared a list of standard interview questions, some more specific NQT interview questions, and some tips on how to approach some of the questions.
Let’s get started…
How to succeed in your NQT interview
Your teaching interview is an opportunity to show that you've got the skills, knowledge, and experience to be a valuable member of their school.
And remember that just being given an interview is a fantastic achievement in the competitive world we live in.
If you've been given an interview, your school wants to get to know more about you, and your potential as a teacher.
Most newly qualified teachers find a teaching position before long. But we want to shorten the time it takes to be awarded your first teaching position.
It is important to arrive at the interview well prepared, well-rested and ready to show your true self. Therefore, it’s important that you research your chosen school. And to ensure you can perform at your best through the interview, never stay up the night before your interview going over your notes.
Be Smart and Professional Looking
You should make sure you are smart and professional looking. For the guys, if you have facial hair make sure it is trimmed and well-groomed. For the girls, if you have long hair, consider tying it back. Make sure your nails are short and clean. Also, make sure your shoes are clean and well polished. I shouldn’t have to say this, but it’s shocking how some people turn up for interviews.
You should arrive early. Always prepare for the unexpected. You’d be surprised how many candidates turn up late for their NQT interview. If necessary, have a trial run getting to the school at the exact time of your interview, so you know exactly how long it will take you.
Confidence is important. Shake hands firmly (social distancing permitted depending on when you’re reading this) and look the interviewers in the eye to create a strong first impression. No wet fish handshakes please. And don’t forget to smile.
Bring a Pen and Notepad
You'll look more organised and professional when you’re well prepared. Be ready to jot down follow up questions if you think of anything while the interviewer is speaking.
Do Your Research
Research the school thoroughly. Make a visit if you can. Try talking to teachers, staff, and parents of students. Also, research online to find out anything you can about the school. Past achievements. Curriculum. A recent Ofsted report.
What questions will I be asked in my NQT interview?
Obviously, this varies between schools, but there are various common interview questions. Below we have prepared some standard interview questions your interviewer might use to break the ice. In addition, we have some more specific NQT interview questions.
12 Most common interview questions
- "Tell me about yourself?"
- "Why do you want to work at this school?"
- "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"
- “Why should we hire you?”
- "What is your greatest weakness?"
- "What is your greatest strength?"
- "What are your salary requirements?"
- "What would you accomplish in the first 30-60 days at our school?"
- "What type of headteacher do you work best with?"
- "What would your placement headteacher say about you?"
- "What motivates you to become a better teacher?"
- "Why did you choose a career in teaching?"
How to prepare for your NQT interview
In this section, we’d like to show you some techniques for practising your answers to the above questions.
The first thing to be aware of is NOT to memorize your answers.
When I was starting out in teaching, I used to try to memorize loads of answers before my interviews. The problem, apart from wasting HOURS of my time, was my answers came out sounding fake and rehearsed.
It felt like my answers got jumbled up in my head and came out wrong in the heat of the moment.
Here's what I recommend instead:
The best way I've found is to practice answering common questions by writing down 3 or 4 main points you want to hit. Don’t write out a full answer. Record your questions on one side of a small card and your 3 or 4 main points on the other.
Then you can practice giving your answer without looking at the card until you always hit your main points.
This will help you save time preparing, and you will sound more natural. And if your interviewer asks something slightly different than what you prepared, you'll still have a lot of ideas of what to say.
All you need to do now is come up with the right key points to mention, and practice.
NQT specific interview questions
- Tell us a little about yourself, your teaching experience and why you are applying for this position?
- What led to you wanting to work with children?
- What has working with young students taught you about yourself?
- Why do you enjoy working with young people?
- Can you tell us how you engage with your students and motivate them to learn?
- If we came into your classroom on an ‘average’ day – what would we see?
- Can you describe your ideal classroom?
- Can you think about a lesson you were really pleased with and describe it to us? Which elements were you particularly proud of?
- Can you tell us about the best lesson you’ve ever taught? What made it so good and how do you know?
- Tell us about a time when your authority was seriously challenged in the classroom. How did you react and what strategies did you use to deal with the situation?
- Tell us about a student you have had particular difficulty dealing with. What made it difficult and how did you manage the situation?
- What do you think is the best approach to behaviour management?
- How would you promote positive behaviour in your classroom? Can you illustrate this with an example from your teaching experience?
- How do you feel when someone holds an opinion which differs from your own? How do you behave in this situation?
- How do you ensure all your students make progress?
- How do you record assessment information and what do you do with it?
- We are thinking of re-writing our assessment policy – what would you say are the most important things we should include in it?
- We consider that students learn best when they are active in their learning - could you give any examples of how you have developed interactive learning activities in lessons that you have taught and explain the impact this had on the students’ learning?
- What do you consider to be the key factors for raising the standards in education?
- How would you effectively cater for the range of different needs you might encounter in your class?
- What do you think are your main areas of strength – what can you bring to xyz School?
- What do you know about our school and why do you think you’ll fit in?
- How can you work effectively as part of a team? What is the role of TAs in the classroom?
- What would you do if a student told you they were being hit at home?
- What would you do if you saw a colleague shouting at and pushing a child?
- What would you do if a student told you he was being bullied by his older sister?
- Have you ever had concerns about a colleague? How did you deal with this?
- What would your response be if a TA disagreed with your opinion?
- What do you consider to be effective relationships with parents? How would you involve parents in their children’s learning?
- What would you do if you had some child protection concerns over a child in your class?
- What are your attitudes to child protection? How have these developed over time?
I hope all those questions weren’t too daunting. There are a lot of questions there, and you won’t be asked this many. But it’s better to be more prepared than necessary.
Consider recording your responses on your phone. Leave it a couple of hours, or come back the next day to play your recordings back. Many people find this a great way to improve their answers.
Tips to avoid failing your NQT interview
As well as knowing which interview questions to practice, it is important to be aware of common pitfalls in the interview process. So, here are some common mistakes to avoid when you have your NQT interview:
If You Keep Failing at Job Interviews, It’s NOT Your Resume.
If schools are inviting you for interviews, they liked your resume. There is only one purpose for your resume: To get you an interview. If it did that, then your resume is working.
In your NQT interview, it’s up to you to impress the school with how you describe your classroom experience, what type of attitude you show them, and what questions you ask them.
These are the top reasons why candidates fail their NQT interviews:
1. You didn’t research the school sufficiently
Schools want teachers who are thorough and hard-working. And the first way to show them you work hard and don’t cut corners is by knowing about their school in your interview. Try to know more than anyone else being interviewed.
Your level of confidence when answering common interview questions like, “Why did you apply to our school?” or “What do you know about our school history?” will be much higher when you’ve done proper research. Your interviewer will see this and be impressed.
2. You gave inconsistent answers or didn’t seem trust-worthy
It’s important to be honest and admit when you don’t know something. You’re not expected to know everything or have an answer for everything asked.
It’s fine to say, “I’m not sure” or “no, I’ve never done that before, but I’d love to learn it”.
This is much better than trying to lie or give a long-winded, confusing answer. Hiring managers are smart. They know when you’re doing this.
And if they don’t feel they can trust you, they won’t hire you.
3. You couldn’t explain what you’re looking for in a teaching role
Schools want teachers who have thought about what they want in their career. They don’t want you to change your mind and leave, not enjoy the job and get bored.
So if you want to get that dream teaching position, show the school you know what you want.
Also, make sure you’ve prepared a good answer for “tell me about yourself”. This is often the first question you’ll be asked. You want to start strongly.
4. You couldn’t explain why you want to work at their school
Don’t answer, “Because I live near your school.” Show them that you know what you’re looking for in a school. This is where your research will help you.
Schools love to ask questions like, “why did you apply for this teaching position?” to check whether you have specific reasons for applying.
I’d recommend thinking more about what you DO want to be doing, and then only applying just for that type of job.
5. You didn’t ask many questions
Schools want to hire teachers who are looking for specific things in their teaching career. How can you know about their school if you don’t ask many questions?
Show you really care about your career and their school by practising your questions beforehand.
6. You didn’t show enough enthusiasm
Hiring managers want teachers who are positive, energetic, and excited about teaching. If you can’t show these qualities in the interview, perhaps you can’t show them in the classroom either.
They want team members who are going to be energetic and care about quality teaching.
7. Your body language wasn’t great
Practice having good posture. Maintain eye contact when talking and listening. Don’t cross your arms or take a defensive posture when you sit down. Try to sit with a relaxed, but professional posture.
Also, avoid tapping your hands or doing anything else that will distract the interviewer.
These may seem like small details but the impression you give off visually is often just as important as the words you’re saying.
8. Your appearance wasn’t right
Whether you like it or not, people judge each other visually before anything else. Within a few seconds, the hiring manager is gathering their opinion about you.
Therefore, you must dress appropriately for your interview. If you buy a new suit or clothes for the interview, make sure you try them on a few weeks before the interview. This is just in case something is not right, you’ll have a chance to fix the problem.
Final thoughts on how to prepare for your NQT interview
I hope this article provides all the tips for you to ace your NQT interview. With proper preparation, you will get the dream position you are looking for. The people who tell you it’s all luck don’t know what they’re talking about.
So start your preparation today, so you are ahead of the competition on game day.
You can do this!
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