Tips for teachers applying for senior positions

Interviews | Teachers - 09 Mar 2021

It is a well-known fact that there is a recipe for success when applying for teaching positions – from dressing the part to having the perfectly curated Curriculum Vitae and being well-prepared for interviews. However, when teachers start applying for senior teaching positions such as HOD, deputy principal or principal, the game changes slightly in terms of what employers look for and how interviews are conducted.

Over and above full teaching qualifications, schools look for many other qualities from their teachers, especially when there is a more senior position up for grabs. Hardworking, internationally-minded teachers with a self-reflective approach will always be high on the list. For more senior positions flexibility and open-mindedness to adapt is a crucial criterion, as well the willingness to do a bit of everything, which includes participating in after-school activities. ‘Cookie-cutter’ teachers seldom make the cut!

When being interviewed for a senior position, it is important to briefly tell the interviewing panel about yourself and always ensure that you summarise the highlights of your teaching career and sell yourself on why you would fit the role of a more senior position such as a HOD for example.

The below questions are an indication of what teachers aiming for that higher position can expect in interviews.

  • What steps would you follow when you notice that a colleague’s work is not up to standard?
  • Which measures should be followed to ensure a safe school environment?
  • Which four important documents must a teacher have and know?
  • As a HOD, what would your criteria be for a formal assessment task?
  • What do you think are the most important functions in a Head of Department role? How would you prioritise them?
  • What are your strongest and weakest points?
  • How would you respond to a parent who contacts you to express concern about the teaching of someone in your department?
  • If you got the role, what would you bring to the department after a week, a term, or a year?

It is always important to be prepared for any and all questions that a panel can throw at you in an interview. Never assume that uncomfortable questions won’t be asked, you need to be ready for everything. Remember you are a STAR! Use these key points to frame your answers:

  • Situation – think of a specific situation where a question would have applied.
  • Task – what was your responsibility in the situation?
  • Activity – what did you actually do?
  • Result – what was the positive impact of your actions?

Despite all the recruitment challenges that exist, you will always be likely to be up against two or three other candidates that are equally qualified and hungry for the position. This is why it is important to also provide proof of your expertise. A digital portfolio of evidence goes a long way in providing evidence that you are already capable of doing the job.

If it does happen that you don’t get that senior position the first time around, it doesn’t mean that you had a disastrous interview. Send that email or call and ask for feedback. Even as a teacher we are never too old to learn. Apply the feedback constructively and always keep going!






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