When it comes to attending an interview for a new role or promotion within a school or business, the thought of sharing your skills and experience terrifies the best of us. The idea of being put on the spot and asked questions we haven’t prepared for seems to create a rush of energy like no other. Yet whilst working in the fields of recruitment and human resources, we find that when approached our circle of influence, the experience can build our self-esteem like nothing else.
From an optimistic perspective, interviewing allows us to assess our capabilities, share when these have been used and provide examples of our greatest achievements. It allows us to meet with others in our field, other schools or faculties, as much as new industries, and so form connections based on mutual value.
At its core, interviews are simply fact gathering for the sole purpose of understanding one another, very much a two-way process. So how can we minimise our concerns and present ourselves in the best light? Below are some suggestions that will suit those seeking a role in a new school, different faculty, leadership opportunity or in preparing themselves for work in other fields of education or business.
1. Invest in yourself
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen Covey
As individuals, we are a compilation of personal experiences combined with our personal style, emotional awareness and cultural understandings. Many cultures or personal circumstances impact our ability to confidently see value in ourselves, creating some struggle during initial interviews and network meetings. This lack of self-insight or personal confidence does not align to a lack of skills or knowledge, rather the capacity to demonstrate the talents they offer and utilise in their lives.
There is a multitude of profiling and assessment tools many of us have undertaken during studies or in our working life. Common psychometric tools include Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, DiSC®, Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument® and SHL Talent Measurement™. When focusing on wellbeing, we are more inclined to utilise tools created through the findings of positive psychology, such as StrengthsFinder© or VIA Character Strengths. Whatever method, by way of assessment tool or through personal investigation with those who know you best, your goal should be to gain a deeper understanding of your:
- Natural talents and strengths
- Key learnings from past experience
- Interpersonal style and management preferences
- Personal blocks and obstacles.
With greater clarity about yourself, your position is stronger to select opportunities and people that will align or see value in what you have to offer. In investing in yourself you are in a better position to identify:
- When you have thrived
- Why you were succeeding
- How you work best in your chosen career.
2. Clarify your purpose
Having considered your capabilities and ideal work environment, your aim should be to combine theseinto a clear purpose statement. Many prepare career or personal statements on their resume however these frequently align to a specific job or narrow pathway. Through dedication to a clear purpose, we are providing a holistic image of ourselves and the setting, people and role that will allow us to thrive. Traditionally this would relate to one particular role in a certain industry; in the current educational and work environment agility is key and so that statement or purpose should be about broader characteristics, for instance competencies and interpersonal aspects.
Your purpose is first and foremost to you, facilitating confidence in “who you are” and “what you have to offer” from a high level. As such your purpose statement should specify your:
- Top three strengths
- Interpersonal style and method of interacting with others
- When you thrive most, which will be stated in a method that benefits the person or company you are meeting with.
For example, “A passionate educator, I thrive in a fast-paced department where I can support my team through programming, lesson design and delivery to enhance individual student learning outcomes. With qualifications in special needs and over 10 years working with K-6 students from diverse backgrounds in the education sector, my natural ability to organise and form solutions creates positive outcomes for the staff, students and so school I work with.”
3. Reflect on your achievements & experiences
The core requirement of an interview is for you to share your best skills and professional capacity in line with the role and school or business hiring. In education most roles demand that we submit a response to selection criteria within the application process. This aligns to current interviewing practice that states our future behaviours will mirror those of our past. As such, details of programs you have designed, tasks you have been responsible for, people you have managed and situations where you have been challenged are sought during the discussion as evidence of your potential response to situations you will face.
Concise responses with adequate detail are paramount to position you with confidence, self-perception and the ability to receive and execute constructive feedback to improve your performance.
Common experiences you should prepare cases of include:
- Managing multiple projects or tasks (reporting, programming or extra-curricular)
- Leading or inspiring others (students, staff or parents)
- Dealing with difficult people or changing priorities (throughout the school community)
- Communicating with purpose (verbal and written in different settings)
- Major achievements where you have created positive outcomes (beyond standard role requirements).
Confronting as it is to reflect on achievement, it enables personal growth and success through clarity.
Ask yourself, in my past roles:
- What did I do that was impressive? Why?
- What was I proud of? Why?
- What did I receive great feedback on? Why?
- When did I feel energised? Why?
4. Prepare for the discussion
With regard to the situations describing your experience and achievements attained through responses to the above questions, each example should be detailed in a ‘STAR’ format as outlined in Figure 1.
|S||Situation (5% of response)
Outline the circumstance of the situation from a high level to introduce and set the scene
|T||Task (5% of response)
Explain the detail around the task or issue to explain your relationship and responsibility
|A||Action (80% of response)
Describe in detail the steps and actions you took to address, resolve and/or respond to the issue to situation reflecting on your accountability and others
|R||Result (10% of response)
What was the outcome? Add detail around your learnings and changes to behaviours of similar experiences since
Supporting your experiences, you must ensure you are aware of what you are applying for. You must demonstrate your commitment to the position and school or company through research and questioning about the:
- Institution or company
- Selection criteria
- Position requirements
- Interviewer or panel
- Interview process.
Interact with the interviewer
Interviewing evokes an emotional response from most which can lead us to race through responses, share extensive responses or try to fit in all the “skills” we feel the interviewer is looking for. Most important to the process is to be human. All your experiences relate to your suitability for the role; your discussion of interaction with others is evidence of your communication style and your involvement with those in the meeting shares a real life example of your interpersonal style.
As such you should ensure you:
- Trust you are the best candidate for the role
- Feel at ease, as much as possible, prior to entering the conversation
- Breathe and relax to produce the most “real” version of yourself
- Connect with the interviewer on an appropriate personal level
- Smile, laugh and nod as part of the interaction
- Interact through questions and open body language.
We must remember, the time in the formal interview is minimal. This time will pass with confidence and conviction if you are able to state
your vision articulately and with warmth. Your goal is to build your personal profile or summary of self; prior to the discussion, research the company and people in depth and so demonstrate your aptitude through evidence of your experience, achievements and professional competence.
Famous Quotes About Interviews
William Shatner: I sometimes find that in interviews you learn more about yourself than the person learned about you.
Anna Deavere Smith: I don’t talk a lot when I interview. My job is to get out of the way.
Sugata Mitra: Go to a job interview and tell and employer that you can recite the 17 times table; they don’t care. Why are we still teaching it?
Lemony Snicket: Besides getting several paper cuts in the same day or receiving the news that someone in your family has betrayed you to your enemies, one of the most unpleasant experiences in life is a job interview.
Bill James: There comes a moment during a job interview when you’re still talking, but you might as well take off your shoes.