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Advice regarding an interview question that I didn’t answer very well.

Discussion in 'Senior Leadership Team' started by Smit82, Apr 17, 2019.

  1. Smit82

    Smit82 New commenter


    I recently had an interview and was asked, if I were to be successful what challenges did I expect to occur with the new position? Now I answered this with a positive take and talked about getting to know staff, school policy, pupils, needs and improvement then how I would build on these to create positive relationships within the school and wider community. When I got feedback, I was told that I didn’t answer the question correctly and that’s not what they were looking for. I asked what were they looking for and and got no response. Can anyone suggest how you would answer this and without sounding too negative?

  2. pi r squared

    pi r squared Occasional commenter

    What was the role? Perhaps they were looking for some challenge that was specific to the role in question that they were expecting you to have ascertained from your research into the school previously, their published data, info in the application pack, or your conversations during the day, rather than "generic" challenges like working with new people and new policies. For instance, if the role was to do with PP, then there would maybe be an expectation for you to preempt done challenges based on context of the school - high % PP, very low % PP having a major impact, Y11 PP teachers entrenched in current systems and difficult to change, etc. This shows you've considered the challenges of the post, in context, you're applying for, rather than the same general "new job" challenges you'd face if you took up a job in Tesco or anywhere.

    Alternatively, your face didn't fit and they just needed some proxy feedback to give you - you might give the exact same answer in another interview and they could love it.
    JohnJCazorla, FormosaRed and Smit82 like this.
  3. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    Difficult to answer without knowing post and context.

    If this is a HoD/SLT level job then my gut feeling is that your answer was too textbook and too 'touchy feely'. My experience is from the other side of the table, as a governor recruiting for middle/senior management posts and it all feels a bit 'too nice' to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating a 'tough b'stard' management style, but if the context of this school meant that change would be needed in your area of responsibility, especially change that would be resisted by some, they may have been looking for more on how you would implement necessary change which not everyone on your team liked.

    Your answer would be a good starting point - it would always concern me if a candidate wanted to push through change without asking and learning first - but maybe they wanted to know "and then what? what are you going to do if you can't get everyone on side?".

    But really that's all speculation without knowing anything about the school.
    HelenREMfan, JohnJCazorla and Smit82 like this.
  4. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    This doesn't show me that you know of any challenges you might face, so presumably it didn't show the interviewers that either.

    What you've said is what they would expect any new member of staff to do, including NQTs.

    What specific challenges are there likely to be in the role you were applying for?
    What is your vision for that role and what might stop you achieving it?
    Then, your positive answer is how you would overcome these challenges.
    Smit82 likes this.
  5. Smit82

    Smit82 New commenter

    Thank you so much for your responses. I’m based in Scotland and it was for a Depute post. After reading all of your responses I can see how I’ve not really answered it correctly. I need to think more about the actual position I am applying for and what I feel those challenges will be. Thank you again for your responses. X
  6. Smit82

    Smit82 New commenter

    I think you have hit the nail on the head with your answer. I seemed put off by this question and felt it wasn’t going well when I answered it. I was very brief also and I now know I didn’t go into enough depth. Thank you for your advice. X
  7. Happygopolitely

    Happygopolitely Established commenter

    You could only know the real challenges once you have worked at the school and understood the ht's remit.

    Apart from that - did the job go to an internal candidate?
  8. TheBigA

    TheBigA Occasional commenter

    This is a question you should prepare for in advance of other interviews because it is a common one at depute level, and even PT level. Depute is a massive step up from PT and that's something that some PTs don't appreciate until it's too late.

    In future, think about the particular challenges of the school. Read their inspection report, read their SQR and Improvement plan, get on insight and see what you can glean from their national dashboard, if they have them on their website read their newsletter and try to sniff out what the real challenges for you and the school are. Yes, there are generic challenges associated with any leadership role, but there are also specific ones relevant to SLT and to a particular remits.

    I wish I could be more helpful and say here's a straightforward strategy for answering that kind of question in future, but I can't because generally there really isn't one. Next time, he best I can advise you is to find a challenge that's relevant to the school or the remit, think about anything similar in your past experience and how you met it and then contextualise it within the needs of the school. If you can do that you won't go far wrong.

    Good luck
  9. Smit82

    Smit82 New commenter

    Thank you so much, this definitely makes perfect sense. To be honest I had prepared so much and just hadn’t thought of this question. By the time we got to that question I was out my depth and knew it.

    This was a question from an interview a few months back and it has played on my mind. I doubt if I had even answered it better that I would have got the job. It wasn’t the right fit for me and I wasn’t ready for it. Some time on and I’ve had some acting up experience and had a whole different look on the job. Totally different to what I was expecting. It’s definitely been a great learning curve.

    Thank you to everyone who helped me out. The advice is appreciated. X
    HelenREMfan and alendra like this.
  10. 123glowsticks

    123glowsticks New commenter

    What about the Govt benchmarking site to see what their data is like in context of other schools?

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