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Dear Theo - assistant head interview

Discussion in 'Independent' started by toastandtea, Oct 4, 2015.

  1. toastandtea

    toastandtea New commenter

    Dear Theo,

    I've tried searching for your interview advice but when I click on each link it just goes to the homepage so I was hoping you might be able to offer some advice?

    I've got an interview for assistant head post, which also involves a presentation to the head on a topic I'll be given on the day and a data analysis task. Plus an observed lesson of course.

    What are the key things that an independent school is looking for? I've prepared some answers to the most generic questions but am a bit worried with the fact that I am aiming to move from state to independent...

    Any advice would be greatly received!
    Thank you
  2. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    Yes, I'm afraid that nu-TES has not yet carried across my 100+ advice articles . . . it was supposed to be last Thursday or Friday at the latest, but no luck so fr. I shall nag them again as soon as the office opens . . .

    Outstanding teaching, plus a commitment to co-curricular (aka extra-curricular) life of the school.

    Plus, of course, whatever they said in their employmnt documentation and on their website.

    Careful here!

    Not a good idea to reel off prepared answers. Much better to have ideas rather than learnt-by-heart answers. Have you been using mind mapping for preparing this? have one for each major oint on their person spec and job description. And one for outstanding teaching, of course!

    Good luck!
    toastandtea likes this.
  3. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter



    Here is a copy of part of the interview blogs:


    Tell us about yourself - dream or nightmare question?

    (This article is an expansion of part of the blog article called: Help, I've got an interview! )

    In that article I talk about Interview by Key Point; we could also call these Key Points your USPs – your Unique Selling Points. And we look at the question that many of you fear: Tell us about yourself – which is not a nightmare but the Dream Question to have in an interview.


    Your USPs Your Unique Selling Points are very important. This is how you show that you are what they are looking for.

    Prepare these very seriously

    You need to get clear in your mind exactly why you are the person for the job, so that you can put this across to the panel interviewing you.

    So it’s good to prepare for interview by identifying three or four key points or USPs. They have to be about YOU, not USPs that someone else has suggested, because they have to want YOU, because it’s YOU that’s going to have to do the job, fit in with the rest of the school, etc, so giving them answers that don’t show YOU but someone else is plain daft.

    So think of your USPs; here are the sort of thing that I mean:

    · I have good communication skills with parents.

    · I am very committed to the pastoral side of teaching.

    · I am prepared to work my socks off for the children.

    · I am very analytical and clear-headed.

    · I am very caring about the whole child.

    · I think academic success for all students must be our aim.

    This is too many, of course, and anyway you should not copy any of these if they are not exactly who and what you are.

    I will say that it is very hard to think of your USPs; it almost seems like boasting, on the one hand, and also you are probably not used to doing this kind of self-analysis, on the other. But do persevere as it is very important to have these clearly in your mind.

    Here are my USPs, me, TheoGriff:

    · Committed and hard-working;

    · High levels of analytical intelligence, you can’t pull the wool over my eyes;

    · Passionate about children, their education and their success.

    This is me now, not as a School Leader but as an Education Consultant. If I were still a School Leader I would have different USPs to give, and if I were still a teacher my USPs would be different again.

    Because the important point about your USPs is that they should match the school’s BBs – their Buying Buttons, what it is that they are looking for. Frankly if there isn’t a pretty good match between your USPs and their BBs, it might not be the job for you, and you might not be the candidate for them.

    Let’s suppose that one of your USPs is:

    I have experience in three inner-city schools with high percentage of pupils from varied ethnic backgrounds.

    That might well be a good match for the BBs of a school in Walthamstow, but not for a school in rural Denbighshire.

    So be careful to identify what are the school’s BBs and check the USPs that you choose to discuss in the interview to ensure that there is a good overlap. And, of course, although you should read their documentation and website, remember that there are hidden BBs, or at least BBs that are taken for granted. Standard BBs might be Raising achievement, whole child etc.

    Having identified your USPs, you then draw up a mind map with the examples of things that you’ve done that show off these key points.

    Look at the article on mind maps to remind you how to do this, if necessary.

    Whatever your USPs are - and it’s unlikely anyone would have the variety I have given as examples! - when you get a question, ask yourself: Is there one of my USPs that I can illustrate here?

    The absolute Dream Question is one many of you fear: Tell us about yourself.

    You don’t know where to start. Should you say: Well, I studied Geography at Hull University, then did my PGCE at Leeds, and have been teaching at John Smeaton High School for the last three years now, as a Geography teacher and Form Tutor.

    No, you shouldn’t say that.

    You might just as well tell them your shoe size, height and weight, for all the good that it would do you in getting this job. :)

    Instead, you say: There are three main things I’d like to tell you about myself. Firstly X, secondly Y, and then Z. Would you like me to give you an example for one of these?

    Obviously X,Y and Z are your three USPs. You have now done the equivalent of a 30-second advert at half time in the Cup Final on the telly. An advert about you, setting out clearly your strengths and why you are right for the job. Right at the beginning of the interview.

    Another very common question is: Why have you applied for this post? And, unfortunately, a very common answer is how it is all to your advantage – people actually DO say because it’s convenient for dropping off their children! But even more common is people saying things like Because it would help me develop my management skills in a new context or : It would be a new challenge that I would relish.

    Being frank again, a panel is not in the least interested in the advantages to you of this post; they are interested in the advantages for them of appointing you. But cleverly prepared, this is another Dream Question, enabling you to get over clearly and succinctly to the panel how it is in their interest to appoint you.


    Good luck
    claire5970 and (deleted member) like this.
  4. toastandtea

    toastandtea New commenter

    Thank you Theo, very useful advice.

    The one thing I'm really worried about is the fact that I didn't declare in my application that I was signed off for a month last year with anxiety (basically a breakdown at work) and have been doing a phased return since.. There wasn't really a space to put that.
    Is it something I should say at interview or just say if they ask? Might it come up in the reference they get? I'm worried they're not going to touch me with a barge pole when they find that out...
  5. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

    Well click the LIKE button then! :)

    My advice - bit late now - is always to include something in an application so that you can get your say in first. Something along these lines:

    Having had a period of absence last year for anxiety and stress, from which I am now fully recovered, I believe that I am as a consequence better equipped than many teachers to cope with the everyday stress of the job as a teacher, because I have devised and implemented strategies to cope with this. I gain so much satisfaction from working with the students(pupils?) and seeing their progress that this gives me even greater pride and fulfilment.

    One month isn't a great deal of time, but be prepared in interview to be asked possibly about it (school has a legal obligation to ensure that you are Fit to Teach), thinking if there is anything in my wording above that you could use.

    And being prepared to say what your strategies are!

    Good luck

  6. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

  7. star9

    star9 New commenter

    Be polite to everyone you meet during the day, they might be your future line manager!
  8. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter



    Or the new Head just looking around before starting the job next term . . .

    Best wishes

  9. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

    ...or the school receptionist who has worked there for 25 years and knows everything and everybody and is therefore a wonderful helper in so many ways (unless, of course, you blank her or whatever on your first encounter).....
    sabrinakat likes this.
  10. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

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