Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Leaders' surgery


Interview techniques

Q We're reviewing our interview process for middle leadership posts as we will have three vacancies to fill in the next year. We are planning to incorporate interviews with students into the process but are there any other new or innovative ideas that we should be considering?

A The interview process is not a perfect one and it can be an anxious time for everyone involved. The job description and the person specification are the starting points to ensure equality of opportunity but the person specification is vital in helping you to devise activities to appoint the best people to the right jobs.

Activities which will help assess the candidates' abilities could be delivering a first department meeting to their team or writing a section suitable for the self-evaluation form (SEF) for their department.

For teaching staff, activities could be a role-play with a child refusing to follow instructions or taking an assembly (or delivering the assembly to the panel); for a pastoral role, you could try a role-play with an angry parent.

Activities also relevant for non-teaching staff include writing a report to the head on their area outlining strategies for improvement, giving an unseen presentation or delivering a seen presentation, or analysing some RAISEonline data.

In this age of computer spell-checks it is always good to see a handwritten piece of original work. Asking the candidate to write a short report on a topic, such as homework, fundraising or something in which the school is especially interested, can be quite revealing.

A further role-play could be set up in which the candidate speaks to a member of their department about something which has been an issue, such as regular lateness or failure to mark homework. A candidate could also be required to run a training session with their department on a new initiative.

Another exercise is the 'goldfish bowl.' This allows all the candidates to be observed working together. A time-limited project is given and the candidates have to present their outcomes. It demonstrates how people interact with each other, their leadership skills, their listening skills, their sensitivity to others - the list is endless.

It is always enlightening to watch a candidate taking a lesson and then have them observe a lesson, feeding back to the teacher the judgement grade and giving advice to support that teacher's development.

For the lesson taught by the candidate, students can be involved by giving their feedback to the panel members of staff observing. The views of students can then be incorporated into the panel's overall judgement.

For the lesson observation, it needs a confident member of staff who is prepared to deliver a lesson which has some weaknesses and feels confident enough to challenge the candidate who is giving the feedback. This allows the panel member to judge the standard of teaching and learning and the coaching and communication skills of applicants.

As the time for such processes is limited, choices will need to be made as to how many activities can be incorporated into a one-day interview.

All of these scenarios require some imagination, pre-planning, and the co-operation of members of staff but, generally speaking, staff enjoy being involved in these activities and the outcome is the best person for the job.

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