How to answer 8 difficult education interview questions

teaching job interview questions

You’ve been invited to an interview by a school and are sitting down to prepare. You know the basic teacher interview questions that are bound to come up, but have you given a thought to those trickier interview questions that may arise? After all, you know you should expect a few challenging interview questions and to stand out you need to prepare for those, too.

We’ve spoken to our teachers to put together a list of some of the more difficult but common teacher interview questions they’ve been asked.

Challenging teacher interview questions – and how to answer them

1. Tell me about yourself

On the surface, this may seem like one of the easiest teacher interview questions as it’s simply asking you to talk about yourself. However, people can panic at the vague nature of this teaching interview question and not answer it effectively. When a potential school employer asks you this question, they want a brief insight into how you have achieved what you have so far, how you’re the best for their role and school and any interesting aspects of yourself that are education related.

2. Can you tell me about a time you failed? 

Although it’s easy to feel defensive when you’re asked this teaching interview question and hear the word ‘failed’, just remember that no school leader actively wants to trip you up. Rather, consider that everyone has failed somewhere in their lives at some point. The worst thing you can do is pretend you haven’t, so avoid saying that you have never failed.  

Instead, think of a classroom management problem or a pitch that didn’t go well, for instance. A school leader will ask this question to learn how you have overcome previous mistakes. You should see this as your opportunity to show how you learnt from the experience, what you would do in hindsight and the strengths gained from your mistake that you now utilise and apply.

3. If I walked into your classroom during an outstanding lesson, what would I see and hear?

You need to make sure that you plan for tricky teacher interview questions surrounding your lesson planning, teaching philosophy and your classroom delivery. It might be that the second stage of your interview process will involve delivering a lesson, so to get to that point your interviewer needs to envision what this would look like. 

When planning your example answer, make sure to go into detail on what lesson you would be teaching, the year group and your strategy. You could describe the resources you used and how the students utilised these. Just make sure that if you get to your second stage interview, you live up to this vision!

4. Tell me about a lesson that didn’t go well and what you did about it

This teaching interview question is again utilised by school leaders to get a grasp on how you learn from your mistakes and respond to pressurised situations. The lesson you describe doesn’t have to be massively detrimental, but ensure you acknowledge what went wrong and how you rectified it. It might be that you noticed your lesson wasn’t going to plan part way through so then took the steps to get it back on track. Or perhaps you decided to forgo your original lesson plan as it wasn’t working and replace it with a different task. 

5. Talk to me about a current issue in education

As you’ll likely know, education is a constantly evolving and changing realm to work in and increasingly many senior leaders are keen to employ members of staff who keep up to date with education news and teaching philosophy. Therefore, even if you keep relatively on top of education trends, make a conscious effort to read a few news articles before your interview. Look for articles of interest that you would be happy to discuss and offer your opinions on. After all, if it's not this exact question, you should still expect to be asked teaching interview questions around current education trends.

6. What behaviour management strategies do you tend to employ in the classroom? 

Behaviour management is a key component of teaching and you can’t be a truly brilliant teacher without employing effective techniques to manage students and their learning. A school leader doesn’t want to employ someone who can’t manage their students, so regardless of your years of experience, you want to be able to highlight your capability when answering common teacher interview questions such as this one.

Give specifics when answering your interview questions, especially this particular question. For instance, how you utilise praise or how you develop a pre-emptive system through stickers and team points to stop the negative behaviour before it starts. Don’t forget to read the school’s behaviour policy before you go to the interview, then tailor your interview answer accordingly. 

7. Give me an example of a classroom situation where the children have been challenging – what did you do to overcome this?

Teacher interview questions along these lines are an opening to highlight a successful moment from your classroom teaching. It might feel like you’re having to focus on a weakness, but there are challenging classrooms in all primary and secondary settings. 

For example, you could describe a long-term issue for which you developed a successful behaviour plan made up of several steps. Or you could demonstrate your confidence by explaining how you salvaged a lesson by stopping the class to get your students back on track and regain authority. Just ensure you have a few examples up your sleeve that you can comfortably discuss.

8. How do you leverage technology in education?

Teacher interview questions about technology are asked to encourage you to share specific examples of how you leverage technology to enhance the learning experience for your students. With various digital tools available, you should provide your interviewer with several innovative examples of how you’ve used technology to complement classroom learning (not replace it).  For instance, perhaps you’ve been able to use technology to encourage visual learning, conduct research-based learning experiences and to support the needs of all students. 

Approach your teaching interview with confidence

If you are prepared to answer these difficult teacher interview questions, you’ll feel more confident going into your interview at a school, giving you the best chance to perform at your best.

Don't forget to also practice articulating your teaching style. If you get stuck, one of the best tips for answering teaching interview questions is to think back to why you decided to become a teacher. Remembering your passion will also help you approach interview questions with confidence.

Read more on the job interview questions people never know how to answer or discuss your next career move with one of our recruiting experts.

About this author

Adam Shapley, Managing Director, Hays New Zealand and Hays IT Australia & New Zealand, began working at Hays in 2001 and during this time has held significant leadership roles across the business including responsibility for multiple specialisms in various locations across Australia & New Zealand.

In 2018, he was appointed to Hays ANZ Management Board and made Managing Director for Hays New Zealand.

Adam is also responsible for the strategic direction of the Hays Information Technology business across Australia & New Zealand including driving growth across Digital Technology, Projects & Business Change and IT Operations & Support.

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