Interviewing for any new job can feel somewhat terrifying. Sweaty palms, nervous laughter, a shirt ironed to an inch of its life. In the past I’ve tried to turn that apprehension on its head: you’re interviewing them, just as much as they’re interviewing you. They might be offering the job but you’re the one that has the choice to accept it or not. You’ll be spending most of your time here; you’re perfectly entitled to decide if it’s the right fit for you.
Request a tour of the college prior to interview
You’ll usually receive a guided tour during the interview day. However, you have other applicants to contend with and a rigid time frame to work against. If you request a visit prior to your interview, not only do you come across as engaged and proactive, but this puts you in the driving seat of the day. Just observe as you walk around; you’re not looking for anything in particular at this point, just noticing how you feel. This is all down to personal preference. Some may love the mod-con futuristic look, others may prefer the familiarity of buildings built before they were born. One key thing to consider though: check out the teaching rooms – can you imagine yourself lecturing in there?
It’s advisable to visit during the teaching day if possible and time your tour during a change-over time. This gives you a chance to observe behaviour in the corridors or outside as well as interaction between staff and students. It’s also important to speak to the students if you can: ask them what their favourite thing about college is. If you encounter happy students who are proud of their college then you’re on to a winner, but if they struggle to think of an answer then think carefully about your next step.
Speak to as many different people as possible
People make the place a lot of the time when it comes to work, and teaching is no different. Try and have a conversation with as many people as possible: students, reception staff, SLT and your potential HoD. Have lunch in the staffroom if you can and see who approaches you. A friendly staffroom speaks volumes about morale and camaraderie, which are crucial when it comes to a happy college. Note the average age of the staff and ask how long they have been there (not how old they are), if it’s an eclectic group of staff who have been there for 20+ years as well as some newer members of the team then this usually reflects a content faculty.
In your interview and when visiting the college, enquire about any trips that are run – what extra-curricular activities are currently in place and what sporting facilities do they have? When talking to people, ask about college life outside of the building. This research also gives you food for thought about what you can contribute and gives you an edge at interview.
Some further advised reading ahead of your visit. Take an interest in the direction of the college. Consider where the college's strengths are and its weaknesses – what could you suggest or implement in response? This can become a key talking point at interview.
Assess your priorities
Overall, think about what you want from your job. What’s the commute like? How is the traffic at rush hour? Is there a Drive Thru Costa on your way to work? Is there a pub nearby? Okay, the last two may not be essential but they certainly help (and strangely you’ll always find a pub near a college… it’s like they knew?)
Make a list of key factors you’re looking for in a college. They’ll be doing it for whoever they hire, so why not do the same? Consider what takes priority for you and you’ll be sure to make the best decision.
About the author
After completing a BA in Creative Writing and a Masters in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Winchester, Tammy worked as a Learning Support Assistant, with a focus on helping students develop their literacy skills. She then taught as an English teacher at an all-boys comprehensive school in Berkshire. Now she has turned her sights to a career in writing, with education at the heart of it.