Dr Denry Machin
Nov 20, 2018 · 3 min read
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“Experience is not what happens to [us].
It is what [we do] with what happens to [us].”
Aldous Huxley [adapted]

In this extract from the Wisdom of Heads we consider ‘go to’ interview questions.

The Principals surveyed were asked to reflect on their favourite interview questions. What questions do they always ask? Or, which questions do they turn to if they need to spice an interview up?

Their responses make interesting reading and will, hopefully, be useful to anybody about to face a wise Head at interview.

Do you have any ‘go to’ interview questions?

From the obvious:

“Why did you choose education over all other options”

“Tell us about yourself.”

“Who was your favorite teacher and why?”

“Analyse the best lesson that you have taught. What made it great?”

“What is the best quality a teacher should have?”

“At what time in your life did you decide to become a teacher?”

“How have you recently developed/changed your pedagogy?”

“What is the most recent education book or article you’ve read and how did it affect your thinking?

“What three words would your senior colleagues use to describe you? What three words would your students in your school would use say best described you?”

“What would it looks/sound/feel like in your classroom if I walked in?”

“What is the greatest personal (non-school based) challenge you have faced?”

“‘Has your teaching ever been evaluated?’ Responses and reactions continue to vary from one of surprise and short answers to in-depth explanations and very interesting opinions on the subject.”

“I am always interested in candidates hobbies, you can tell a lot about a character and a teacher from their outside experiences.”

To the more challenging:

“What is the most difficult part of being a teacher and how is that different from my next question, which is: which aspect of teaching would you not miss at all?”

“To what extent are you comfortable moving the onus of responsibility and control of learning away from yourself and towards students?”

“’Can you give me an example of constructive feedback and how you responded to it?’ (I want to know that I can honestly and constructively talk about the issues that arise with my teachers)”

“What would your worst student say about you? Then, what would your best student say about you?”

“Casting yourself forward, a year from now, and with three full terms in post behind you, what positive differences have you made and what might you have not got quite right?”

“I’ve got a number of ‘go to’ questions that I find can be incredibly revealing. Perhaps my favourite is: ‘If you don’t get this job, what will the main reason be?’”

“What is the thing you are most proud of, to date, in your career?”

And the eclectic:

“If you were a Disney character — which one would you be and why?”

“How we perceive ourselves it not always how others perceive us. How do you think the way people perceive you is different to the way you perceive yourself?”

With a final thought:

“I always allow space for candidates to ask me questions — it often tells me more than the answers they have prepared to my questions.”

Plus, a few questions for aspiring school leaders

“How do you coach, supervise, and evaluate your teachers?”

“After, say, five years in post, how will the school be different as a result of your leadership?”

“What do you believe is the most important skill you need as a school leader?”

“As a leader how would you contribute to the well-being of your staff?”

“What keeps you awake at night?”

“In what different ways would you manage a young and a veteran member of your staff?”


Pick your favorites.

Limit yourself to three and select from the list your three favourites.

Which quotes resonate? Which do you think you will be able to use? Which inspire you to reflect? Which might inspire your teachers and/or students to reflect?

Select and store your three favorites.

The full ‘Wisdom of Heads’ book can be purchased here (Amazon US), here (Amazon UK) or here (iBooks).


on education, by educators, about all things educational

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