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Interviews: Grill them, grilling you.

Interviews-Grill-them-grilling-you-2

by Kaley Riley @MrsRileyEnglish


On Friday, I attended an interview. On arrival, the other candidates and I got chatting. We all spoke about our current roles, why we had applied and the usual, tense pre-interview small talk amongst competitors who are- essentially- trying to scope one another out. I mentioned, as part of this small talk, that I had applied a year ago for the same school, and a similar role, but was unsuccessful. I could see their surprise. 

‘Oh really? Why were you not appointed?’  ‘It is very brave to apply again after getting knocked back!’

They were right. It was brave, but it was also telling of my commitment to wanting the role (albeit, this time around, much more senior), my resilience and of my sheer dogged determination.


Had I failed the year before? Essentially, yes. They didn’t appoint, and I was absolutely devastated. It put me in a really bad place for a good week or so. But I got over it, toughened up, and asked for feedback.

‘You must improve your leadership skills. You just need to hone your knowledge as a leader, and come back in a year when we readvertise.’ I promised that I would. And I did.

So there I was, applying for the same school that I had been knocked back from not even a year ago.

The interview process, to my surprise, was the exact same as the previous year: same number of candidates, same discussion task, same staff room area to be seated in, same student panel questions, and even the same class that I had taught the time before (sheer coincidence). But it felt so much more different. Last year, I felt positive about the experience, but it was the first big interview that I had ever been on and it was daunting to say the least. I had no idea what to expect, and I was out of my depth. This year, I wasn’t just positive, but confident that I had spent a year doing exactly as they told me – to hone my leadership skills.

It got to the afternoon part of the interview, when people were likely to be eliminated from the process, and only then did the nerves kick in. The gremlins started.

‘This is what you fell down on last year, Kaley. You can’t do this.’

‘The head said, if you wanted to leave, you could do so at any point. Just go.’

I put said gremlins right back into their cage, and I went in and interviewed.

The questions that I felt myself stumbling over last year, were the ones I felt most comfortable answering this year. Not only that, but last year I just wanted the job; I was just so desperate to a) get out of my situation as it was and b) progress. I let them control the interview, and I asked questions that would impress. This year, it was a different story. As much as they grilled me, I grilled them. I needed to make sure this was the school for my next step- for my first step from middle leadership to senior. And I asked questions in abundance. This was as much about making sure they were right for me, as it was them making sure that I was right for them.

Last year, I spent hours making notes, writing down the data and the school spec from the website. This year, I did very little in terms of prep. I made sure I knew the P8, A8 and Basics measures, along with the curriculum and behaviour policy. But that was it.  I didn’t try to answer or ask questions that were to draw attention to the fact that I had done my research in order to impress. Instead, I used my values, my outside reading in terms of relevant research and my passion. The questions that I asked were genuine, as were the answers that I gave.

Last year, I tried to mould myself to suit the role. And I still didn’t fit. This year, I was simply myself. And it seems that that was enough.

I enjoyed my day, I took in my surroundings, and I didn’t pressure myself – even though I knew that my current workload simply wasn’t sustainable and therefore this was an opportunity. I took time to ask staff, middle leaders and senior leaders about wellbeing, workload and behaviour. Last year I would have been afraid to do that incase they didn’t think well of me.

I made sure that the school was right for me, just as they did vice-versa.

The one thing I have done in that year of leadership skills honing, is to make sure that my voice is one that asks questions for the greater good- usually not for my own benefit but for that of my team, one that speaks up when change needs to happen, and one that is driven with honesty from the get go.

I am who I am and that had to be accepted to know that Shirebrook and I were a good fit for one another. It would seem that we are and, as a result, I will be Shirebrook Academy’s new Head of English and Whole School Literacy as of September 2020. I even bought myself this as a celebration of my dogged determination, as it was rather apt!

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Saturday, 01 October 2022

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