Friday, 1 May 2015

Interview Questions

As a twenty one year old NQT wannabe, I rocked up at Leeds University to be interviewed for the PGCE Secondary English course. 

I'll admit I was a bit complacent. I was on my way to getting a good degree from a good University and they were crying out for teachers: it was 2004! The era of the Golden Hello and the Teacher Loan Repayment scheme! I'd been for a few drinks the night before because I was in Leeds and, you know, friends and beer and being twenty one. I wasn't hungover but you know. Beer

And so I went in for the interview. 

The interviewer had a huge moustache - that was the first thing I noticed. The second thing was that he wasn't smiling. At all. Not even a hint of a smile. And so the questions started rolling. 

'This is a bit of an indulgent question based on an area of interest of mine - morality and education. How do you propose you would or could teach morality through Secondary English? Or do you even think that we should?'

'What do you think motivates young people to do well academically? How can you encourage them to do that?'


And then, my personal favourite, the scenario-based question. 

'Imagine I'm a fifteen year old boy. Go on.'

I stared at the enormous moustache. OK. 

'Now, you're teaching a lesson on poetry. It's a lesson you've really been looking forward to and you've put a lot of time and effort into preparing your resources.'

Still staring at the moustache. OK. 

'Especially a handout. THIS handout.'

He picked up a piece of paper from his desk. And then, before my very eyes, he morphed into a fifteen year old boy. 

'What use is this anyway? Poetry! Pah!'

His face, moustahce and all, contorted in adolescent disgust.

'And this is what I think of your fucking handout!'

He actually said 'fucking'. And then he screwed up the piece of paper and threw it at me. 

He sat back in the chair, smiling for the first time since the interview had started. 

'So, what do you do now?'

Ah. Right. Should have prepared for this, I thought. 


What's the best interview question you've ever been asked? And by 'best' I mean, of course, the weirdest/toughest/most interesting/bizarre.


  1. This is a bit lame I know...but the thing I used to struggle with at interview was convincing them that I thought that my subject [it's a core one by the way] was absolutely the best and most important subject because apparently this demonstrates passion. Why can't I just enjoy my subject and be good at teaching it? Surely I don't have to sell my soul to it. Why isn't it healthy to accept that for some students it might not be their cup of tea. Furthermore I was once debreifed as to what I should have said. I'm thinking .. was I supposed to give my answer or the answer you were looking for. Perhaps they wanted to employ dishonest shallow people!

    1. debriefed - typo sorry

    2. Yup, I hear you. As a PGCE student, I rehearsed the answers to possible interview questions until I could parrot them - in the (paraphrased) words of Mary Beard on her Desert Island Discs, 'Oh darling, when you really have to THINK it's going to hurt'. If they'd thrown me a curveball question I'd have fallen apart. I think it gets easier, though, the longer you teach and the more time you spend at the other side of the table, i.e. as the interviewer? You start to appreciate original and honest answers more.