Common interview questions

Interviews can be daunting, but the key to interview success is preparation. To help you along the way, we’ve gathered a sample of questions from schools and universities that could be asked on your interview to help you get off to a great start. 

The challenges of being a trainee

What challenges do you anticipate facing as a trainee and what strategies will you employ to help you overcome them?

“Answer will ideally show; a realistic idea of what the training course will involve, demands of working in a school plus the additional demands from university, such as written assignments. Answers should also give a sense of trying to manage work-life balance and having interests outside of training to provide that balance. Answers may also relate to talking to their mentor, course tutor, departmental colleagues and peers to find the help and support they need.”

Paul Bainbridge, associate assistant headteacher, Burnham Grammar School

Dealing with constructive criticism

Can you explain an instance when you have been offered constructive criticism and describe how you acted upon it?

“I’d be looking for an applicant to display a positive attitude towards advice and constructive criticism offered by colleagues, regardless of their colleague’s age, seniority or level of experience. I’d be looking for a specific and detailed example of how the trainee was able to take the feedback on board and carry out the suggested improvements, as well as an understanding of the impact of these changes on the quality of their work. This question enables us to recruit applicants who will be committed to their own professional development, share the positive values we promote within the partnership and who will be able to meet Standard 8 (8d) of the Teachers’ Standards.”

Helen Byron, head of training, Burton Meadow ITTC

Why teaching

Why do you want to teach?

There are lots of different answers to this, but the best answers are always when the trainee gives a very specific example from a positive or challenging experience they have had already. Real-life examples are so much better than ‘I want to make a difference’.”

Darren Priestley, assistant headteacher, Anglo European School

Educational issues 

What are the current issues in education today?

“The response to this can be anything, but this is a question which on the whole is answered very poorly. Reading the TES, educational blogs or journals will provide a host of key issues from pay and conditions, levels, progress, curriculum, closing the gap, pupil premium, etc. You can take your pick but it demonstrates you have prepared well and are reading key educational literature.”

Jake Capper, teaching school lead, Pathfinder Teaching School Alliance, York

Your subject matters

Why should pupils learn your subject?

“Responses to this question should demonstrate enthusiasm for the distinctive nature of a candidate’s chosen subject. Transferable skills such as communication or problem-solving skills are fine, but they are not the most important reason for pupils to develop knowledge, skills and understanding in your subject area.

“Evidence of research into recent developments in policy, practice and research in your curriculum area are important here. This is because the mentors who work with student teachers in schools really value the innovations that new entrants to the profession bring. An understanding of pedagogies that can develop a love of your subject is the hallmark of a really strong candidate. It’s really encouraging to see a candidate who not only knows they want to teach, but also has an embryonic understanding of how they want pupils to experience learning in their classroom.”

Emily Sayers, senior education lecturer, Canterbury Christ Church University


The format of the interview varies between schools and universities. Your interview could be a one-on-one or a panel interview, and you may have tests and tasks to complete.

You may also be required to participate in a ‘recruitment exercise’, which may include any of the following:

  • a group task, discussion or presentation
  • a further individual interview
  • a written test

Remember, no one is perfect at interviews, but plenty of preparation will get you there.