You finally get an interview at your dream school.
Scrubbed up in your best attire, you sit at reception with a bunch of others, all looking equally keen and enthusiastic. While you know they are your competitors, you also know that not speaking to them would be antisocial, so you bravely spark up a conversation:
‘So where’s your placement?’ You ask innocently.
You feel your heart sink.
You’d have better luck picking up coins with your bum cheeks than you would getting a job over an internal candidate, right . . . Right?
Whether it’s your first post, or you’ve been through it many times, it is inevitable that you will attend an interview in which there is one, two, sometimes even three internal candidates. Lest you jump to the wrong conclusion, read on.
Mediocre internal candidates
Schools interview internal candidates for a number of reasons. Yes, they may be good candidates but even if they are not, they will likely be interviewed regardless, as it would be a major disservice by the school to not provide an interview opportunity. Also, it will likely destroy the confidence of the trainee teacher if they were declined an interview at their training school. In short, do not assume that a school is hell-bent on employing the candidate who knows everyone’s names and is being wished good luck by familiar faces: Reserve judgement.
Sometimes, applicants get interviewed for no tangible reason. Allow me to explain: We all know that in certain subjects there is a recruitment crisis, so often, there are only really one or two people who the school would seriously consider employing (based on their covering letter and application) yet five people get interviewed. The reason some schools do this is probably because they’ve come across popular wisdom which states that people will appreciate more what they have worked hard to achieve, i.e. you’re more likely to appreciate your school if you had to work for it than if the position just landed in your lap- hence leading to a more productive teacher. In this bid then, they create a sense of competition- a false one. So as in the above example, the internal candidate may not be worth fretting over.
All about the money
Experienced staff often fear that they will lose to the cheaper, less experienced candidate. With the current school funding crisis, it would be utter denial to suggest that salary does not play a part in whether or not you get selected- it does- but there’s more to it than that. For the experienced members of staff, there are a couple of things I’d advise:
Firstly- you cost more, so a school will want its money’s worth: If it don’t make dollars then it don’t make sense (as they say over the Atlantic-I think?). Make sure you show that you are an excellent teacher, obviously, but also have a long list of other ways in which you can contribute to the wider school, staff development, etc. Only then will you stand a chance.
Secondly- a school which is under pressure (yes- I know all schools are!) to achieve results, because they got an RI in their last inspection for example, may even prefer an experienced candidate. NQTs, obviously not having been teaching long enough to have a track record, cannot necessarily bang out results the way you can, and, there is a higher chance that they will struggle more with behavior management. (Disclaimer: I know there are many a strong NQT. This is only written in general terms!).
The devil you know
And of course, some schools would have decided on the internal candidate before your ass even sits down at reception. This is not only because they have a strong trainee but it is also because of the trainees potential. Obviously, you will never know any schools agenda, so my best advice would be to make sure you portray to your interviewer that you know you still require further development, you are easy work with, and are keen to become an even better teacher.
By Omar Akbar
For more advice and guidance check out The Unofficial Teacher’s Manual: What they don’t teach you at training college. Available on Amazon £6.75/£3.99