Robert Brooks

Leading Practitioner

Interview and job seeking advice for NQTs


At the moment there are a staggering 7,362 vacancies on the TES jobs website!

tes jobs

For a lot of these vacancies, trainee teachers looking for NQT positions are eligible to apply.

I thought I would give some advice from what I have learnt from my own experience and from others. This is not a comprehensive guide since a whole book could be written on this topic! Here is just a selection of advice:

Job searching

Use the following to help you find an NQT job:

  • TES: Set up job alerts for where you are looking for a job and the subject. These can be daily e-mail alerts. Make sure when you make a TES account though that you choose a username that does not identify you, particularly if you also use the TES Forums!
  • e-teach: You can search for jobs and join ‘talent pools’ so that employers could potentially find you first!
  • Twitter: Follow Headteachers and schools on twitter that you are interested in and keep an eye out for any vacancies they make you aware of.

Be particular with what you are looking for. You need to like the job and be happy and successful in it if you are appointed. This does depend of course on your phase (primary/secondary) and your subject specialism. For example, a Physics NQT could be much more selective with what they are looking for as this is a shortage subject.

Job applications

Do not just apply for every job with the same covering letter. If you do choose to do this (although I advise against it) make sure you change the school name! I have heard of candidates’ applications being put straight in the bin if they have put the wrong school name in their letter!

Tailor your covering letter to how you meet the person specification for the specific job. If this document is not available on the TES or school website, e-mail the HR Department at the school for this. It is essential you know the criteria you are being assessed on for your application.

Fully research the school before you even start the job application. You may find that after getting half way through the application form you realise that the school does not have a sixth form and you really wanted to have the opportunity to teach A Level Chemistry for instance. Check at least the following:

  • That NQTs can apply
  • The Ofsted report
  • The school prospectus
  • Do a Google search of the school so you can see if there have been any difficulties or issues lately in the school community that may influence your decision on applying

If you can organise a preliminary visit to the school, this may be beneficial, however you will need to treat this also as a preliminary ‘interview.’

School tour

Whilst on the school tour, think carefully about whether this is the type of school you would want to work in. How does staff morale seem? Do people seem to be supported? Do you think you could work positively with the staff and children at this school? Remember you are on ‘interview’ at this point. Any remarks you make, for instance about the school, and your body language will be taken into consideration by the interview panel.

Lesson observation

Make sure the lesson you teach is completely your own. There are stories I have read on the TES where candidates have downloaded the same lesson resource/worksheet as the interviewer had uploaded themselves to the TES a few weeks before!

Have a lesson plan ready for the observer(s). Print off several copies in case there are several staff members observing, such as the Headteacher, Deputy Headteacher and Head of Science. Use the 5 minute lesson plan or the 5 minute digital lesson plan by @teachertoolkit or a format that will fit easily into one page. Here is an example of one of my KS3 Science lesson plans:

7Jd Example Lesson Plan-page-001

Plan an interesting and engaging lesson with AfL that will show pupils progressing. Do not just focus on teaching a ‘whizz bang’ lesson that you could not hope to teach on a 5 period day when you are appointed!

Have sticky labels ready to give the students to put their names on as this will make behaviour management much easier.

Depending on how many candidates are going for this position, the Headteacher may decide to shortlist after the lesson observation. An example may be if there are 8 candidates and 3 of them had lessons that did not go well, then only 5 would be taken forward to interview. If the lesson is a disaster, then often they will not put you through a formal interview on top of this.


Be calm and as relaxed as possible show you can demonstrate your true ability. Listen carefully to the question asked and avoid rehearsing ‘standard’ questions you might think they will ask based on what you read on the internet and from talking to others. Having said that, do be clear on things like child protection where there is very little room for manoeuvre on what you could respond with. Make your answers sound spontaneous to the question and not rehearsed. Talk about what you have done so far in your teacher training and how you would develop this further as an NQT. The interview panel are not expecting the ‘finished article’ from an NQT.

Scenario 1: You don’t want the job!

If you decide you don’t want the job and it is before the day of the interview, let the HR Department know as soon as possible. Do not go just for ‘the experience.’ Every school and interview situation is different. You will be wasting your time and a busy Headteacher’s time in trying to appoint the best candidate for their school.

If during the day of the interview you decide at any point that you do not want to work at this school, you must let the Headteacher/HR Department/Head of Science know at the earliest opportunity. The school will be grateful for your honesty and all you need to say is something along the lines of that you don’t feel this is the right school for you.

If you are asked this question directly, normally at the end of the interview “are you still a firm candidate?” You must answer this honestly, however if you are hesitant in saying “yes,” then this may influence the interview panel’s decision.

Scenario 2: You get the job!

You will receive a phone call congratulating you from the Headteacher or Head of Science. They will ask you to accept the job offer.

Even though this is not a formal contract, this is a verbal agreement and you should not phone back a day or two later and say that you have changed your mind. If you back out without very good reason after this verbal agreement, this will cause the Headteacher to have to re-advertise and cause expense to the school financially and waste a lot of everyone’s time. This will also cause you a problem if you want to apply to another school in the same borough or county where their Headteachers meet regularly.

You could possibly request that you would like time to think about the offer. This could be fine in some situations, however remember that the school is now waiting on you and particularly if this is a time where they need to fill the position quickly they may say “no” to this requst. As stated earlier, be clear before the day of the interview and during the day of the interview about whether you want the job or not and say so!

Scenario 3: You don’t get the job!

Do not be too disheartened. The school may not have been right for you or you may not have been right for them at that particular time. Another candidate may have been stronger than you and had they not applied, you could have been successful. There are so many factors that can influence the interview panel’s decision.

Listen to what the panel says in terms of feedback to you. Sometimes they will let you know there and then or on the phone. Even though you may be upset, try to listen carefully to their feedback as this is useful to have for your next interview. Do not however disagree with any of the feedback given to you, no matter how much you are against what they have said. Arguing will not influence their decision and will cause them to have a negative impression of you. Remember in a week’s time they could have another vacancy and you might be ‘second’ and they might just ring you back and offer you the job!

Don’t burn bridges!

No NQT job to go to?

The resignation date for serving teachers to leave on the 31st August, is the 31st May in that academic year. This means that any time after the 31st May are jobs that would normally only be available for NQTs. There are often opportunities for supply teaching work whilst you are still actively job seeking for a permanent position.

I wish you all the best with your NQT job searches!


3 thoughts on “Interview and job seeking advice for NQTs

  1. Pingback: Education Panorama (April ’14) by @TeacherToolkit | @TeacherToolkit

  2. Pingback: Education Panorama (May ’15) by @TeacherToolkit | @TeacherToolkit

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