Preparing for a Primary School interview – NQT

I have an NQT interview tomorrow – could anyone please tell me what sort of questions I might be asked?

Preparation in all walks of life determines how well things turn out – we can even relate this to painting a wall! How well you rub down and prepare the wall determines how good the final job looks!

Please don’t think that you can just walk into an interview at any level and be successful – if you are thinking in this way then you need to reconsider how much you want these jobs.

So Let’s take stock of just where we are at this point …..

  • You have seen a job advert.
  • You have sent off for details and an application form  (or received via email).
  • Research online tells you its the sort of school you would like.
  • You visit to take a further look.
  • A decision is made to apply.
  • You receive an invitation to interview….great news!

You will have, at this point, made multiple applications – but will also have in your mind a sort of preference list of schools you would most like to work in. Of course, and typically, the date order of interviews you receive will place you favourite choice after some other interviews – leaving you with the dilemma of what to do if the initial school interviews are successful ! It’s always the way and has happened to us all.

The simple answer is this – you take the first school job offer that you are given. Assuming that you have applied to schools you wish to teach in, then any of them should be ok. Don’t pass up a good job offer only to miss out on your “favourite” 2 weeks later!

Preparing for your interview:

You most definitely need to prepare for interview. It is not enough to think “oh I know what I am going to say” – under the pressure of interview questions, the last thing you want is for everything to go out of your head and your mind is a blank!

I suggest that if possible you start to focus on things 1 week before the interview, but this may not be an option if you are called in at short notice –  whatever your time frame try to have a look at the things listed below.

  • Know what you put on your application form and in your letter of application and be prepared to elaborate about any aspect if questioned.
  • You need to know about the school, its current position (OFSTED) and things that are happening in the school at the moment (Website).
  • If you have visited, go over any notes you have on things discussed or mentioned or that you observed.
  • Make a list of “potential” questions you might be asked and write notes on your answers.
  • Be confident that you can talk about your basic philosophy of education.
  • What can YOU bring to the school?

You need to get this information sorted and practice your example answers – make notes and get things ordered in your mind, so that even under pressure you are able to answer and respond with confidence….and it makes sense!

Most of this is your CORE preparation:

If we take a look at the list; for a NQT application, most is core information. This means that when you have got this sorted it will form the basis for ALL of your NQT interviews. The only stuff that you need to change or to dig out are the relevant individual characteristics for each school and also any specific wishes they may have stated (check for these)- these are usually given as “an interest in xxxx would be a plus or beneficial.”

Preparing for questions:

It is almost impossible to predict what the questions will be for your interview – however they will follow a certain pattern.

  • Starter question
  • Why teaching / why this school
  • Teaching practice and experiences
  • General knowledge of systems and approaches e.g planning, assessment, differentiation behaviour management etc
  • Personal interests and what you can bring to the school
  • Strengths / weaknesses

You may have been told that the opening question will be to help you settle in or relax – this is a mistake and needs just as much prep as all the others.

An example of an opening question may be ” Can you tell us a little about yourself?” – The interview panel don’t want you painting a picture from Nursery level….give your name and age and start with what you did immediately prior to teaching – A levels / career etc. The go on to say why you chose teaching (briefly) and then what age groups you have taught on TP and what you enjoyed most. Simple clear answer – but you would be surprised how many mess it up!


There are many more and you can easily research these online.

The thing to bear in mind when practicing answers is to choose example questions that cover School issues, class / age group issues, your own personal views, approaches and knowledge and any major things happening or being discussed in education (not in any depth but just be aware)

If you prepare for these type of questions then even if the questions asked are different ,  you will be able to draw information from your overall preparation and apply to what is being asked.

Of course – there can always be wildcard questions that you can never prepare for and these will usually come from Governors. Here is one I was asked once…

“Mr Watson – you are asked to take a class that is not your own for an afternoon – it is raining outside…what would you do?”

Take a moment, think, and then treat it with the same degree of seriousness as you would all the other questions – it is important to that person and they are on the other side of the table!


Many NQT’s now bring a portfolio of photographs and examples of work to their interview. If you have one then great – if not then don’t worry. They do give examples of work you have done on Teaching practice and will be considered at the end of everyone’s interview so make sure your name is on the front cover and it’s large!

Are you at a disadvantage if you do not have a portfolio? – no you are not…the decision of the panel will be based on how you perform during the interview. The Portfolio is an extra but would not change a decision.

Short teaching observation:

These are now being included at NQT interviews more and more and personally I think they are unnecessary and do not reflect a candidates ability in any way. However if this is requested by the interview panel then you must get prepared. The subject area will be given to you and also how many children there will be – it usually will be a group of 10-12 children and not generally a full class. If you have not been informed then ask about the educational standards / levels of the children because you will need to plan for differentiation if necessary (and usually it will be included!)

Make your lesson a complete lesson – in other words if you have 20 minutes then do the whole thing in 20 minutes don’t do 1/2 a lesson and expect the panel to “make up their own endings!” Prepare and practice and if you need any simple equipment ask the school to supply it (before you arrive) although paperwork / photocopies I would supply myself . Make sure its energetic, fun, interactive and accessible to all.

The only other decision you need to think about is what to wear on the day – take a look at an article I wrote on this and it will give you some pointers!

What should you wear to a Primary School Interview?


That, I think, covers most things that you need to think about and prepare before you go for your interview. As I said, much is generic and can be applied across most NQT interviews so its worth spending some time to get it sorted out.

In the next article we look at the interview itself and what happens on the day.

Primary Practice would like to invite you to join our NQT and trainee teachers Facebook group


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *