What should you wear to a Primary School Interview?

It may sound like a small attention to detail but it’s not – the way you dress for your interview influences the way the interview panel sees you.

Why? – well the way you dress is the first thing that the interview panel sees of you as you walk into the room. Even before you say anything you have created an impression and that impression says :-

  • How you approach this interview for the school
  • Your own personality and values

Now you may not agree with me on that, but as you are not the one on the other side of the desk then I can tell you it’s not really the time to “express yourself.”

You can assume that having got this far, the school liked your application form and accompanying letter. They have seen where you trained and your various areas of expertise and read in your letter of application your views on education and how your skills will dovetail with the school and help to move things forward. Obviously this is a generalisation but to a greater and lesser degree this is what you write irrespective of the level of post!

NQT’s : – The interview group are not expecting you to arrive dressed as if you were still at college or university – what they are looking for is someone who “appears” to understand that they are ready to move into the Teaching PROFESSION. So any idea of casual clothes or T shirts or trainers are none starters and you should avoid. This is not a time to show your inner wackiness or personality by the clothes you wear. Remember that the staff interviewing are looking for a teacher who will become a positive addition to the school. They understand that you are just starting out in the profession but expect to see certain standards from you even at the beginning.

So rule of thumb should be at least smart casual (isn’t that a horrible phrase!) – there is no need to overdo formal at this level of interview but you should be smart. Guys you must wear a tie and formal shirt – Polo shirts are not appropriate and just to be on the safe side wear a jacket – it can be a sports jacket, but some interview panels expect a jacket and will notice if you don’t …so it’s not worth the risk!

Shoe wise – yes these will get noticed – for ladies not too high on the heels as it’s not a night out and guys these should be smart and polished ! There’s nothing worse than unpolished shoes …it really says so much about you but in a negative way!

Experienced staff interviews :- As we move interviews up the experience scale so the interview panels expect a little more. If a school is advertising for an experienced member of staff then they are looking for a teacher with a professional approach and attitude and one that can bring experience to the school. Dress code wise I would recommend a more formal approach on all levels. I personally would not recommend jumpers of any kind for the men or cardigans for the ladies, I think you need to step up to some form of jacket for both ladies and men. These do not need to be part of a suit but should be smart and relatively formal. Again pay attention to shoes. Jewellery should be kept to a minimum.

Management Posts :- There is a definite requirement here to look the part. In other words look like the role that you are interviewing for – management. Guys you have to step up and wear a suit for this type of interview and choose your tie carefully – nothing too weak or flowery and certainly pay attention to width – nobody wants to see someone who’s tie was bought in the 80’s and looks like a kipper! Ladies it is a suit for you also – whether trouser suit or skirt is up to you. Again choose your accompanying wear carefully and also jewellery – shoes can be a little more power and higher! On a personal note and it mostly applies to the guys…watches. It’s often said that you can tell someone’s character by their shoes and their watch. Its true….its better to interview wearing just a normal analogue watch than to arrive with a chunky Casio G- shock or even worse an old digital watch that looks like you got it from a garage! Nobody cares what watch you wear when you have got the job, but for me, at interview …well it says a lot!

Heads and Deputies :- Its the full formal wear for this including everything else…shoes, shirt/ blouse, tie, accessories etc etc. Make sure you spend some time on choosing what you wear but that its comfortable at the same time as at this level interviews can last some time!

Extras to consider : –

Nothing major but based on some interview slip ups they are worth mentioning.

  • Coats :- Everyone should have some kind of decent coat that they can wear to an interview – however there are some things you really shouldn’t. Don’t wear an Anorak (especially a pull over your head one…yes I have seen this!) – don’t wear any form of football or sports advertising coat – don’t wear a fleece (yes I have seen this…candidate kept it on in the interview – didn’t get the job!)
  • Tattoos – many people have tattoos nowadays but interviews are not the place for them to be seen. If you have made the decision to have tattoos on your hands or elsewhere visible then you cannot avoid this but otherwise they should be covered.
  • Don’t make this mistakeI was once interviewing candidates for a management post – it was  a warm day and one candidate asked if he could take his jacket off. Unfortunately he had not chosen his shirt well and had a blue shirt. When he took off his jacket he had huge sweat marks under both arms and across the front of the shirt! If you know you’re going to have this problem choose a white shirt or keep your jacket on !

So there you are – a few hints and tips on what to wear for your interviews. The general approach would be to dress smartly for the post and occasion and don’t let your choice of interview clothing detract negatively from your interview.

Interview decisions can be made on the strangest things. I know of one interview for the Headship of a large school that was decided on a completely non educational point. At the end of the interview the panel was split in half on 2 candidates. The remaining vote was to come from an elderly lady who had been on the governors for many years. When asked who she would choose and why for her casting vote…she replied ” I am going to choose Mr A because I thought he sat much better in the chair”….the headship of this large school was decided on how someone sat in a chair!

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