You see the job, you spend hours applying and if you are lucky, you get the interview.

But then what?

You’ll no doubt be required to teach a lesson either on your home turf or at the school you’ve applied to work in. That won’t be easy but the real test is the interview.

Imagine this question: “Tell me about a time you dealt with conflict as a subject leader?”

How would you answer that? If you can answer that off the cuff in an articulate and linear manner then you are a rare breed.

For behavioural or competency questions (communication, time management, conflict resolution skills etc) your mind can go to mush unless you have something to structure your thinking which is why the Situation, Task, Action, and Result (STAR) formula is so handy and powerful.

STAR responses show your interviewers you can think on your feet when the reality is, you have sat down and prepared really well beforehand with possible scenarios they might ask. Do these well and it shows employers that you know how to transfer skills from different environments.

Using STAR turns the tables because its the technique that interviewers use as their framework to see if you are up to the job and can evidence what you have done.

It’s all about the evidence folks and essentially, STAR interviews mean giving your answers in the form of a story with a beginning, middle and end.

STAR questions seek concrete examples of skills and experiences that relate directly to the position.

Breaking STAR into its component parts looks like this:


Outline the scenario, i.e. what situation did you find yourself in?


What did you have to do? Describe your role and responsibility. What, how and why?


Explain what you DID. What actions did you take?


What happened as a result of your action? What would you do differently next time?

Approximate time allocated to the STAR formula is 10%, 10%, 70% and 10%.

The most important part of this formula is the Action as this is where you demonstrate your skills. This is the area to spell out specifically what you did – without any embellishment. Spend too long describing the situation and you aren’t giving your strengths enough air time.

It’s also worth remembering to make sure that the Result or outcome reflects positively on you even if the result wasn’t favourable.

Behavioural questions tend to focus on five main areas: teamwork oriented, problem solving, initiative/leadership, interpersonal skills, challenge/stress/pressure.

Some common generic behavioral interviewing questions include:

  • Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
  • Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
  • Give an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
  • Give a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
  • Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritise your tasks.
  • Give an example of a time when you had to make a split second decision.
  • Tell us about a difficult decision you’ve made in the last year.
  • Provide an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish and failed.
  • Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.
  • Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.
  • Describe a time when you set your sights too high (or too low).
  • Describe a time you had to deal with a difficult or challenging issue with a colleague. How did you handle it and what was the outcome?
  • What is the most successful team project you have been a part of?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to work on a team and felt disappointed in the outcome.
  • Share a time when you had to work with a teammate that wasn’t pulling their own weight on a project. What happened? What did you do? What was the outcome?
  • Tell me about a time when you stepped up into a leadership position.
  • Who have you mentored or coached to achieve success?
  • Describe a time when you led by example.
  • Tell me about a decision you regret making.
  • What is your biggest professional mistake? How did you handle it?
  • Tell me about a time you failed.
  • What are you most proud of? Why?
  • Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond to get the job done.
  • When have you had to juggle multiple important projects at the same time?
  • Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.
  • How do you handle a challenge? Give an example.
  • Give an example of how you set goals.
  • Give an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it.
  • Describe a decision you made that wasn’t popular and how you handled implementing it.
  • What do you do if you disagree with someone at work?

Then there are some specific teacher-related questions:

  • What methods do you use to monitor student progress?
  • How have you incorporated technology into your lessons?
  • What do you do when your teaching plan for the day is upset by unforeseen circumstances? Give me an example of when this happened recently.
  • What have you done in order to manage your time more effectively?
  • In what ways do you encourage students to be accepting of one another?
  • How have you handled a student who was not completing his or her homework on a regular basis?
  • How have you handled a conflict situation between two or more students?
  • Describe a situation where a lesson clearly didn’t work well. What did you do?
  • How have you handled situations when students appeared disinterested or bored in your lesson?
  • How have you managed a situation where you felt you were losing control in the classroom?
  • Describe a time you had to deal with angry complaints from a parent about your teaching methods.
  • How have you responded when students have let you down?
  • What has been one of the biggest obstacles you have had to overcome to reach your objectives as a teacher?

To help you prepare for an interview, review the job requirements, and make a list of the behavioral skills that you have that closely match them. You can’t cover all bases but rehearsing the STAR response is time well spent.

Interviews aren’t pleasant and there is always a huge pressure to instantly present an answer that is both impressive and appropriate. Perhaps the STAR method will help you demonstrate your skills and ability.

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