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Teaching assistant job interview advice

Career | Published 1 January, 2012

You’ve decided to become a teaching assistant, put together a great application and managed to net yourself an interview. But what now? Here we walk you through what to expect at interview and how you can prepare

What is the interview process for teaching assistants?

As with all posts within a school, the interview process varies from school to school. At some schools the process is very informal but we’ll talk you through the standard formal process If you are ready for this then you’ll fly through any less formal process. 

The interview process tends to consist of two distinct parts. One part is aimed at getting to know you a little better and is likely to be a traditional style interview with a panel of two or three people asking you questions. The other part of the interview is more practical and is aimed at seeing how well you will do in a classroom environment. During this part of the interview you may be asked to work with a group of children so that your interviewers can get a feel for how well you would fit into the role. 

The whole process is designed to help the school make the best decision about whether or not you’ll make a good teaching assistant and it’s also a great opportunity for you to get a feel for whether you would like to take the role if offered. 

What will happen during the interview?

During the formal interview you will be asked questions by a panel of two or three people which may include a governor, the head teacher, teachers or an existing teaching assistant. Their questions will be aimed at seeing whether you meet the person specification and can fulfil the job description that they’ve put together. They will probably take it in turns to ask you pre-prepared questions and they’re likely to write down notes to help them remember what you’ve said and because they are legally required to keep a record of the process. At the end you’ll have an opportunity to ask any questions you have. 

What types of questions will I be asked?

There are a huge range of different questions you might be asked at interview, the process is designed to help your interviewers understand more about your experience, your personality and your skills. You might also be asked questions about how you might manage certain situations in the classroom, such as bad behaviour or giving feedback on a task. Make sure you are fully prepared to explain in more depth anything you have outlined on your application form. 

How can I prepare for my TA job interview?

The best way to prepare is to practice, practice, practice. Practice to yourself at first, and when you’re feeling more confident ask a trusted friend or family member to interview you and give you honest feedback. Use our specifically prepared question bank to help you understand the breadth of topics you may be questioned on and to allow you to practice and prepare.

When preparing your answers, think carefully about different experiences you can draw on to illustrate your competencies in different areas. Can you think of a time you worked well in a team, managed a difficult situation, communicated well etc?

What type of activity might I be asked to do?

Not all schools will ask you to work with children as part of the interview process, but it is fairly common practice nowadays.  You are likely to be asked to work with a small group of just three or four children.  If you have little or no experience then you will probably be given a fair amount of guidance about exactly what to do – for example you might be asked to read The Gruffalo to the group and then ask them some questions to see if they understood what was happening.  If you are more experienced you may be given more leeway and may even be asked ahead of the day to prepare a task.  For example you might be asked prepare a ten minute task to help children practice counting one to ten.   

How can I prepare?

The best preparation you can do is to get used to working with children of the appropriate age. You may already be very confident, but if not then try and do a couple of voluntary sessions at your local school or children’s clubs and get used to interacting with children. Think especially about how to explain things in different ways to help children to understand; how to keep children focused on the task in hand and how to manage any difficult behaviour. 

If you are given a task to prepare ahead of time make sure you work out what you’re hoping to do in plenty of time, and practice, asking for feedback from a trusted friend. 

What should I wear?

A good rule of thumb is that it is best to dress too smart rather than too casually for an interview. You need to make sure you feel comfortable so that you’ll do your best at the interview, but first impressions count for a lot and although it’s not expected attire for a teaching assistant you’ll never go wrong with a suit. Otherwise a smart skirt or trousers with a neutral shirt or blouse is very acceptable and will ensure you’ll make the right impression. 

What do I need to take with me?

It’s a good idea to take a copy of your original application and you may be asked to provide documents needed for your CRB check such as a passport and utility bill. This should all be made clear to you but call the school and ask if in doubt. If you’ve prepared an activity, bring along anything you need, don’t rely on the school to provide it or you may find yourself rethinking your plan at the last minute! It’s also a good idea to bring a notepad and pen as you may wish to write a few things down following your interview. 

The interview starts the moment you arrive at the school

Your interview starts long before you meet your interviewers, everyone from the pupils to the secretary will be forming first impressions of you.  Make sure you arrive in plenty of time and take a moment to talk to pupils and be pleasant to the admin staff – ask them what they like about the school, you might learn something useful you can learn in your interview and you’ll certainly make a great impression.

Useful links for teaching assistant job interviews

The National Association of Teaching Assistants

TES Teaching Assistant forum

How to become a teaching assistant

Tips on applying for teaching assistant roles

Teaching assistant career development

Typical teaching assistant job description – What does the job involve?

Becoming a higher level teaching assistant

Teaching assistant pay and conditions

Teaching assistant interview question bank

Find a job as a teaching assistant on TES Jobs

View all the teaching assistant jobs

View other support positions

Don’t forget to set yourself up with a job alert for your chosen role so you will get the latest jobs emailed direct to your inbox as soon as they become available on TES Jobs. You have to register with TES to set up a job alert but registration is quick and free.


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