Like any diligent final year student, I jumped on the job application train early on in the piece and sent out a few applications during the summer before starting university again. I received a more or less immediate invitation from Teach First – an invitation to their assessment centre in London. The invitation included details as to the format of the day, which was markedly dissimilar to any interview I had experienced up until that point.
The majority of interviews for graduate schemes follow the format of an assessment centre. Up until that point, I had only experienced the run-of-the-mill sit in front of your potential employer and answer questions type interview. This was my forte. I am reasonably personable and can get along well with folk, so normally do OK in this type of environment. The Teach First assessment centre took the format of a face to face interview, a group task, and then a teaching task at the end.
These last two aspects worried me.
Fear tends to be accentuated when you foray into the unknown. It is not being in control of an outcome and not knowing what is going to happen that perpetuates fear, and these new aspects of an interview were unknowns for me.
The key to being successful lies in the preparation. For early stage careers, the heavy focus is on your skills in particular areas. At this point in your professional journey, you are likely to be inexperienced in career history terms, but also likely to possess a number of skills accrued throughout your career at university and during extra curricular activities. The primary focus at interview will be what you have learned during this process and how your skillset transcends itself to the workplace. The idea is, you need to be able to demonstrate these skills through solid evidence.
For example, determination and resilience are key to teaching. During 2012, I completed an Ironman triathlon of 2 mile sim, 112 mile bike, and a finishing marathon. The mental determination to train for, and complete such an event was not trivial. During the event there were times when I wanted to finish, but I kept telling myself that one more stroke, pedal, or step will take me forward to my end goal. This can be applied to the workplace in that, when the going gets tough, just performing the activity immediately in front of you will get you towards your end goal, and the drive to do said task is the basis of determination.
That is essentially the crux of your task in a job interview.
The group activities and teaching task were obviously designed to augment Teach First’s picture of these skills further, but I had no idea how this was going to pan out. Enter the Student Room.
thestudentroom.co.uk is a forum site where students can converse with each other over a wide range of topics, from health, to revision, to what university to go to. The community is an unbelievably passionate one, and equally helpful. There is literally not a topic discussion you cannot start and find a person to engage with who can help you along your way.
The resource proved invaluable in the lead up to my interview. It turns out, there were many people all in the same boat preparing for this interview, with the same worries and questions. Helpfully, there were also a community of people who had been through the process, and who were willing and able to answer many of the questions you may have.
These helpful souls were able to tell me the general format of the group discussion, tactics to help me best approach the task and general encouragement and confidence boosting. The nature of the task is closely guarded by Teach First, so they did not disclose the details of it, but the advice they offered allowed me to prepare extremely well.
They also offered advice on the teaching task. The community discussed what made a good lesson for the 6 minutes we had to teach for, what to expect in terms of format, how the assessors would behave (like 14 year olds, it turns out), and again encouragement.
Participating in this community enabled me to feel instantly at ease during the interview process. I had had advice of people who had been there and done it and was able to prepare extremely well. I was successful in the interview and attribute the success to the helpful and informative discussions that were occurring on the Student Room.
As stated earlier, the topics on display extend much further than just employment. Sign up to the Student Room today to get started. You will be glad you did.