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6 Ways to Succeed in an SEN Teaching Assistant Job Interview

SEN job interview handshake

If you’re passionate about becoming a special educational needs teaching assistant, then you’ll want to be prepared for when that perfect position becomes available. Before applying for any job, you should always conduct some research to give you the best opportunity in landing an interview. Then, once invited to an interview, this is when you’ll need to prepare, conduct further research into the school/employer you wish to work for, and plan for the type of questions that you’ll be asked.  

Below are a few pointers which will hopefully help you succeed in gaining that SEN teaching assistant job that you’re after.

1. Conduct thorough research into the school/employer

Woman researching potential employer

There’s nothing worse than going into an interview without having done your research, because the first question you are likely to be asked is: ‘What do you know about us?’

Before any interview, it is common practice to research your prospective employer, so if you fail to prepare, then this will instantly put you behind the other candidates competing for the same role.

Every prospective employer, regardless of whether the position is in an SEN school, or in a different sector entirely, wants to see that you are genuinely passionate about working for them. They will ask questions such as, ‘Why do you want to work for us?’ This is to gauge your level of commitment to gaining a position within the establishment, in addition to assessing your drive and enthusiasm to work in the position itself. 

An SEN teaching assistant needs to be dedicated, possess strong inclinations to learn and quickly adapt. This is because the everyday duties of the role are highly demanding, with the ability to pick up new skills necessary in order to achieve a student’s learning goals. This level of dedication should start, and show, before your interview.

2. Understand what your motivations for the role are

If you’re at this stage where you’re thinking about planning for an interview, then you are probably very committed to getting a role as an SEN teaching assistant. However, when asked by a prospective employer what your motivations are, you may find it difficult to answer in a confident and informed manner. 

Before your interview, think about what kickstarted your desire to work in a special educational needs environment. Write down a few bullet points to help you to summarise why you’d like to be an SEN teaching assistant.

Think about the questions you might be asked. For example: ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’

If there’s an ultimate goal that you’d like to achieve in your SEN career, then be sure to mention this in your interview. A prospective employer likes to see ambition. If you really aren’t sure what the progression options are for you, then do some research on what SEN jobs are available. 

3. Revise your previous experience, including positive and negative experiences

Hopefully, before applying for your desired SEN teaching assistant position, you will have already had some experience within a special educational needs setting. Even if you haven’t gained experience within a paid role, any voluntary work that you’ve done within a special education needs environment will count towards your experience, and, again, show prospective employers that you are serious about working in SEN. 

Prepare for questions that could be asked, such as, ‘How do you ensure the safety of your students?’ You will only be able to answer this question if you’ve already worked in an SEN environment where you’ve helped and supported students, but think about a particular instance where you’ve applied your knowledge to maintain safety within a classroom.

Read through the job description of the role you have applied for, then, think about where your experience coincides with what they are looking for. Write down some scenarios where you’ve had to quickly adapt to a situation, or perhaps where you’ve gained a new skill. Try to conclude with the end result, whether that was positive or negative, demonstrating what you achieved, or what you learned from the experience.

Being an SEN teaching assistant is all about being adaptable and fully committed to helping students achieve their personal and learning goals. A student who has dyslexia will require different teaching strategies to a student who is blind, and although it’s unlikely that you’ve been exposed to every learning difficulty or disability that a student may have, you will need to show your ability to empathise and, ultimately, adapt to a situation effectively.

4. Know what your skills and qualities are

Think about what makes a good SEN teaching assistant. Summarise the qualities that are required when working in a special educational needs environment. Hopefully, you will already possess some of the natural qualities that are necessary for being a good SEN teaching assistant, which is possibly one of the reasons you were drawn to the role in the first place. But, again, prepare yourself for any questions that delve deeper into your skills and qualities.

For example, they could ask: ‘How would you describe yourself in three words?’

These personal qualities are designed by a prospective employer to ascertain whether you’ll be suitable for the position on a long-term basis. Also, bear in mind that although a question may appear open-ended, the interviewer is actually wanting you to show some initiative by answering in a thoughtful and thorough manner. For example:

‘Do you consider yourself an empathetic person?’ (The answer will hopefully be yes, but provide an example of a time you were empathetic and how this helped to gain a positive result.)

5. Prepare questions to ask the employer

Woman writing questions in her notebook

The interview isn’t just a chance for a prospective employer to get to know you; this is your opportunity to find out more about the job itself and to hopefully ascertain whether it’s an establishment that you’d be happy to work in. 

Try to prepare some questions for your interviewer. For example: ‘Are there any opportunities to progress within the school?’ 

Asking relevant questions is another way for you to show a prospective employer that you are enthusiastic about the position. It will highlight your confidence and knowledge of the sector, along with showing transparent dedication to finding the right job for you.

6. Follow up with a thank you after the interview

Regardless of how you felt the interview went, your confidence and professionalism should be maintained and demonstrated through your courtesy at the end of the interview. Be sure to thank the interviewer for taking the time to see you – even if you find out later that you didn’t get the job, it was still a learning experience for you – and you could even send a follow-up email to reiterate your interest in the role, stating how much you enjoyed the interview, and that you look forward to hearing from them.

Are you looking for a role as an SEN Teaching Assistant? Then, hopefully, after reading on how to prepare for an interview, you feel more confident about applying for one of the SEN teaching assistant roles available.

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