While the early childhood education sector has plenty of job opportunities right now, roles at leading centres can be competitive, and it’s always important to put your best foot forward. So here are our top tips for acing your next early childhood interview.
#1 Follow standard interview etiquette
Regardless of what industry you are in, the standard rules of interview etiquette still apply. Be on time, present yourself well, be polite, and say thank you at the end.
Given the nature of the role, early childhood centres often have a uniform or a smart casual dress code. However, it’s still important to dress smartly for your interview: think office wear, tailored pants and a button-down shirt instead of jeans and a t-shirt.
#2 Do your research
Take the time to look at the centre’s website to understand everything from its operating hours and number of places to its ethos and learning program. Doing so will ensure you can highlight the skills and experience that best fit the role.
You can also check out reviews of the centre to see what families are saying about the experience — it can give you further insights into the environment. However, it’s important not to fixate on less favourable reviews, particularly if there is only a smattering.
#3 Show your passion for the industry
The early childhood education industry thrives on passionate people who love what they do, so ensure your enthusiasm comes across as much as your experience and skills.
Often, you’ll be asked to tell the interviewer/s about yourself, and this is a great chance to share why or how you got into the industry.
It’s a commonly asked question in almost every industry, but one that many still falter on. It’s a question you can (and should!) prepare for in advance. Put together a 60-90 second structured response that tells the interviewer how you got started in early childhood, where you have worked, what you are doing now and what you want to be doing in the future (past-present-future).
You can also reiterate your enthusiasm for the role at the end of the interview when you thank your interviewer.
#4 Tell stories
It’s common to be asked to share a challenging experience you’ve had in your career. Alongside practical examples of your experience, the interviewer usually looks for how you respond to challenges and solve problems.
The best way to convey your experience is through stories — the tried and tested STAR format still rings true. This is essentially a structured way to tell a story that compellingly highlights your experiences:
- Situation – what was happening?
- Task – what was your role or responsibility in the situation?
- Action – what did you do in response to the situation?
- Result – how did things pan out?
You can practice some of these stories beforehand so you know what you want to say and how to say it, remembering to keep them to a few minutes long.
#5 Remember that a little positivity goes a long way
A positive outlook is always your best bet. You might be asked why you are looking for a new role or even what you didn’t like about your last role, but these aren’t an invitation to be negative.
They are, however, an opportunity to highlight why you want to work for this centre. For example, if your last centre was on the smaller side and this is larger, you might say, “I’m looking for a role at a larger centre with room to grow and progress my career.” It’s the same message as “my last centre was small, and I want something bigger,” but it is far more positively expressed.
Remember, honesty is important, but how you deliver the message is everything!
And when you do a walk-through of the centre, polite greetings to staff you encounter and a positive comment on the environment shows you are observing and taking everything in, not just along for the ride. No need to overdo it, but a favourable comment about your surroundings, such as ‘this is a great space’, shows you are engaging with the experience.
#6 It’s your opportunity to assess the centre too
While the interview is a chance for the employer to assess your experience, skills and fit, it’s also your opportunity to determine if this is the right fit for you. While this doesn’t mean you should try to ‘interview’ the employer, it’s essential to think ahead about what you want and how you will assess whether this is suited to you.
You will likely have a chance to ask questions at the end, but while a few well-chosen questions are a sign of interest, you don’t want to ask more than a handful.
The walk-through gives you a great window into daily life at the centre. So use it to observe how the centre runs and whether you can see yourself working in the environment and with the team. Consider how people interact with each other and the children to see if it fits your cultural expectations.