5 questions to AVOID when interviewing Educators

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Interviews are a great opportunity to assess if a candidate will be a good fit for your service. You can use a whole range of techniques to assess their suitability for the role.

However, some questions can land you in hot water.

Can you guess which of these 10 questions you should avoid?

  1. Do you enjoy working with children?
  2. Do you have children?
  3. Do you drive?*
  4. How do you plan to get to work every day?
  5. Do you have any injuries?
  6. Do you like to play sport with children?
  7. Where were you born?
  8. Do you speak any other languages?
  9. Do you live by yourself? Are you married?
  10. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?


How did you go?

The questions to avoid are questions 2, 3, 5, 7,9.

Technically there is nothing wrong with asking these questions (2,3,5,7,9). However, using the information received to inform your hiring decision could be considered as unfairly discriminating against the applicant.

It’s best to avoid asking any questions that relate to age, marital status, family responsibility, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual preferences and disabilities. Your interviews can be casual, light-hearted even, but be careful not to cross the line. Mumbrella reports that the Sydney advertising agency Banjo, had to apologise for a “misunderstanding” after a job applicant claimed she was told she was not suitable for the role because the agency already had too many “brown skin people”. Ouch!

Keep your interviews casual but be sure to only ask questions that relate to the inherent requirements of the role.


Behavioural interviewing

So, can candidates ‘fake it’ through the interview?

Some people are great at being interviewed. As a consequence sometimes hiring managers make the mistake of hiring the person who gives great answers (funny stories or exciting examples) rather than someone whose answers demonstrate his or her competency.

Behavioural interviewing has been widely recognised as the best questioning technique to assess candidates’ suitability for the role.

These are designed to connect the position-relevant past experience of the applicants with the position requirements. Behavioural questions provide an opportunity to tap into the actual behaviour and experiences of the applicant.

Some of the behavioural questions that the hiring manager might concentrate on include:

  1. Can you describe a particular situation between you and a difficult parent? How did you deal with the situation?
  2. Can you describe a conflict between you and another educator? What was the outcome? What did you learn from it?
  3. Can you describe a situation where you had to console a child who had hurt himself/herself?
  4. How did you deal with a child who was having a temper tantrum?

These questions are ideal as they require the candidate to reflect on their past experience and give examples of how they have demonstrated their competency in the past.

When asking behavioural questions it’s always advisable to think of the answer touch points prior to the interview.


Answer Touch Points

Answer touch points are a great way of making sure you stay on track during an interview. They refer to the demonstrated capabilities you are looking for the candidate to refer to during their answer. For example, if you ask a behavioural question on learning experiences, you may ask:

“Can you think of a time when you have designed a learning experience for pre-schoolers?”

The answer touch points are:

  • Ability to design learning experiences,
  • Ability to link learning theory to learning design,
  • Ability to communicate learning outcomes, and
  • Ability to design age-appropriate experiences.

Your answer touch points give you a benchmark or reference point to help you assess the candidate’s level of competency.

Imagine you’ve just come home in the evening from a hard day at work and you are trying to pull your keys out of the bag. Just as you grab your keys you drop them in the grass. You get down on your hands and knees trying to find your keys in the dark. Instead of the keys, you find $2 in the grass. Excited, you jump up and try to open the front door. You can’t get in because you don’t have your keys, which is the whole reason you were looking in the grass in the first place.

This story highlights the need for answer touch points. Without answer touch points any applicant who gives you a shiny $2 coin, you’ll perceive as a great candidate. In reality, it’s the key you want not the shiny $2 coin.

Focusing on answer touch points ensures that you appoint the most suitable applicant for the role rather than appointing someone who gives you lots of shiny $2 coins and turns out to be a dud after 3 months.

Continue the learning with our live webinar.

Behavioural Interviewing Skills for Nominated Supervisors
31st August 2016
10:00am – 10:45am AEST

Click to reserve your seat.



*Unless they need to drive the bus for OSHC

About the author:
Adrian Pattra is the Education Director of Farran Street Education. In this role he manages the day-to-day operational and educational outcomes. Adrian has been involved in adult education for the past 15 years, he holds a Bachelor of Education and a Master in Educational Psychology. Adrian has worked with a range of Children Service’s organisations, providing them with the tools to improve their competency and learning frameworks, while creating a culture of continuous learning.  For the past 20 years, Adrian together with his family has a small long day care service on Sydney’s lower north shore.