Mumsnet Logo
My feed

to access all these features


Help! First interview in a decade!

29 replies

Gobbledigooking · 13/11/2019 15:16

Name change as this could be outing to someone I know who I think is on here.

I need help! And advice! I have my first proper job interview in a decade in a few days. High school receptionist. PT.

I have never done this role before, but have highlighted transferable skills in my application (organisational, dealing with the public, able to speak clearly, follow rules & instructions etc). Now I have been shortlisted I'm panicking.

The interview says there will be a short task. Any school receptionists with any idea what this could be? The role isn't office based, the admin staff are off the front line hidden inside the school, I'd be sat at the reception desk dealing with people arriving into the building & taking calls / messages / transferring calls. So I'm not sure if computer skills will be tested? Or prioritising jobs but I can't think what sort of thing? The only pc use I'm aware of for the current receptionist is sending emails to staff (I have a loose connection with the school so know how things seem from the outside).

PLEASE take pity on me! My child has been ill the past few days so I've had no time to prep. Such bad timing as it's rare either of my kids gets ill. I'm a LP and this job could turn our lives around financially. It's the first one I've seen in forever that I have any hope of doing (confidence issues with being a SAHM for yonks... used to be a well paid professional many moons ago but that feels like a different person now) and that fits with the school day, as I have no one else to drop off / pick up my kids (no family help at all).

Thanks for reading. I hope there are some high school receptionists out there on here!

OP posts:

JustDanceAddict · 13/11/2019 15:22

All I will say is make sure you read up on the schools safeguarding policy as there will be a question. If you get it wrong, even if you shine in every other way, you won’t get the job.
Task will probably be prioritising - a child’s welfare always come first, take a phone call before a visitor as they can see you’re on the phone.
Most interviews are competency based now so think of some examples when you’ve used your skills.


Nomad86 · 13/11/2019 16:07

No advice about schools but some general tips I picked up from my HR days...

Is there a job description or list of skills on the advert? Think of an example for each, they don't all have to be from your last job, it can be from a volunteering position, helping on a pta or committee etc. When you give the example, be specific, especially with regards to your role in the situation and it's outcome.

If you get asked the "what's your biggest weakness" question that we all hate, pick something that is not absolutely essential to the job but something you've worked to improve. For example, "I've sometimes struggled with spreadsheets if I'm not using them every day, so I printed out a crib sheet of formulae to put by my desk to refer to, and I've found that really helped". The question is designed to test self awareness and self improvement, so a generic answer about being a workaholic is a wasted opportunity to stand out.

Try and relax, as hard as that is. Their time is precious and they wouldn't bother to interview you if you weren't a good candidate. Recruitment is time consuming, so they want you to get the job. They're not trying to trip you up, they're looking for reasons to hire you, not reject you.

Good luck!


Gobbledigooking · 13/11/2019 17:12

Actually my title should've said my first interview in 20 years! It's a decade since I last worked (paid).

Thanks for giving me some focus. My brain feels overwhelmed & daunted.

OP posts:

areyouafraidofthedark · 13/11/2019 17:16

Good luck OP I'm sure you'll do great, remember eye contact and smile lol.


MT2017 · 13/11/2019 17:20

Smile at everyone - you would be the face of the school so you should be pleasant and approachable, calm and unflustered.

Tasks will include you being given a number of things to do at once (phone ringing / visitor arriving / parent complaining / student behaviour / SLT issue for example) and needing to prioritise; in what order you would deal with them etc.

Good luck Flowers


Gobbledigooking · 13/11/2019 17:32

MT2017 I'm guessing a ringing phone is a priority, so acknowledge visitor / parent who will be more amenable to wait if they know you're aware of them. SLT issue, I'm not sure that'd come my way, it'd prob go straight to the admin office staff. Same with student behaviour issues. With there literally just being a reception desk outside the security-access school there's not much else I can do than answer phones, greet visitors, issue passes & contact internal staff to collect guests. I'm struggling to think what task they're planning & worried I'm missing something obvious.

OP posts:

Gobbledigooking · 13/11/2019 17:33

What is the right order to do MT2017?!

OP posts:

MT2017 · 13/11/2019 17:46

So you don't think you're dealing with SLT or students at all?

I would be surprised but if you're sure...

Then I would:

  1. Placate complaining parent, ask who they are seeing, treat them well and take them seriously
  2. Ask visitor to wait one moment whilst you answer the phone
  3. Keep phone call brief and make sure you have taken relevant notes
  4. Then full attention to visitor, smile, apologise for delay

Isleepinahedgefund · 13/11/2019 17:47

Deffo read the school safeguarding policy, safeguarding is key.

Think of things like what would you do if someone called in and claimed to be a child’s parent wanting to know if they were in school (wouldn’t give any info obvs)

Also IT skills, data protection

Recently I recruited a school receptionist. The tasks were updating a newsletter, writing up a pretty incomprehensible message from the answerphone, an “angry parent” interruption (was a teacher acting the role!) and an interruption to the interview from kids to see how candidates interacted with them.

We were also looking for someone with the commitment and potential to succeed our school business manager who isn’t so far off retirement - we didn’t test budgeting etc but we did drill down into career ambitions etc.

A school administrator job is much more than most people think it is - it’s key role as you’re often the first face people see, and you’re dealing with kids, parents, all sort, ring the gatekeeper to to SLT, making sure people are signposted correctly etc.


Gobbledigooking · 13/11/2019 18:02

MT I'm assuming but now you say that there could be times I would deal with them. Definitely would deal with students when they have appointments during the day etc and need to go at non-regular times. SLT potentially if they were expecting a visitor or had called a parent / guardianin. If I could shadow the receptionist for a bit I'd be sorted. It's just coming into it blind I'm over-thinking / under-thinking things.

SLT would go above other things? Ive realised students can't access reception during normal school hours unless a teacher gives access so if they were at reception they'd have a specific authorised reason & I'd see to them as soon as possible.

OP posts:

cheesewitheverything · 13/11/2019 18:07

I would also add to the above to try saying some of the typical answers out loud to yourself to see that you can actually put some sentences together okay! Say it out loud to hear your own voice to reduce anxiety in the interview when you start to speak so you don't feel so self conscious. Make sure you have a way of actually ending what you say rather than just fade out to a stop. So answer the question, 'why do you want the job?' for example and watch out for your voice going too monotonous, keep it sounding lively, come to a halt at the end of a point. Say it to someone else if you can stand to do that. Good luck!


Gobbledigooking · 13/11/2019 18:21

Isleep thanks, that's really useful! And daunting! I've worked with some of the staff before (helping out capacity) so they know me a little, and what type of person I am (reliable, friendly, professional, trustworthy etc). It's the detail of decision making in this role that's going to be key, the task could make or break it. I just feel lost trying to prepare for it! I'm pretty sure the school know my feelings on why I want to work there & with my personal situation that I'm wanting to get back into work after a long time out, having previously helped out there to make my cv more relevant. I've got a track record of volunteering at my children's school over the past 8 years to confirm my interest in school-based employment. I partially did a pgce but it was too difficult balancing the demands with my children who were very young at the time. I'd love to work in a school. Unsure about teaching now but this role could lead into the business side in time. I've a strong maths background so I feel really excited about the doors this could open. I just don't want to fluff it up!

OP posts:

Gobbledigooking · 13/11/2019 18:26

Thanks cheese. I'm pretty honest with the personal interview type of questions so I think that helps with being precise in my answers. When I went for my helping out role, they asked a 'What would you do.?' question I didn't know. So I said so. But by the end I'd had inspiration and returned to the question. I think that liked that.

I know there are other people who help out like me who are going for this role, don't know if they have interviews but it's by no means a dine deal because they know me. The other helpers are equally as capable as me, with strong backgrounds, several other SAHM looking to return to work after career breaks. So I know the competition is stiff!

OP posts:

QueenH · 13/11/2019 18:29

Could you ask what the task will include? My last job interview (not a school) said the interview would include a data task. This made me a bit nervous so I called the business and asked for more information. They didn’t totally give the task away but gave me an overview of the skills I’d need (which excel formula I’d be expected to know) so I could brush up. I’ve also worked in schools and it’s expected that teaching candidates call the school and verify what the interview will include so I wouldn’t shy away from just asking outright!


BadnessInTheFolds · 13/11/2019 18:31

In a prioritising task (or any 'role play if work' task) talk through your reasons for your choices explicitly.

Even if you've prioritised something in a different way to the one the interviewers prefer, they can see that you are thoughtful and logical about it.


Gobbledigooking · 13/11/2019 18:41

QueenH The info I have about the interview says no prep is required for the task. So I feel like that's saying the school wouldn't give anything away even if I asked as I could prep for it which then means it wouldn't be a level playing field(?)

OP posts:

Gobbledigooking · 13/11/2019 18:42

Thanķs for so many excellent points so far! So appreciated!

OP posts:

ThisIsReworked · 13/11/2019 18:47

I’m sure this has been said but know about safeguarding. A recent job interview at our school had a question about what to do if a parent turned up saying they had come to collect a child for a dentist appt. A long and complicated reason for this being an issue in our school, but a very real event that lead to a hysterically distressed child due to a temp receptionist!


Gobbledigooking · 13/11/2019 18:57

I'm going to study the safeguarding policy tonight.
I think students have to bring in a written note about appointments from their parent / guardian then show / give to their form teacher. Not sure how this works with the receptionist knowing this has been done, but that's just part of their process & something I would expect to be told about how it works. Probably a note / indicator in the register that gets passed over from admin. And the student isn't allowed to leave until they're physically collected by the adult & from what I've seen the receptionist asks the student 'who is this collecting you / is this your mum - dad -' etc. And the adult collecting has to sign them out.

OP posts:

Gobbledigooking · 13/11/2019 19:01

If someone turned up to collect a child for an appointment I knew nothing about I guess I'd ask them for the appointment letter proof & call the year head to decide what to do if this wasn't available. She might know the parent whereas I wouldn't. But ultimately I couldn't let a child go unless appointment proof had been provided & the school was aware in advance. Any other scenario I'd suggest I'd contact the year head. Sound reasonable?

OP posts:

Deux · 13/11/2019 22:53

Are children collected from the reception area? Only reason I ask is at DC's school they’re collected from Student Services where it’s all kind of centralised if you like. Good luck with the interview. Everything crossed for you.


Gobbledigooking · 14/11/2019 06:22

Deux yes they are. The reception is the gateway to the school. Their student services is located centrally inside the building, accessible only if you have a valid security pass.

OP posts:

siriusblackthemischieviouscat · 14/11/2019 06:52

Sorry not read full thread so if I'm duplicating sorry.

I did see someone mentioned safeguarding - you will (well if its a decent school) get a safeguarding question. I assume you are UK based, if not these might not be relevant names but schools will have a safeguarding lead and a deputy safeguarding lead. Their names should be highlighted at reception someway and should be on their website. Learn their names and read their policy. We often ask 'What makes a school safe and supportive?' We would want to at least hear the safeguarding lead mentioned if not their name. And the answer to this question is not just the green fences! Yes i get this answer and only this all the time.

You will probably get a question about conflict or a time in your working life that was difficult and how you resolved it. So try and think if some examples to have in the back of your mind.

Please listen to a question, if a little difficult ie asking for an example of something in your past as for it to be repeated then take a drink if water to give you thinking time then answer the question they asked. So many times we ask a question and they give a completely different answer.

Your tasks - there is almost certainly going to be a priority task. A list of jobs and perhaps a couple of emergencies thrown in. One might look more urgent than it is to throw you.

Thats all i can think of right now but I'm interviewing for cleaners in a few hours so if i think of anything i will come back.

Oh, make sure you are dressed smartly, no need for a suit but no jeans or casual shoes!


Gobbledigooking · 14/11/2019 13:47

Sirius yes uk. What are the priorities order of tasks? Is there a general consensus? Student, SLT, emotional / irate parent high priority. Where would you put a ringing phone, delivery man, visitors with appointments on the list?

OP posts:

UOkhun77 · 14/11/2019 14:14

I’d read up on GDPR too. Best of luck!

Please create an account

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.

Sign up to continue reading

Mumsnet's better when you're logged in. You can customise your experience and access way more features like messaging, watch and hide threads, voting and much more.

Already signed up?