TARGETjobs black logo
Teach First

Teach First

How to succeed in Teach First applications and assessments: recruiter Q&A

Heena works in the recruitment team at Teach First and has responded to some of the most commonly asked questions.

Q. What is the best thing an applicant can do?

Make the most of the resources, hints and tips available to you on the Teach First website – and get in touch with Teach First. The organisation is on hand to go through the details of your application and can offer tailored advice on both your eligibility for the Teach First Training Programme and how you can demonstrate the competencies sought. You can arrange a call by emailing At this stage Teach First isn't there to assess you but to ensure you have all the relevant information needed to submit the strongest possible application.

Q. What are the stages of the Teach First selection process?

1. Complete the online application form. The application asks you to include your degree and pre-degree academic qualifications, give information about yourself and highlight any preferences. You’ll also complete three competency-based questions and a short test.

2. Your application will be screened by two trained assessors who won’t have access to any of your personal details, to ensure a bias-free process, and you’ll hear the outcome of this within ten working days. If you’re successful you’ll be invited to a selection day.

3. The selection day consists of a competency-based interview, participating in a group case study and a teaching activity. As part of your invitation to the selection day you will receive more details on these elements, as well as travel and other general information. With preparation for the day it can be easy to fall into the trap of focusing on teaching the lesson, but each element of the day carries equal weighting, so it is important to spend time preparing for the interview and thinking about how you might demonstrate our competencies in the group task.

4.You will hear back within three weeks of your attending. If you’re successful you will receive an offer for the programme. You will then get details on a few further tasks you need to complete before fully confirming your offer.

5. Once these tasks have been approved you’ll receive a confirmed offer and begin preparations to join the Training Programme.

Q. What is a selection day?

The selection day at our development centre is the beginning of Teach First's investment in you. Unlike an assessment centre, it’s not just about the skills you have right now – it’s an opportunity to demonstrate your potential to learn and develop further.

You’ll be given actionable feedback throughout that will help you improve your performance – immediately and in the longer term. Although the focus is on your development, it is a selection day. This means Teach First will select participants for the programme based on the behaviours and potential you demonstrate on the day.

Q. Do you only run selection days in London?

The Head Office in London will run the majority of the development centres, however, Teach First will be running regional selection days in some areas across the country. To find out about these you would need to have a call with a member of the team so they can give you the most up to date information.

Q. What are the Teach First competencies?

Teach First has eight competencies, which form a fundamental part of what it looks for in candidates:

  • Humility, respect and empathy
  • Effective interaction
  • Understanding and motivation
  • Leadership
  • Planning and organising
  • Problem solving
  • Resilience
  • Self-evaluation

Each is outlined on the Teach First website, detailing what its assessors are looking for.

Q. Can I teach the age group or subject I want?

Teach First’s eligibility is determined by the schools it works with and by its university partners, so do have a look at the organisation's requirements. Not all curriculum areas are available in every location, so it’s important that you look into this early on in the process.

You may be eligible to teach from your pre-degree qualifications, such as A-levels, Scottish Advanced Highers or other equivalent qualifications.

You may have strong initial views about where you want to work and what you want to teach and you can rank these preferences on your application form. Teach First will take this into account but please be aware the focus is on placing highly motivated individuals in schools where you can make the biggest impact. If you have extenuating circumstances that mean you need to stay in a particular location, please speak to us about this as soon as you open your application so we can advise you.

Q. What is the closing date?

Applications open in August for a start the following September. We recruit on a rolling basis, which means curriculum areas close as soon as we have found enough participants to fill the places we have available for that area.

Q. If I don’t think I have all the competencies. Should I hold off applying until I do?

You aren't expected to demonstrate the competencies from one particular experience. Think about all of your experiences, whether they are from a professional, personal, academic, volunteering, hobby or sporting activity. If you are unsure about meeting the competency requirements speak to the people who know you best as they may recall examples where you have demonstrated the skills and behaviours we’re looking for.

On the application form, you select the third competency Teach First assess you on – so it’s a perfect opportunity for you to demonstrate the competency you feel most confident about.

Q. Do you have any advice on how to structure my online application answers to the competency questions?

For questions two and three Teach First want you to tell it about a time when you have demonstrated the particular competency and its behaviours. Think about one specific example you can talk about in detail, rather than briefly mentioning two or three different instances when you have demonstrated it.

When you have selected your best example, use the CAR technique to structure your answer:

  • Context – Explain the situation or problem
  • Actions – What did you do? Go into as much detail as possible – not just what you did but how you decided on that action or why you decided on a certain approach
  • Results – What impact did your actions have on the situation or problem?

The competency ‘Understanding and motivation’, which is assessed in question one, is looking for you to demonstrate your passion for Teach First's vision, mission and the Training Programme. With this question the assessors want you to talk about three elements: the vision, the programme and the ambassador network. These aren’t just suggestions of topics to cover but areas the assessors would like you to discuss.

Q. What does the situational judgement test involve?

This test will give a number of school-based scenarios with a number of possible approaches. You will need to rate how appropriate each approach would be. There isn’t a right and wrong answer and each applicant will approach situations differently, so go with your instinct.

Q. What would let me down in the selection process?

Not demonstrating Teach First's competencies or demonstrating the opposite of what it is looking for. This is applicable at both the application and the development centre stage.

In the application form spelling and grammar is also being assessed so do read through before submitting it. Too many mistakes and your application will be automatically rejected.

Q. I don’t have any work experience in a school. Do I need it?

No, Teach First look for you to tell it how you have demonstrated the competencies in the experiences you have had. Prior to starting the programme you will be asked to arrange school observations and you will also attend five weeks of training to prepare you to head into the classroom.

This training is a mix of learning theories and techniques that will help you in the classroom and offers the chance to trial these techniques in a school. At the end of the five weeks you will have all the tools you’ll need to start at your school in September.

Our 'How to get hired' articles are written by TARGETjobs editors and writers with job candidates in mind, helping you research and understand employers. Copyright of all material written by TARGETjobs lies solely with GTI Media.