What to ask and what to avoid when asking safer recruitment interview questions

Asking the right questions during a job interview is critical to ensuring you recruit individuals who are suitable and safe for the role, and will go on to support your school’s success. You need to make sure the prospective employee can not only excel in the fundamentals of the role but can work effectively with parents and colleagues too.

However, this is not all that makes a suitable candidate. With the safeguarding of the children in your care at stake, falling short of a watertight safeguarding procedure is simply not an option. Interviews are incredibly important in terms of testing candidates’ emotional maturity, resilience, values, ethics, and motivations to work with children.

To help you gather the information you need during the interview phase without falling foul of employment legislation, here are some sample questions you can ask, and some questions you should avoid.

Ask or avoid

Ask: How do you motivate young people?

This will give you insight into the applicant’s style, and the nature of their response and examples (i.e. convincing or unconvincing) will give you a good indication as to their awareness, knowledge, and understanding.

Avoid: What do you know about the Children Act 2004?

Although there is nothing legally wrong with this, it is the type of question candidates can easily answer by reciting learned material and being told a string of facts you already know is unlikely to help you determine whether or not the individual is a good fit for your school.

An alternative way to phrase the question could be ‘How has the Children Act 2004 affected your role and your working practice?’

Ask: Can you tell me about a situation where you have had particular difficulty dealing with a colleague/individual? What made the situation so difficult, and how did you manage it?

The individual’s response to this type of question will tell you how they:

  • Cope under pressure;
  • Resolve conflict;
  • Use their skillset and authority;
  • Lean on others for support, if necessary

All of which are key attributes to succeed in your school and gel with the wider team.

Avoid: How should you respond if you witness two children being physically violent?

This is another example of a question that enables candidates to reel off textbook responses and therefore give no indication as to how they would behave in real life.

To get them to draw on first-hand experiences, consider positioning the question in a different way, such as ‘Can you tell us about a time you witnessed two children being physically violent, and how you handled the situation?’

Ask: What is your attitude towards child protection and how has it developed over time?

This is a great question to ask to delve into the individual’s values and ethics. It will enable you to gauge how well they can build and sustain professional standards, contribute towards a safe and protective environment, and demonstrate a balanced understanding of rights and wrongs.

Avoid: Have you ever had to discipline a child?

This is a prime example of a closed question. It sets the candidate up to reply with a meagre “yes” or “no”, thus giving you little-to-no insight into important information, such as:

  • When they last disciplined a child;
  • What the cause of the disciplinary was;
  • How they disciplined the child

To extract all the details you need, instead, ask a question along the lines of ‘From start to finish, can you talk us through a time you had to discipline a child?’

Ask: Can you tell me about a time you felt a situation fell short of safeguarding standards? What actions did you take to address your concerns?

A question of this nature will allow you to assess a number of the applicant’s traits, such as:

  • If and how they proactively improve safeguarding standards;
  • Whether they view safeguarding as part of their job;
  • If they are prepared to challenge others to a) address difficult issues, and b) see safeguarding improvements through.

Avoid: Would you agree employees should complete yearly safeguarding children training?

This is a leading question. It encourages the candidate to follow the direction you are taking them and might make them feel afraid to express their true view.

Instead of pointing them down the path you want them to go, allow them leeway to freely respond without worrying about the repercussion. It will also give you a more accurate picture of their character.

Safer Recruitment Training

If you need further support with your safer recruitment, please get in touch with us on epm@epm.co.uk or 01480 431 993 to discuss our Safer Recruitment Training.

Our training is accredited by the Safer Recruitment Consortium and will help to ensure that safer recruitment is an integral part of your school’s procedures.

You can also find out more about how we support schools with their Safeguarding, DBS and Single Central Record obligations here.

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