Work Matters: Best foot forward

Published: 02 Feb 2017

A lively thread on the Nursery World forum has highlighted how candidates coming forward for interviews - particularly those who are young and inexperienced - are not equipped to shine. Getting the right job in today's market can be a challenge, and it is in the interest of everyone concerned that interviewees take the time to prepare.

The interview process places pressure on managers as well. A wrong decision about someone can damage the nursery's operation and cost them time and money.

To ensure their recruitment decision is sound, many managers are increasingly requesting that potential employees spend some time in the nursery, interacting with the children and staff.

However, an interview is still the crucial starting point. Here is a guide to the key points to bear in mind.


The CV

An accurate, well-presented CV is a must. Templates for CVs can be downloaded from the internet to provide a suitable format. A manager will expect white paper, correct spelling, key personal details, qualifications and grades, work history, brief descriptions of roles and responsibilities and relevant extra-curricular activities and interests. Always write a covering letter, which gives you the opportunity to really sell yourself.


If you have an employment history, references will be needed (most employers will want consent to contact any previous employers). If you have just left college, use your work placement and your tutor.

Preparing for the interview

Ensure you know exactly where you are going, and arrive on time. Think about how you are going to talk about your work experience/placements and demonstrate the knowledge and skills you have gained. Make sure you can talk confidently about the Early Years Foundation Stage. Anticipate questions, such as: do you enjoy working as a team; can you work under pressure; what do you find most rewarding about your job; what are your strengths?

Research your potential employer. Have a good reason for why you have applied to them and why you want to work in this particular setting.


Wear clean, smart clothes and keep any jewellery discreet. Appear attentive and interested, ideally with hands lowered, and make eye contact. Talk to the interviewer, acknowledge what is being said and think before you speak. Knowledge and enthusiasm are a winning combination.

Be positive

If you are moving jobs, expect your interviewer to ask why you are doing so. Don't be negative about your last employer, and provide balanced reasons for why you are making a move. This can provide an opportunity for you to further explain your strengths and your career aspirations.

If you are invited to spend time in the nursery, ensure that you give most of your attention to the children, rather than chatting inappropriately to other staff. Be prepared to give feedback to your interviewer.

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