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Early Years Practitioner Interview Questions

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Interviews can be daunting and hard to prepare for–especially if you don’t have much experience–but we’re here to help you out. 

We’ve compiled a list of common questions that you might be asked in your interview for an early years job and how you should go about answering them, as well as some questions you can ask your interviewer to help show your interest in the position!

Questions your interviewer might ask

Your motivations

Interviewers will want to hear about your motivations for getting into childcare, it’s good to be honest about why you want the job and to show your potential employer that you genuinely care. Think beforehand about your motivations and what drew you to the work in the first place. Being able to give a concrete example of something that drew you to the job rather than being vague is going to help you out here.

This is a personal question so have a think about what it is that you actually enjoy about the role and be honest about it, interviewers are going to value people who show some passion for nursery work and childcare. Have you enjoyed anything in particular about working in early years before? What do you think you’ll enjoy in nursery work if you haven’t worked in a similar role before?

Think about the role of a nursery worker and how you’ll be impacting the children you’re working with. Try and centre your response around how you’ll be benefiting the children and your new workplace. If you have some experience already, try and think about some of your previous work achievements.

This will differ for everyone but it’s important to let your employer know that you’re highly motivated for the position and won’t struggle with the sometimes challenging scenarios you’ll be dealing with on a regular basis. Talk about what about the job makes you happy or what you’re most looking forward to in the position or in early years work in general. You could also talk about how you have overcome difficult situations in the past and stayed motivated.

Your personal approach to the role

Make sure that you’re aware of best practice for working with misbehaving children in a childcare environment. You can impress the interviewer if you demonstrate the right knowledge for the job and reassure them that they aren’t hiring someone unprofessional or unaware of proper procedure. 

If you have experience with children, bringing up an example of how you have dealt with poor behaviour in the past would be a great idea! Using the STAR method is a good way to keep your answer short and concise. Of course, policies on behaviour can vary so it’s good to read up on your potential employer first.

If you’re asked a question like this you should emphasise how you would act immediately on any complaints that might crop up and, if they involve you, how you would address the complaint and change your behaviour accordingly. 

For complaints not directly about you, you should address them with your manager or higher ranking members of staff and ensure that they are resolved as quickly as possible. Most organisations have their own complaints procedure, so it’s important to try and familiarise yourself with best practice at the nursery you’re applying for. 

You should highlight the strengths and skills that are going to be useful in a childcare environment with an emphasis on what makes you uniquely suited to the position. Can you think of ways that you stand out from similar applicants? 

It’s really important to sell yourself to your interviewer when they ask you something like this, so try to give examples of things you’ve done in past work where you’ve had an impact. How have you improved your past workplaces or their culture? Do you have any particular personal strengths you want to highlight outside of your work accomplishments?

When you’re talking about what you find personally challenging make sure that you emphasise how you’d deal with the challenge rather than the challenge itself, as you don’t want to make it seem like you wouldn’t be able to handle an issue as it comes up when you’re in the job. 

Let your interviewer know that you can deal with whatever comes your way in the job by offering solutions rather than problems–they’ll be more likely to take you on if they think you’ll genuinely benefit the organisation, especially when issues come up.

Nurseries will generally have their own policies to follow if an unauthorised adult arrives to collect a child. Usually there will be a procedure that includes removing the children to a safe area, informing management of the issue, and verifying the identity of the person. 

Legitimate people should be no issue once they’ve been verified, but if a person becomes aggressive or violent it should be handled by management. They will usually call 999 to report the incident and not allow the child to leave. 

It’s good to read up on a nursery’s policy before your interview as part of your research because they might handle things differently or have specific procedures. Being able to demonstrate specific knowledge of their policies is really going to help you stand out, if you can’t find this out beforehand make sure you inquire about it during your interview and show a genuine interest in your safeguarding responsibilities.

Qualifications and experience

Talk about both your qualifications and experience here. It’s important to not just emphasise the knowledge that you have from study, but also any practical experience you might have. If you don’t have any experience then keep the focus on your studies. Emphasise particular strengths you have that will apply to the workplace.

Employers are going to favour those who have been qualified for longer and have more experience but this shouldn’t be an obstacle. Be honest about how long you’ve been qualified but try and emphasise the positives. For example, if you’re newly qualified you can talk about how you’re eager and ready to utilise your learning, as well as the fact that the things you’ve learned are fresh in your mind. If you’ve been qualified for a while you can mention the experience that you have, and how that will help you in the position.

Here would be a great opportunity to mention your prior training and what you’ve gotten out of it that will be helpful in the workplace. Try to keep it focused and relevant to early years work but don’t be afraid to talk about unrelated training you’ve undertaken, since it’ll help to show you as a well-rounded candidate.

If there’s any training you’d be interested in in the future then you should mention it since it will show you’re committed to the role and your field. It’s best to keep it related to your early years work and your career progression within the field since employers might later give you that opportunity to progress through on-the-job training or study. It’s also an excellent opportunity to talk about how you want to grow as an early years practitioner.

If you’re new to early years work it’s a good idea to take a look at getting some supporting qualifications useful in early years work. Having these qualifications means you’ll stand out from unqualified candidates, as well as equipping you with the skills that you’ll need to work well in a nursery environment.

This is important if you’re working in a specialised setting but can also apply to any nursery, as interviewers will want to know if you’ll be able to handle any situation that comes your way.

You might not have any experience working with children with special educational needs but that shouldn’t be a barrier to getting a non-specialist job as long as you highlight your willingness to learn and how any past experiences or study outside of work might help you. If you do have some experience then great! You should talk about the children you’ve worked with in the past and how you’ve helped them, as well as the challenges you’ve faced and, more importantly, overcome.

In an early years environment there is a required amount of adults to children depending on the age of the children. Potential employers will want to make sure that you’re aware of the proper practices and not having the right answers could ruin your chances of getting the job. If you’re unsure, we’ve put together a table going over the information for you to get a refresher.

Age group

Number of adults

Under 2 years

1 adult to 3 children

2 years 

1 adult to 4 children

3 years and over

1 adult to 8 children


Questions for you to ask your interviewer

Final note

Reading through some of our common questions should help get you in the right headspace for your early years practitioner or nursery nurse interview, but don’t stop here–have a think about what other kinds of questions you could be facing, as well as how you might answer them on your own (an answer that comes from you will always be better than something generic)!

Make sure you have everything else you’ll need to land that dream nursery job by returning to our early years practitioner career advice, or find out how to revamp your early years practitioner cv or cover letter. Have you got a job in mind but don’t have the right qualifications? If so, check out our online courses page and take a look at some of our valuable qualifications or find that dream early years job on our jobs board.

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