Here are some dos and don'ts that I would suggest to anyone applying for a teaching vacancy - particularly if you are an NQT and are in the middle of the job application process.
I'd love to know if you have any further ideas to add to this list. Feel free to add a comment.
- DO take care - spelling, grammar and presentation count when trying to make an impression.
- DO say what makes you DIFFERENT. There could be 100 people applying for same job. What makes you different. Think of all the personal qualities, practices and experiences you have which others don't. Celebrate them in your letter.
- DON'T say what you think schools want to hear. Schools aren't looking for a robot - they want to employ someone that stands out. In your application it is crucial that you don't say the same old things that every teacher does. All teachers use Every Child Matters - but why mention it in your letter unless you do something DIFFERENT to them? All teachers try to plan exciting lessons - but why are yours DIFFERENT?
- DON'T USE TEACHER SPEAK! After working with many trainee teachers over the years I can spout sentences that relate to the QTS standards in my sleep. All trainee teachers can do this too and they will try to use it in their applications. Try to avoid it if you can. If everyone else is going to say it, what's the point? Say something that counts.
- DO use real examples. I have read dozens of letters (full of teacher-speak) that say the same old things. "I use behaviour management strategies to create a productive, co-operative environment in my classroom." Well, doesn't everyone?! Back up whatever you can with a REAL example of something you have done.
- DO make the effort - Never send out standard letters - they'll go straight in the bin. And don't be fooled - keeping it the same but changing the headteacher's name is very easy to notice.
- DO make your letter absolutely personal to the school. Refer to what you know about it and what you will could add to the school if you were successful.
- DO go to visit the school - when you have a large number of candidates a quick way to eliminate potential candidates is to discount anyone who hasn't made contact with the school
- DO stand out during a visit. This can be very easy if you are shown around on your own. But it is difficult if you're shown in a group. Ask pertinent questions. Show personality. Look interested. Don't be afraid. But take care that you don't say too much or be over-friendly.
- DO select the points that you want to make in your letter in order of importance. What qualities is the school looking for? What makes you particularly special? These things need to go in first.
- DO bear in mind the people who are reading the letters. There could be hundreds of pages of letters to read, and you can guarantee that letters that go on for more than two pages will not go down well.
- DO include a picture in your letter, e.g. a display or classroom activity - a good way to make your letter stand out.
- DO think about what you will offer the school - make reference to what you know about the school from the visit or the school's website. How could you add to these things?
- DO remember that the job hunting process begins the moment you enter an ITT course - gain as much experience as you can during training - it all counts.
- DO remember that sometimes it's not what you know, but who. Make an impression on your placement or get to know teachers through voluntary work or supply work. A word of warning, though - remember that the interview panel do not have give you a job automatically just because you are known to the school. Never assume that the job is yours.
- DO acknowledge gap years and out of school experiences. Have you spent a year travelling? How has your experience affected you as a teacher/person? You've worked in a bank for the last few months whilst looking for jobs. How can this experience relate to the classroom?
- DON'T share everything on Facebook! This hasn't happened to anyone I know, but I have read in newspapers that employers will sometimes check out candidates' Facebook profiles.
You may also want to check out the PGCE Survival Guide.