Improve your chances of getting that first teaching job
A summary of key strategies to help to secure a first post in teaching
It’s nearly over: you’re within touching distance of completing your teacher training and you’re keen to snap up that critical first teaching post that will cement your role as an educational professional with a class of your own. But when the number of applicants vying for the same teaching roles runs into double or even treble figures, receiving that coveted job offer may seem an unassailable mountain to climb. Rest assured, however, for a proactive approach to your job hunting could see you with the offer letter in your hand sooner than you think.
Visit the school
For your first teaching post it is vital that you and your school are the perfect match for one another, rather than ending up somewhere which you feel is not in tune with your educational values. A visit to a school before you apply enables you to gain an insight into its ethos and practices, not to mention it is also becoming increasingly expected by head teachers. There may be sizeable numbers touring the school when you visit but worry not: your name is very likely on a list and your time will be respected as a sign of your serious commitment to the position.
Write a heart-stopping letter
The letter of application is the most important part of any job hunt and it is this that will ultimately determine whether you are shortlisted for interview. Most employers don’t require a CV for teaching applications so don’t waste your time compiling one if it isn’t required. If you are applying to many schools then it may be tempting to reel off the same letter of application each time but this is a wasteful strategy: head teachers want to believe that you wish to work in their school so will look for evidence that you have taken the time to find out why you are the perfect candidate for them.
The most important document you will receive from a school is the person specification which details the skills and qualities that are sought. Not matching the profile exactly isn’t a bar to applying but exercise common sense: if you don’t seem to be a good match overall, don’t apply. Tailor your letter to address the essential and desirable characteristics stipulated on the person specification and provide recent examples to support your case. Put simply, if you can prove you meet the specification, then an interview should follow.
Also, make sure you address the head teacher by name in your letter. “Dear Sir” doesn’t usually cut the mustard as it shows a laziness in your approach. Similarly, poor spelling and grammar are definitely to be avoided.
Build a portfolio
A portfolio of evidence is sometimes requested by interviewing panels, but even if it isn’t it can be a useful resource through which you can showcase your work and yourself. Bear in mind that the panel won’t have oodles of time to review it so try to include evidence of good practice which can be quickly studied. Photographs of displays and examples of children’s work are particularly useful. However, don’t base your interview responses on the portfolio but simply make reference to it where appropriate. If the panel doesn’t want to see it, don’t push it.
Offer something different
Excellent teaching and class management skills are the most important attributes an interviewing panel will expect but additional experiences that place you ahead of the other applicants can be valuable for clinching the deal. An ability to play the piano, run an unusual extra-curricular club or take a lead in an area of school life that is underdeveloped are typical examples; make sure you include this information in your letter of application rather than waiting for interview to tell all.
Prepare for interview
There is no substitute for detailed preparation for an interview. You can’t always predict the questions but you can ensure that you are familiar with key areas of assessment, high quality teaching and learning, behaviour management and parental relationships. Answer every question with a positive statement and relate your responses to your recent experience: in other words, demonstrate precisely what you have achieved in your teaching practices and what difference you believe you could make in your new role.
Be willing to relocate
Some areas of the country are experiencing a shortage of teachers, often in specific subjects, so if you have the flexibility to relocate then it may be a prudent strategy. Similarly, if you want to apply for teaching jobs in London or other large cities, consider that the leafy green suburbs might always be in high demand but areas of social deprivation, as well as being less popular to applicants, can often be more rewarding to work in and you’ll learn faster there as a newly-qualified teacher. There is every possibility it will do your future prospects a world of good, too.
Keep your skills fresh
If it comes to September and you aren’t in the position to take up a first teaching post, spend your time wisely. Supply teaching will keep your skills fresh and give you a variety of experiences in different schools while other opportunities such as youth and community work, teaching in hospitals or tutoring excluded pupils will also ensure that your experience remains up-to-date and no unsightly gaps appear on your career history.
Applying for your first teaching post is an exciting time but you may feel overwhelmed by the competition. By planning your job search carefully you will boost your chances of being shortlisted for interview. You may not enjoy instant success but receiving feedback after interviews and adapting your application accordingly will help to bring that offer of employment closer.