Job applications: What I’d really like to say…

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As the job-season approaches, what I’d really like to say (in my job application) is this…

Dear Application Process,

I enjoy teaching. No, in-fact, I love teaching and see this as the most desirable quality in any member of staff. Students inspire me. They make me laugh. They make me want to teach quality lessons.

Does this look familiar?

I work so hard at school and at home, that many of my colleagues and friends do not understand how I do what I do in such a short space of time…over and over again for almost two decades. My wife tells me weekly, I work too hard! Of course, you can only take my word for it… but trust me. I mean it (e.g. I am writing this now on a Friday night (11.45pm) after a very busy week at school).

When I say I love my job and will remain committed to your school, I really mean it. This will be very hard for you to determine this from just my application form. If I’m lucky, I may have a 1-hour conversation with the panel over the 1 or 2 day interview and perhaps when my guard is dropped, you may see the real person sitting on the other side of the table… A person with a great sense of humour, highly-valued by colleagues and students… someone who works incredibly hard at their own practice, as well as developing and supporting others. I’d be brave enough to say, 95% of people I have ever worked with, whether this is just a teensy conversation on the corridor – sharing one of my best strategies or hearing them out – or sitting for countless numbers of hours with an individual in order to support them professionally and personally. You cannot measure this. This is only something you could see over time or hear in conversations as a fly on the wall.

I am a people person. I am a teacher.

shutterstock_126649655 Retro black telephone with reminder note to call in sick

Of course I am human and I have my off-days. Sometimes I turn up to work exhausted because my baby-boy has kept me up all night and I can barely put in to place the excellent plans I had made the day before. During the winter season, when I do catch the school-cold, I will be seen to run home at 3.30pm and rest-assured, I will feel guilty for doing it. What I would like you to know, is what I am simply doing, is retreating home to rest so that I do not take a day off work. I am not like that ‘other member of staff’ who does this every-single-time, regardless of how ill they really are!

I have had blip periods too…where a bereavement or a lull in my aspirations has made me question my work and has determined my work output. But overall, I have had the capacity to stand up, brush my armour down and start again without ever being noticed.

“…I’d like to think I know exactly what you are thinking and looking for…”

During the last decade, I have interviewed hundreds of teachers myself. I’d like to think I know exactly what you are thinking and looking for; but totally understand that when we all apply for a promotion or a new position, we are all taking a step into the unknown. In short, we may be deluded and unaware of something that may still be out of our reach.

More often than not, you have already made a ‘hopeful decision’ in your mind from the short listing process and you may have identified a number of candidates you ‘would employ’. Like many of others, I hope that I live up to the words written on my application form and that my references are well-written, which sum up the work I have done for my current employer.

I can only guess that this is the case and that during the process it will become apparent to us both that this is (or is not) the perfect match.

To relieve my anxiety, I tell myself that all I need to do, is turn up on time; look clean and smartly dressed. Smile; talk clearly, concisely and eloquently to demonstrate to you that I am the person that will be right for the students, the staff and you, the Head teacher.

I’d like to say there is a degree of probability in all of this. But, we know that the interview process must be taken seriously and that all decisions must be deliberated and fully consulted to ensure accurate safeguarding procedures have been followed and that the process was robust and fair. I understand this entirely.

However, what frustrates me more, is that the process is too formal. What I’d really like to see, is a reform in the interview process so that applicants and schools are given more of a chance to see the real person in post. I have talked about my feelings on this topic here (in The Guardian) and see a more prolonged approach needed in order to ensure accurate assessments are made.

What I envisage is that you employ me for 2 weeks as part of the interview process. Of course, this is not financially sensible, nor feasible for far-distance applicants or two schools that are paying two salaries for one person. It is a ridiculous idea I know. But! There must be a solution to the current system.

Countless application forms ranging from pre-formatted Word documents; PDF files; hand-written application to online-form submissions. The application form is a test in itself. I do agree, that we should all be able to read, write and spell correctly, especially because we are paid to be in front of students every single day. I do accept, that for all applications, they must be filled out completely and accurately – with no tip-ex!

However, the problem I see is this…

Many, many schools are not compliant. They fail to address the latest Equality Act 2010 reforms. CVs are accepted in independent schools and in some schools I have worked in, I have witnessed applications being accepted after the published deadline.

There is no consistency.

I know every single reason why schools may do the above. They simply need the right teacher in front of those students! What I’d like to suggest, is the alternative which follows on from my thoughts on nationwide CPD for all teachers. Every teacher needs a secure online professional portfolio. Somewhere, where my entire work history would be stored, collated and referenced to performance, references; data; CPD; attendance; work history and so on. The possibilities are endless. It would be a mixture of Facebook, LinkedIn and Blue Sky Education, but perhaps branded by the (NCSL) National College of School Leadership or the Teaching Agency.

“…In essence, an online professional dating service for schools and teachers…”

I envisage a self-sustained online advertising network for ALL teachers. A secure forum for managing your own work-history, CPD and job applications. In short, this website could be a replacement for the TES in which an individual, could flag up privately their interest in applying for jobs across the region and that their profile would be matched up against schools looking for employees. In essence, an online professional dating service for schools and teachers that stored all your information.

Documents could be uploaded, downloaded and ‘liked’, ‘tweeted’ and shared! I could talk to other professionals in confidence and at the same time, levels of access (permission) could be granted to various people depending on their access-needs. This could be conducted over a period of time, leading up to a potential conversation or an eventual interview – perhaps saving thousands and thousands of pounds advertising and worst of all, employing the wrong person.

I see my online portfolio containing a mixture of the following so that you can see the real me!

  • a video of a lesson observation.
  • a photograph of me in the staff pantomime or attending the school fair; perhaps standing proudly in the staff football team photo or with my year group on a residential to France?
  • a record of ALL my performance management targets.
  • my classroom data.
  • my CPD records over the past 5 years.
  • my personal information e.g. address, next of kin etc.
  • access to my references over time i.e. for each job application.
  • an honest ‘about me’ section that could contain a voxpop, a blog or twitter account that could demonstrate my personality, as well as my teaching ability.
  • maybe even a collection of all social-media sources – such as an RSS feed – in order for you to be traced. I mean, what’s stopping you now, Google ‘Ross Morrison McGill‘ and read through all the various Google headings? Images; News; Videos; Maps to see what appears! I would do this for all those I would shortlist, so why wouldn’t you do this to me in today’s media-era when searching for the right candidate?

All of the above could be accessed by the employer and permission granted by the individual at various stages of the application process leading up to a face-to-face interview… Access could be denied at any stage by the school or the owner (you), if circumstances changed… but essentially this would perhaps allow you to see the ‘real-me over time’.

What I’d like to finish with is this: continue with your application system. Challenge applicants to meet the standards in order to ensure safeguarding and accountability for the job at hand. After-all, we must be able to do the job, but if you are an employer and do have the position, knowledge and power to make a change in the process, please consider an alternative to allow all applicants, no matter what level, to demonstrate their true potential.

Now, please just get the telephone call over with and tell me I’ve got the job!

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, a simple Twitter account which rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on Twitter in the UK'. He is an award winning teacher and an experienced school leader and as @TeacherToolkit, curated this website you are now reading as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated for '500 Most Influential People in the Britain' by The Sunday Times and one of the most influential in the field of education. He is the only classroom teacher to feature. He is a former Teaching Award nominee for 'Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School in London' and has also written 3 books on teaching. Read more here.

10 thoughts on “Job applications: What I’d really like to say…

  • 9th February 2013 at 10:08 am

    Lovely!!! How inspiring! This is how I view my job. Being in the midst of education is an honor and a wonderful responsibility.

  • 9th February 2013 at 10:49 am

    What a fabulous post and the idea of an online portfolio is fabulous and something I would definitely do if it was available!

  • 9th February 2013 at 11:12 am

    If your next employer does not like it, s/he won’t be your employer. You would not work for him or her. In order to be able to work for what you express in this blog, you must have an employer who sees what you see and views what you view. Good luck!

  • 9th February 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Great post, Ross – and I hope your next employer reads it and is impressed too. But one thing struck me as I read it – remember ‘Records of Achievement’? You may be too young! I vividly remember the idea early in my teaching career that students would have portfolios giving potential employers or further/higher education providers all the info they needed to form a proper fully rounded impression of the individual – including but not confined to academic qualifications. My memory is that it didn’t work because the Records were so detailed that employers/education providers felt overwhelmed with the detail.

    As a former head who has considered many applications over the years, and conducted a significant number of interviews, I know how time-consuming the process can be. At certain points of the year staff recruitment seems to subsume everything else. How can we get the balance between doing this properly, thoroughly and effectively and not spending so much time on the process that other key aspects of leading schools don’t get the attention they need? I don’t know the answer, but it’s a question I’ve often thought about.

      • 9th February 2013 at 6:37 pm

        (I thought afterwards that you might actually have been one of those students – but I think you’re too young even for that!)

  • 10th February 2013 at 12:02 pm

    In part some of your vision for a digital portfolio already exists in the IfL Reflect system. If only it could evolve into a more openly collaborative network!

  • 22nd February 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Brilliant idea. Such a better idea of the teacher you are actually getting. he interview process is the downfall of many a great teacher – too many unknowns.

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