11 Top Tips For Nailing That Job Application

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Lynn How

Lynn is the Editor at Teacher Toolkit. With 20 years of primary teaching and SLT experience, she has been an Assistant Head, Lead Mentor for ITT and SENCO. She loves to write and also has her own SEMH and staff mental health blog: www.positiveyoungmind.com. Lynn...
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What can you do to secure your next job?

Looking for a new job? Yes, it’s that time of year again! Maybe you are seeking promotion, perhaps you can’t stand the frequency of your colleague’s laugh or you just have itchy feet. Whatever the reason, a solid application to get you to interview is essential.

How To Get That Job

Here are my top tips for helping you getting that job!

1. Criteria

Check that you meet all the areas on the essentials list before you apply.

When you’ve spotted that dream job in the staffroom over Phil’s shoulder, make sure that you check the person specifications to ensure that you would be the correct fit for the role.

There is usually an ‘essentials’ and a ‘desirables’ section. You should have all or the majority of attributes on the essential list and for any missing, ensure you have something plausible to take its place.

2. Visit

Look round the school and remember that although it is technically not part of the interview process (although for more senior jobs it might be), first impressions are paramount.

If the school can put a face to the name when the application arrives, they will subconsciously be already making judgments.

Visit during the school day in order to see the staff and children in their natural habitats. Some individuals may struggle to be released during school time to view other schools. This would of course, make the whole process more challenging. If this is you, it would be worth explaining the issue when you visit. Think of several pertinent questions to ask on your tour related to the job role.

3. Do your homework

Get as much information as you can about the school from various sources such as the school website, Ofsted and your visit.

Remember to drop poignant snippets of what you find into your statement. This will help you make the application personalised to the school. Also, you can add to your application, skills that you would bring to the role if appointed.

4. Link to person specification

Set out your application to match the person specification as this is easier for a potential employer to see exactly where you meet the areas on the list.

Embolden key phrases from the ‘person spec’ so anyone looking through your application for something specific such as safeguarding, can easily be signposted to it.

If it is a faith school you are applying for, ensure you explicitly mention how you would uphold their religious ethos.

5. Value added

Include educational vision, classroom pedagogy and teaching experience enthusiastically. If you are an NQT, tap into what you have learnt in your placement schools and explain how this will feed in to your first year of teaching. Your first class is a very exciting prospect, let this boundless enthusiasm shine through.

6. Vocabulary

Vary your sentence starts and use the thesaurus function. Avoid repetitive use of ‘I’ or ‘I believe that’. Google some complex conjunctions.

7. Be an amplified version of yourself

Accentuate your positives. State the impact of any initiative you have introduced to show that you are highly effective by either, giving statistics on how results or teaching and learning has improved or qualitative data on the impact you have had. For example, parental/staff views.

8. Keep it succinct

As a guide, about 2 sides of A4 for teaching jobs and up to 3 for leadership jobs – and no, you can’t make it size 6 font so stick to at least 11.

9. Gaps in employment

Explain any gaps or mid-year plan changes in a positive way so the potential employer doesn’t panic.

Keep it professional – as much as you want to justify any negative previous school issues which caused an employment break, do not bad mouth a previous (or current) school. At least wait until the Christmas party once you’ve got the job.  Alternatively, it’s a fresh start so perhaps no one needs to know anyway.

10. Get it proofread

When you are immersed in your own work, you don’t see your own mistakes. Ask someone, ideally who is already doing that role or a higher one, to read your application to check for links to the spec, and mistakes.

DON’T leave another school or head’s name in the application. Use ‘find and replace’.

11. Feedback

Always ask for feedback on unsuccessful applications.

And finally…

For those of you who get sweaty palms at the mere thought of the job application process, what’s the worst that could happen?

If you don’t get it, then look for an alternative and be persistent in your goals. In the words of 90s band Chumbawumba, ‘I get knocked down but I get up again, ain’t never gonna keep me down’. I realise of course that this song’s main theme is alcohol related but the sentiment is transferable.

Good luck!


You might also find the 5 minute Interview plan useful for your job interview preparation.

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6 thoughts on “11 Top Tips For Nailing That Job Application

  1. Thanks Lynn. What advice would you have for a colleague who has applied for other jobs but following a gradual breakdown in relationship with the current head, has meant that their ‘key’ reference has been pretty derogatory (not just non-committal)? This is in stark contrast to other professional references from tutor/mentor/colleagues which are highly complimentary.
    Tough situation.

  2. Hello Marcus,

    Thanks for your comment. This is a tricky situation for your colleague, which sadly, I am beginning to hear of similar situations more frequently at the moment. There are a number of options but none without their downsides. Schools generally expect to see your last employers reference i.e the Headteacher. Here are some ideas:
    1. Get your excuses in early. No need to elaborate with details but it may be worth, if you are invited for interview, explaining beforehand by phone that you didn’t have a very good relationship with the head and are concerned about your reference. If they want to interview you, they genuinely like YOU and in many cases, schools decide on a preferred candidate before looking at references. No surprises is the key here. You could even offer them a third supplementary reference from a DHT or line manager if they want it.
    2. Ask for a copy of your reference. It may be that your HT will write more favourably if they know you wish for a copy.
    3. Is there a previous HT from the same school who could write a reference instead? If a new HT has only been in post a short time, explain that the previous HT knows you much better.
    4. Is your HT well known for being awkward or hard to work with? If so, it may be worth approaching schools for work who know what the HT is like and are therefore sympathetic to your plight.
    5. Cut your losses – if you are having no joy with the above and your wellbeing is affected, consider if you have the means to leave without another job and go on supply for a while or get a temporary post for some breathing space. From personal experience, quitting your job with nothing in the pipeline is quite liberating (although also a bit terrifying) it will all work out in the end though!

    Remember that this situation is only temporary, they are only your last employer until you get a new job. After that you never have to use them again.

    Hope it all works out for your colleague!

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