How To Apply For Your First Teaching Job – And Get It!

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Christina Brown

Christina is an Art and Design Teacher in a London secondary school. In her third year of teaching, she has also just completed an MA in Art and Design in Education at The Institute of Education (University College London). Christina is also a practicing artist...
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What can you do to secure your first teaching post?

Applying for your first teaching job can often turn into a bit of a recruitment frenzy. This is the time of the year when teaching can feel a bit like the football transfer window.

Job hunting is a priority. As PGCE courses and other training programs come to an end, it is the key time for new recruits to apply for their first jobs. Despite all the news about teacher shortages, it is still a very competitive market.

Get That Job

These tips should help you navigate the recruitment season and secure your first teaching post.

 1. Personalise your application for each school

When you are applying for lots of positions it is tempting to use the same personal statement for each. Top tip – don’t! Generic applications will often just end up in the bin.

If you want to get noticed during shortlisting then you must personalise your application to each school. That doesn’t mean that you just change the name of the school. Instead study the structure of the job description and make sure you describe how you meet each of the criteria, in order.

If you want to really up the ante, see if you can find the school improvement plan (sometimes they are on the website), targets from their last Ofsted report or areas of the school that they are promoting so you can show what else you could bring to them. For example, if they have a target to increase their use of ICT,  include examples of when you have used technology in your classroom. Make yourself indispensable!

2. Check, check and check again

Make sure you read the application very carefully. Some will ask for a letter of application that is one side of A4, some will ask for two sides. Normally it is expected you will type, but they may ask for it to be handwritten. If you don’t follow the instructions, they are unlikely to read your application.

If they don’t specify how long the supporting statement should be, or there is anything else you are unsure about, call the HR officer and ask. Generally no more that two sides of A4 is what is asked for, so you need to be concise with your answers.

Once you have written your application, continue to check it carefully, don’t let a silly mistake like misspelling the name of the school be your downfall!

3. Give evidence

Maybe you are an excellent communicator with great behaviour management skills, but it won’t mean anything to the person reading your application unless you provide some specific examples.

Have you worked with a difficult group that you managed to engage with your use of gamification in the history classroom? Great – then discuss it, what you did, how it worked and what you learnt from it.

At such an early stage in your career no one will expect you to be the finished article, so don’t try to be. Instead show that you can reflect on the experiences you have had and that you use them to inform your teaching.

4. Social skills

These days it isn’t just your application that could be scrutinised. Some schools will check your online presence so make sure there isn’t anything you would want them to see. Of course you are entitled to have a private life, but make sure you keep it that way. Your Facebook, personal Twitter and Instagram should all be private.

Twitter is a great tool for communicating with other educators so consider setting up a professional Twitter account that you keep open. Follow other teachers from your subject, year group or specialism. It is a great way to keeping up with current education theory and sharing ideas. Just make sure that your rants and holiday snaps are kept for your friends only account.

5. Be on show

If you do get an interview remember that you are on show all the time you are there. Be conscious of the person giving you the tour who seems to be talking to you informally. They will almost definitely be asked for their opinion on which candidate is the best fit for the school. Get involved, ask questions and take an interest it everyone you meet.

6. Know why you want the job

It may seem obvious, but at interview you will be asked why you want this job in particular.

The panel don’t want to hear that it is because you live really close! Make sure you have reasons that relate specifically to the school. Perhaps they have a great language exchange programme that you would love to be involved with. Maybe they have a particularly strong reputation for working with children with special educational needs if that is an interest of yours.

Be canny and say why as this will show that you are really dedicated to the particular school, rather than just desperate for a job!  

7. Don’t give up

It can be tough out there. Don’t take rejection to heart. Many brilliant teachers have applied for tens of roles and attended lots of interviews before landing their first job.

If possible, ask for feedback from any interview you are unsuccessful in. Often you will be given something really specific that you can use in your next interview. For example, being told that you need to use more modeling in your interview lesson.

The application and interview process for teaching jobs is gruelling. This is very anxious time for a lot of NQTs but remember you are interviewing the school as much as they are interviewing you. You need to be somewhere you feel happy and will be well supported. And once you have found that, you will be ready to start a hopefully long career in the most rewarding profession. Remember to also check out the 5 Minute Interview Plan.

Good luck!

4 thoughts on “How To Apply For Your First Teaching Job – And Get It!

  1. Hi
    I sat in a lecture on job hunting yesterday and the speaker said the most important criteria – above everything – is the visit the school before putting in an application form. They said they wouldn’t interview anyone who hadn’t visited the school before applying. They also said mot jobs aren’t advertised -they are offered to someone eg trainee teacher or someone who had been interviewed elsewhere and not selected. Is this the norm?

    1. It is definitely not the norm. A visit may put you one step ahead of the others, but should not influence the decision. All jobs must be advertised to meet Equality Act 2010 and avoid discrimination etc.

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