I once spent a happy three hours shortlisting over 160 applications for a single fixed term teaching position. During which we read many appalling examples from experienced and nqts alike, a few ‘zany’ letters from people hoping to stand out and the inevitable letters addressed to the wrong headteacher…a victim of mass job application writing and forgetting to check which one you were putting in the envelope.
Here are a few tips that I would like to pass on.
1. Small things matter.
If you get my name wrong, the name of my school wrong I will not read it. If your printer was on the blink and some of the words are wonky, or your side margins were so wide that the printer has sliced off the last letter of each line I will not read it. If it is hand written or the paper has been hand cut to A4 size or if each page is a slightly different colour then again, I will not read it. I may laugh and it may cheer me up for five seconds but I will not seriously consider
you for the job. Someone once said to me ‘That’s pathetic! They could be the perfect candidate!’ Sorry, you are not the perfect candidate…if you can’t be bothered to present your letter or cv properly in order to get a foot through the door, will you bother to plan lessons properly, put up quality displays, safeguard effectively? Maybe, but I won’t take that risk thanks, especially as the 159 applicants took time to make their first impression a good one.
2. Personalise but don’t go too far.
I know you want to stand out and that you want to wow me but I just want to read a letter. I don’t care that much about pictures of you in action! Oh but if you do insist on including pics of you and some children you have taught don’t put black bars over their eyes or blur their faces out to protect their anonymity. It just makes the photos look, well, a bit creepy. Don’t mess about too much with the format either. One applicant wrote their letter in the style of a newspaper’s front page. To be fair it looked fantastic but they had written it in the third person and in the past tense as if they had been appointed: ‘All the children she had met during the interview were thrilled to find out she had got the job.’ Honestly…that’s what they wrote. To be fair I put their application in my ‘wild card’ pile for sheer brass but after a while it annoyed me too much.
Not pizzazz….impact. You’re a teacher, I’m a head. All I really care about when it comes down to it is can you teach really well. If I put you in charge of a class will they make great progress. Feel free to tell me about your brilliant behaviour strategies, how you engage children with reading by dressing up as a character, how you work well with other staff members and parents, how you run a great art club and how you think it’s really important to plan topics around their interests and you have great interactive displays in your class. BUT DON’T BOTHER TALKING ABOUT ANY OF THAT UNLESS AFTERWARDS YOU EXPLAIN WHAT DIFFERENCE IT MADE. I want to know about progress, talk to me about % of children on track and above before and after their time with you, and relate it to all the stuff you put in place. I can’t tell you how many letters I read that are full of great ideas but they move onto their next paragraph before saying what difference it made to the children’s attainment, achievement or progress. Impact, impact, impact! Even NQTs…I know you may be inexperienced but I bet you had some impact on that final placement so tell me about it.
4. Write to ME!
lt is good to visit the school but not essential. But research the school a bit because it has strengths and needs that are different to any other school and if you know about them you just might be able to work them to your advantage. Don’t be silly… don’t pretend to Know the school better than me or my school improvement officer but talk about the bits and pieces that are of real interest to you: do this well and you might just sound like a real human and grab my interest as it will stand out from the automated drones who are competing with you.
That’s it. Follow those simple rules and you can’t fail.