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How to apply for your first teaching job

Many schools advertise teaching jobs for September as soon as Christmas, so you’ll apply for your first teaching job long before you qualify. To help you feel ready for this, check out these tips from senior teachers and teacher recruiters about how to successfully apply for your first teaching job.

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Job searching can be hard work, but there are lots of different ways you can find your dream job in teaching. There are a variety of places that you can find job advertisements online including Indeed, Teaching Vacancies on, Reed Education, and TES, and local authority websites (for our students here is a link to Plymouth Schools Vacancies).

A primary school teacher reads to the class

School websites and social media may also be a good place to look. If you know a specific school that you would like to work at this can be a quick way of finding out what positions are currently available. Often school Facebook or Twitter pages will share adverts, so check on there.

LinkedIn, as well as being a great tool for creating a professional profile, can be a helpful place to find job vacancies. The platform also allows you to network with other professionals within teaching and make useful links.

It is also important to network whilst on placement. You may be able to hear about a job through a past colleague or even from the school you have worked at – so make sure to build contacts and make a great impression.

Choosing the right position for you

When searching for a job in teaching it can be tempting to apply for every available position within your desired location. But it is important to not only consider what you can offer prospective employers but what they can offer you.

You're not just looking for a job, essentially, it's much bigger than that. You are looking for the right job. You know, the job where you'll get to be happy, where you are going to achieve job satisfaction. And you're going to essentially be glad you made the decision to become a teacher because after all, that's what it's about, isn't it?
Steve Hardy - Education Consultant on behalf of NASUWT, The Teachers Union

Find a school that fits

When starting out in your teaching career, really consider what type of school you want to work in. It may be helpful to make a list of what criteria you are looking for. Do you want to work in a small school? Would you like to work somewhere with a good reputation for supporting sports within the community? Is it important to you that there is possible career progression?

It may take some time to decide what really is a priority for you when searching for your first teaching job.

Get in touch. Call the setting you are thinking of applying to work for. Their response may give you a great indication as to whether it is the place for you. This is also a great way to make a lasting first impression while gaining an understanding of the school and its principles, expectations and challenges. It will help to do some research about the school before making this phone call and have questions prepared.

Inform yourself. Look at the school, check out the website, even drive around the block, because that will give you a feeling of the people who are in the area, the children, how they respond, how they feel about the school. And those are all really helpful things. And it shows the employer that you care, that it's important to you. And those are things which are important to them because their students deserve the best.
Jen Veal – Headteacher at South Dartmoor Community College

Structuring your application

Once you have found a job you want to apply for it is important to know where to start.

Read carefully what your employer wants. If they ask for a personal statement write one, do not link to a cover letter. If they have an application form fill that out, do not send in a CV.

A personal statement should be no longer than two sides of A4. You want to keep it interesting and engaging. Make the readers job easy, present yourself in a clear and confident manner. Really consider what makes you different from other candidates and how this would fit into the school setting you are applying for.

Before you start writing, make sure you know enough about the school to personalise your application. Never submit a ‘one size fits all’ personal statement.  

Make sure it looks clear and is easy to read. Avoid handwritten statements and create a smart template that encourages employers to read on. Messy, unprofessional or difficult to read statements will not be read in full by a time-restricted panel.

Think about what school leaders are looking to read. It needs to be more than just what's on your CV. It should be well written, coherent, articulate and covering all the areas that they would expect to see. Include something about your outside interests but not too much. This will show you to be more of a rounded person – you are not just about all things work.
Claire Hadfield – Senior Lecturer in Education at Plymouth Marjon University

There will be two parts to the job advertisement. The job description and the person specification. The job description will be relatively general, while the person specification will be a lot more specific. It will state what the employer is looking for and who their ideal candidate would be. This is the part of the advert that you need to spend time looking at. 

When choosing a candidate, a school panel will mark each applicant against a scoring system. The applicants with the highest scores will be invited to an interview. Scores will be based on how much of the person specification criteria are met. So, it is important that you show how you match what they are looking for when writing your statement.

When writing your statement, it is a good idea to include specific examples of your past experiences. Back up what you say with evidence. If they are looking for someone willing to show initiative and explore new ideas, think about a time on work placement when you suggested a new way of looking at a problem - it doesn’t have to be anything ground-breaking.

Writing the application

Your opening paragraph needs to demonstrate your skills and passions as a teacher. Think about the relationships you have built while on placement and the progress you have seen in pupils. This will be the first thing employers read so don’t give a generic introduction that gives little information on what you can bring to a school. Your first sentence could specifically reference the job and school.

What might make you stand out? You should include something that gets across who you are as a person. What makes you special? What makes you a good fit for that particular school? Bring in information that shows you know about that school and personalise the application. That will be a strong start.
Claire Hadfield – Senior Lecturer in Education at Plymouth Marjon University

Do not be afraid to tell them where you want your career to go in your application. Perhaps you want to lead in pastoral care or progress to become a headteacher. When you share your ambitions with potential employers they gain a greater awareness of who you are and what you have to offer.

You will want your personal statement to be just that – personal. So, make sure you include information about your ethos, passions and interests and how they will help you when working in the specific school you are looking to apply for. What are you passionate about? Why are you different to the other candidates? How will you fit into the existing school dynamic?

You may also want to write a little bit about your outside interests, but not too much. You want to indicate that you are a rounded person, and you are not just all about work. This may allow you to offer extracurricular activities within the school based on these interests.

It's all about convincing them that you've got what they're looking for. It's not just about telling them how wonderful you are in very broad terms. One thing that's not in your control, but can be a factor, is that it is also about them thinking that you will fit in really well with their existing staff.
Steve Hardy - Education Consultant on behalf of NASUWT, The Teachers Union

You want to make our application stand out. You can link again to how your interests make you a good fit for the school. Link in the information that you know about setting and personalise it to the specific job.

It is also important that the final paragraph (and more specifically, the final sentence) perfectly sums up why you are the best candidate for the job. Be confident but not arrogant. For example, you might start the paragraph by saying what you will bring to the role. You might choose to close off your statement by saying that you look forward to the interview. Be specific about what you may wish to discuss at the interview as well.

Again, reference the school specifically in your closing paragraph.

Check your application

Make sure you read over what you have written and look out for any typos or mistakes. It would also be helpful to get someone else to read over it. When you look at something too much you can easily miss something – a fresh pair of eyes may be able to point out something you did not spot.

If you have a gap in your CV e.g. due to travelling, health reasons or family commitments do address it in your application – either in a specified section or in the chronology. Keep it simple. For example, you may write: “Career break due to health reasons”. In cases like this, it would be especially helpful to get in touch with the school and be open and honest about your experiences.

Make sure that you have checked that the references you have provided will be happy to provide one. Let them know that you will be using them and check that they are happy with this.

Before sending your application, it is a good idea to print it off. Check that the format looks okay and make sure that there are not any errors or formatting glitches, such as a random line on a page.

Make sure you send it to the correct department or person. This might sound obvious but is a common mistake. Some schools will ask that it is sent directly to the Headteacher, or Chair of Governors whilst others may have an HR representative.

Check your online presence 

It can be easy to forget when uploading to social media, who may be able to see what you are sharing. If you have low privacy settings, images, videos and even status’ you post may appear on Google. This allows employers to quickly get a first impression of you who are – good or bad. Unfortunately, many job seekers are caught out by this, often forgetting about content they posted as a teenager on Facebook or YouTube.  

Look at what an employer can find out about you. Check what settings you have on social media and the kind of images and information you share publicly. Google your name and see what comes up. Is there anything inappropriate on there? Would you want students or staff to be able to see what comes up?

If something unprofessional does come up, trace it back to where it was published and see if it can be removed. If it is a photograph you shared then delete it yourself.

Social media can also work as a positive when searching for your first teaching job. You could add a link to your LinkedIn profile on your application – this will help employers see who you really are in a professional manner. This allows you to build a positive online presence in contrast to a negative one.

Education remains the third-highest growth area on LinkedIn in terms of new members joining. There are lots of headteachers recruiting via LinkedIn, it's a lot cheaper if not free. You need to have a professional profile on there that says exactly who you are, and what you want to do. You can also help yourself by setting up an email address that's appropriate. Although you can't necessarily delete what's already out there, during a fun evening when you were 18, you can try and create a more professional profile around yourself, which is really helpful.
Sarah Morrison – Managing Director at Elementa Support Services

Finally, make sure that you have a professional email address that you can provide. You do not want to be sharing an email address that includes a funny, gimmicky or inappropriate name. Every aspect of your application is telling an employer who you are – so make sure to be professional.

And relax... 

Now that the application has been sent, try not to focus too much on whether you will get an interview. If you are unsuccessful, it may be worth asking for feedback from the school – politely and professionally. If you are successful, then now is the time to prepare for your first teaching interview. 

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