A Guide to Securing a Job

So, while many people may have secured a job for next year, I am well aware there are people still looking and getting worried about finding a post for next year. Here is my short guide to maximising your chances at suceeding in getting a post, from the start to the end of the process.

Finding a Post

Be clear about what you are looking for in your next post. Are you happy to move to similar sized school and year group? Do you want to go somewhere bigger? Somewhere smaller? Are you looking for promotion? Do you have something specific in mind? Do you have a distance limit in mind for your commute? Try to narrow down your search as much as possible to save you applying for jobs you aren’t really interested in – that costs time and effort, and can ultimately add to the filling of disappointment if you don’t get them – even if you didn’t really want it in the first place! As time goes by you can widen the search and your parameters if needed.

Before you Apply

Do your homework. As I have already said, applying takes time and effort. Each academy might have a different application form, things need tweaking and even copying and pasting details from one form to another is a faff. Do your research, check their website, read some policies and see if you can see yourself there. Does their ethos seem to fit with yours? Does the words on their website match up with the information you can see and gather from other sources? Finding a school is as much about finding the right fit for you as it is about finding the right fit for them. Getting caught in the wrong place can make for difficult times, so do what you can to avoid it. If you’re happy with what you see, and you think you can see yourself there – get you request for a form in.

The pre-visit

Be polite, be friendly and try to drop in a few things about yourself. It is your first impression and as you leave the person showing you round will either be hoping you apply or possibly be not too bothered. You want them to be thinking the former! This is a chance to show off your research and give the impression you are bothered and know about this particular school. It is the first chance to show you can click with a member of staff, but be yourself, you can’t keep up an act indefinitely. Use this chance to ask a few questions of your own, so have some up your sleeve. Extra-curricular clubs? Opportunities for staff development? It shows you care about these things and are interested in developing them rather than just being there to have a nose around. Be interested, ask questions about displays, or add little bits like ‘oh, I saw that on your website’. This can be a really important stage, don’t underestimate the impression you can make!

The Application Form

If you have to request this separately, do so politely to the school office and maybe drop in some of the details you have gathered from the website or your research. When it comes to filling in the form, attention to detail is paramount. While the receiving school probably knows you are looking at other roles, there isn’t much more that will put me off then seeing the wring school name at the top, or the wrong job reference number. It gives the message that you don’t care enough about the particular role to pay enough attention to the form. Typo’s give the same message, as does lack of capitialisation or poor alignment (a pet peeve of mine!).

Give the details they have asked for an fill in every section. If there is something that is ambiguous, make a effort to explain it rather than leaving it to come up at interview. For example, you need a full employment history with no gaps of longer than a month – if you have then, put on the form what they are and why. Give your CPD record as fully as possible, these are all extra strings to your bow, likewise your academic history. When giving references choose your most recent employer. If you are not giving your previous headteacher, explain why. Perhaps it was a large school and they weren’t your line manager? Perhaps they are new to post and haven’t worked with you for long? A simple explanation of this will give the shortlisting panel a reason, rather than having to guess what the issue might be (whih will usually be worse than the reality!)

This form can sell a lot about your attention to detail and desire for the job, take the time to get it right.

The Personal Statement

The most difficult bit. I would say to aim for a page of A4 for a teaching role, certainly no more than two. I would always do mine as a separate document as well, so I can format it the way I want rather than being forced into an expanding box on a form.

The point here is to sell yourself and set yourself apart from the crowd. What do you bring that no-one else does? What can you offer the school? The shortlisting panel here will be looking that you fit in with their ethos as well, so use your research to good effect. Personalise it to the school and the job spec giving specific and evidenced examples of things you have done to meet it, or that prove the impact you’ve had in yuor job role previosuly.

While it is nice to read how much you love teaching, and want to make a difference to children (still put this in, by the way), that is really the minimum I would expect from a teacher, so maybe don’t go overboard on the length of this section. Talk about how you build relationships, particular projects you’ve led that have been successful, where you have learned from experiences Show them they are getting an asset in you that they will be glad they have employed. Specific examples are ecellent here – just give the brief details, they can be explored further and added to at interview, but give a flavour of what you are capabale of.

Sending it in

Send a short cover note saying how much you enjoyed your visit to the school and are delighted to apply for the post of xyz. This does not need to be lengthy, but make sure you attach all the correct documents, with your name in the file name for easy reference for the panel.

Being Shortlisted

When you get a response from a school inviting you to interview, respond promptly to confirm your attendance, and ask if there is anything you need to bring (documentation, etc). The school may well have asked you to teach or give a presentation as part of the interview. Make sure you have all the information you need for this.

If you’ve been asked to teach, try and narrow it down. Ask what support will be available, what tech will be available, a break down of the class, the SEN needs, any particular children to be aware of. If you know what your lesson is, ask what prior knowledge they have of the subject. You can even ask for a seating plan to help you out. Don’t be conscious about asking for all of these things – you are showing that you know what you are doing. These are all questions you would know the answers to in your own class, so give yourself the best shot by trying to find them out before you teach your lesson.

If it’s a presentation, again find out what you can.

Teaching the Lesson

Chances are you’ve only got a short time here. Use it wisely. The panel won’t be looking for amazing progress for the children, more about your interactions with them and how coherently you’ve managed to plan a lesson. Of course the difficultly pitch might be off, you don’t know the kids.

I always used to take everything they needed with me and put it in a plastic wallet for them all – pencil, photocopied sheets, whiteboard and pen anything. This showed by organisation, meant I wasn’t relying on the other schools resources and meant I knew it wouldn’t go wrong. I always put a sticky label in and made them write their name on it to stick on their jumper so I could start using names as quickly as possible. Have lessons plans for all the panel and a printed copy of resources and slides with notes. They might not look at them in the lesson, but they will have them to hand when making their decision – it will prompt their memory.

Think about what might go wrong. Where are your slides saved (if using them)? I used to take two memory sticks in case there was a problem and email them to myself. I even took my own laptop just in case, sometimes. Do you have a plan B? Have you though how you’ll adapt in the lesson is too easy or hard? Don’t be afraid to alter your lesson plan on the fly, I’d rather see that then someone bat on with something that clearly isn’t working. Be confident and show them the really you, not an unsustainable version of you. That’s no good for anybody.

Afterwards debrief and reflect honestly, this also tells a lot about a teacher and their understanding of what makes good teaching.

The Interview

Take your time, be clear, be you and back it up with examples. This is a time to sell yourself with what you are an expert in – your time in the classroom. You are the knowledgable one about you, so prove it. The hardest interviews are ones where I have felt like I am dragging every piece of information out of a candidate, so have things your proud of that you want to get in, and try and work them in. Think about things that might come up before hand and give real concrete examples that are based in your classroom. Use your research from before applying to show how you will apply your practice to the school your interviewing for. Also, take your time to answer. A slight pause before starting just gives you time to clear your head and clarify your thoughts before you start. If you wander off track, ask what the question was again and get back to it. Nerves are to be expected, so no panel will think worse of you for it.

Have questions prepared at the end. You need to make sure the school is a good fit for you too. Don’t be scared of asking about workload and wellbeing. If the panel are threatened by such questions, I’m going to hazard a guess you don’t want to be working there anyway.

Be confident in yourself, be friendly, be knowledgeable and see what happens. If it turns into a chat rather than a Q and A, I reckon you’re onto a winner.

Finally, at the end if you haven’t got something in you wanted to, use the question time to try and squeeze it in!

Afterwards

After that, you’ll hear one way or another. If you’re successful, accept the job in a formal email. If not, you’re entitled to feedback. This can sometimes be helpful, sometimes not. Sometimes it genuinely does come down to fit in a school, and strong candidates across the board. I’ve had to turn down people I would have happily employed – there was nothing wrong with any part of their application, just someone else was a little better. That’s hard to hear though. Be specific when you ask for feedback – was it my interview? Was it the lesson? Was it a specific area?

Well, that’s exhausted my tips for getting a job, happy hunting and I hope it comes in useful – they right job is out there!

Published by @secretHT1

Primary HT. Using this as a space to write honestly and freely about the state of education currently.

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