Five common job application mistakes

Job Application Common Mistakes

Your job application is the first impression you make with a school principal or recruitment consultant, and making a good first impression is key to securing an interview and a job offer. Potential employers will be influenced by the content and format of your CV. Any minor error can undermine your credibility and limit your chances of securing a role.

Here are some of the most common errors seen on applications for teaching positions that can put you on the back foot before you've even started.

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Lack of attention to detail

Getting the basics right is key! It may surprise you how many applications principals and education recruitment consultants receive that lack the basics. Often applications can pass through multiple hands before they reach the decision-maker, so it is important to make sure your name and contact details are displayed prominently on the front of your CV and cover letter. Not including your name and contact details on the top of the first page of your CV can imply to potential employers that you don't pay attention to the small but important details. Additionally, they won't be able to get in touch to interview you.

Ensure that the first part of your CV is a short, precise collection of relevant information that will grab someone's attention quickly. This should include your name, email, phone number, teacher registration number, teaching areas and your number of years teaching experience.

It's not personalised

One of the worst mistakes you can make on any job application is to send a generic cover letter and CV. There is nothing worse than a cover letter addressed to "Dear Sir and/or Madam". This highlights to principals or hiring managers that you haven't been bothered to find out more information about the school. If the job advertisement doesn't specify who your application should be addressed to, assume it is the principal and address them by name in your cover letter.

Schools all have their own unique approach to education and principals will be on the lookout for candidates who demonstrate that they're able to integrate into the existing school culture. Successful candidates are those who take the time to not only read and respond to the selection criteria or role description but those who also research the school and showcase that they have researched the traditions, culture and values of the school they are applying to. Demonstrate to your potential employer that not only do you have the teaching skills that they're looking for, but that you also will fit in with their core values and traditions – explain to them why you would be a good fit.

Not including relevant work history

Employers don't want to receive applications that lack specific information about what you've done in your teaching career, or – for graduate teachers – a CV that doesn't explain your teaching experience. For teachers, it is vitally important to list the subjects and year levels you have taught in each role you've had, and what schools you've worked at. Listing your work history as "Humanities teacher at Department of Education" doesn't tell a potential employer enough information about your role, responsibilities, work environment or achievements! Explicitly state what school you worked at, what subjects and year levels you taught, achievements, areas of additional responsibility and extracurriculars.

For new graduate teachers, do not outline your part-time uni job on the first page of your CV. Prioritise explaining where you have gained education experience. List your pre-service teacher placements, including what subjects and year levels you taught, any additional professional development you completed and any extra volunteer work you've done. List your paid employment later in your CV, principals and education consultants want to know about your teaching.

Generic clichés

"Strong Communicator" and "People Person" – one should hope so if you're a teacher! Avoid using generic cliches listing your skills and attributes. These types of skills are desirable in candidates, but if you really are a strong communicator, you will be able to contextualise and provide examples. Listing these types of basic work skills generally wastes precious space on your CV. If you feel the need to have a list of skills on your CV, you would better off listing specific pedagogical, teaching or behaviour managements experience and achievements, or write a short "personal statement" about what you see as the strengths and qualities you can bring to a school (no more than a paragraph). For example, highlight that you're experienced in using Hattie's Visible Learning Framework for evidence-based teaching and learning, or that you've used Positive Education as a behaviour management approach. Doing this will add more context to your application and will allow recruiters and principals to envision the added value of having you on staff.

Too little or too much information

It is important to edit and approach your application with a critical eye. CVs and cover letters walk a fine line between too little and too much information. CVs that don't provide enough information about your qualifications and experience raises question marks for potential employers. Your lack of detail could give potential employers the wrong impression, such as you don't have much to offer. On the flip-side, providing an overwhelming amount of information or using a "difficult to digest" format on your application could give the impression that you over-complicate things. Presenting your work history or achievements in an essay or paragraph format makes it more difficult for readers of your application to get the information they need quickly, and can make your application confusing. Don't be afraid to cut down the word count and use bullet points to help illustrate what you have to offer. 

Principals and recruiters will see a large volume of applications in a short space of time, if your application is too complicated or too simple it will be passed over for an application that gets the balance right.

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