Make a statement without saying a word

The personal statement can make or break an application. Careers expert John Howson reveals how to stand out for the right reasons
7th May 2010, 1:00am


Make a statement without saying a word

If you've ever worried about how you can stand out on a faceless application form among all the other teachers who have applied on the same faceless application form, the statement of support is what you need to focus on. This requires you to say why you want a particular job and is probably the most important part of any application form you will complete. The same is true for the covering letter accompanying your curriculum vitae where a school prefers that to an application form.

There are a number of general rules that are worth following, as well as some pitfalls to avoid. Using examples from my career advice sessions I have identified some points for you to watch when applying for a job.

The first, and most important rule, is that your application needs to reflect the job that the recruiter is seeking to fill. This is especially important when you are completing numerous forms at the same time.

Good stuff, and it shows how well qualified the person is, but at the start of an application it suggests the person is more interested in their subject than in becoming a teacher. Perhaps they are applying for the wrong job.

Some jobs call for more than one skill. Often candidates are stronger in one aspect of the job than another. There is a temptation to focus on the strengths and ignore the other aspects of the job. This can be a mistake. Schools will want some confirmation that you can offer something in respect of all aspects of the work.

Thus, for a business studies and economics post, you must indicate some understanding of both aspects, even if one is only rudimentary. Of course, in the present job market where there are more candidates chasing jobs than schools can employ, there is a temptation to apply for anything on offer whether or not you are fully qualified. There is little point in doing this unless you have some special skill or attribute that might be useful to the school.

Cutting and pasting between letters of application can lead to mistakes, so always check carefully.

.This was an application received by a school serving a rural community.

These sorts of simple mistakes appear all too often, as any headteacher will tell you. Indeed, computer packages have probably made them even more common than in the days of individually typed applications.

Another common failing is to oversell your ambition rather than address the needs of the school. Consider the following from an enthusiastic candidate:

All true, all very encouraging, but if it appears in any application it can only be towards the end, as a final point. Schools are much more interested in your ability to meet their needs.

Better to re-work this as: "Small schools have special characteristics. The information about the school mentioned that there are multi-age classes at KS2. I worked in such a setting during my training and handled it as follows."

Don't forget that every application you make needs to be checked for mistakes and omissions. It is always best if someone else looks over your application after you have completed it as you all too often see what you expect and not necessarily what is actually there.

Many of the applications that I reviewed when setting up the new Career Advice Service for the TES had simple mistakes that would have caused them to be rejected by schools. The new service includes an application checking and review service as an extension of my free on-line career clinic. Later in the year, additional services such as face-to-face career assessment and advice sessions will be available to help teachers make the most of possible career opportunities.

Professor John Howson answers questions twice a week on the TES Connect career clinic about teacher supply issues.

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