8 ways to stand out in your application form

Making sure you stand out from the crowd is vital when applying for a teaching position. Our expert, Lynette Beckett, has some top tips on how to guarantee your application form makes the shortlist.

Lynette Beckett

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When submitting your application letter you could be up against some stiff competition. Some teacher roles receive hundreds of applications, so the more you can do to make your application form stand out the better.

To get some expert advice we spoke to Lynette Beckett, head of HR at the Bright Futures Educational Trust, about what it takes to make your application stand out.

1. Shortlist yourself

Do your research before you put your application together. Read the job description and person specification, and research the school so you shortlist yourself. Don’t apply for a role if it doesn’t fit to you even if you want the experience of applying- if you don't really want it and the school isn't right for you then it is just a waste of everyone's time.

However, if the job role is a good fit for you then really focus in on what that school’s offering. If you have read about the school or multi academy trust then make that come through in your application. I know it’s pretty basic but people don’t always do that.

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2. Make sure your application letter is bespoke

When people are looking for work they’re going to apply for more than one job- everyone knows this, and that's okay- it's what people do! However, if you have a generic application letter or personal statement that you want to use, then you've got to make it really bespoke for the job you’re applying for; otherwise you’re not selling yourself properly.

I’ve seen it all too often over the years. People have generic wording that they use in an application. I shortlist headteacher applications and quite often you will see things and think ‘this isn’t bespoke to what we’re looking for’ or worse- it relates to a different role at another school.

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3. Visit the school

We encourage candidates to visit the school. We advertised for a head of school at one of our primaries and in the advert we said we’ve got an open morning. That wasn’t part of the selection process but we thought it was important that we sold ourselves to the candidates so that they wanted to apply.

It would also certainly help the individual to be able to bespoke their application to the post if they came along and met us and our kids.

Visiting a school also allows you time to see the school for yourself outside the pressure of an interview day; you will get a much better look at how a normal day runs when you're able to look round without interview day nerves bothering you. 

4. Be concise and demonstrate success

Most application forms are the same in that they include an application letter as part of the form. I would always say don’t make that any longer than two pages of A4. Really pull out the salient points and give examples to bring it to life.

If someone read about our school, then they would know we’d be looking for someone who has children and young people at the heart of everything they do. Therefore we would be looking for an example in the application that they can demonstrate that this is what they’ve done in a previous role, and to be able to demonstrate that in a way that focuses on the outcomes they’ve achieved as a result of that.

Very often an application form can give you narratives that say ‘I’ve done this and I’ve done that’. But what we’d be interested to see is what’s been achieved as a result and what impact it has had on those children and young people.

5. Don’t include attachments…

We would rather people stick to the application form because in terms of shortlisting we have a criteria and we can only consider what’s on the application form. You can imagine if you’ve got to sift a large number of application forms it’s hard if there are other documents as well.

If there is anything extra you would like to show the school, then this might be something you would bring along on the interview day if you were successful in being shortlisted.

6. But don’t leave anything out

On our application forms we ask for career history in chronological order and we ask for the dates to be the actual day, month and year. We’re meticulous when we look for gaps and we’ll explore the gaps if there are any.

I think work outside of teaching absolutely should be included, because if it wasn’t and there was a gap. then we would want to understand where the person was. Even if the work isn’t relevant to education, it might be relevant to a particular skillset that you’ve acquired and brought back and transferred that skill into education.

7. Tick all the boxes

Completing an application form isn’t easy. It’s much more straightforward to simply submit a CV, but there are various things we have to vet as part of that application, and this is part of our shortlisting process.

We will be looking to see if you have got the right to work in the UK, for example. So if that box isn’t ticked that form will probably get put to one side and not get shortlisted- and if you've just put in a CV you won't be considered at all.

8. No silly mistakes

We do see spelling mistakes and grammar mistakes and that really is a no go when you’re applying for a teaching post.

Everyone is capable of making a typo, so ask two people to proof read it for you, and check it again yourself after 'sleeping on it'. It's amazing what you spot when you leave something and then come back to it.

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Lynette Beckett

Lynette Beckett is head of HR at Bright Futures Educational Trust, an eight-school multi academy trust in the North West of England.

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