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How to upgrade your teaching CV and application letter

Feel like your CV and application letter are lacklustre? Try our tips to make sure they sparkle

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Preparing your teaching application is a time-consuming task, and the idea that your CV could be immediately tossed aside in the shortlisting process is a little soul-destroying.

So we asked the experts how you can make sure your CV stand out for all the right reasons.

Here’s what they said.

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Big yourself up

Philip Stiles, senior lecturer in organisational behaviour at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, believes that false modesty costs many people the chance of an interview.

“A lot of people undershoot when they apply for jobs. They make the mistake of under-emphasising their characteristics or they undersell their capabilities,” he says.

Stiles explains that a lot of the problems lie with the word choices people make.

“[Candidates] will say that they have been ‘part of a team’ rather than ‘led the team’,” he says.

Why do they do this? Stiles suspects it comes from a misguided desire to come across as a modest person.

”An application is not the place for modesty,” he cautions.

For more tips on advice on how to move your CV and application from mediocre to meteoric, have a listen to Nick Soar from the Harris Academy share his advice about what employers want to see from applicants.



Be focused about your ’passion’

Hannah Plimmer, senior recruitment adviser for Ark, recommends teachers take generic references to being ”passionate about working with children” out of their applications.

“You often see in applications that people say that they feel passionate about working with young people,” she says. “But I hope that all teachers are passionate about working with young people.”

Instead, Plimmer urges applicants to discuss the role in question.

”We want to know specifically why they’re passionate about working with the students in our schools, and why they’re committed to that particular role.”

Don’t get bogged down in technicalities

According to Stiles, your character is just as important as your qualifications or technical know-how. While the skills to do the job are obviously required, ask what else you can bring to the table.

“Beyond a certain threshold, with technical skills there’ll be several people in the candidate pool who can meet the technical specification of the job,” Stiles explains.

Once you take the skills out of the equation, it comes down to those ”soft” skills.

“Any way you can demonstrate your character, whether it’s about leadership or courage, your resilience or anything of that kind, can make the difference.”

Stalk the school online

Before you start putting your application together, Plimmer suggests going on a fact-finding mission about your new school. Find its social media, read its newsletters, and familiarise yourself with the headteacher’s educational philosophy. 

“Do your research and show them you have,” Plimmer says. “So then, if you can say, ’I saw on your website that you are currently taking this approach’, it will impress them.”

However, Plimmer cautions applicants to do this authentically because you will soon get found out if you’ve not been thorough.

“Make sure you do research it – you can tell the people who have and the people you haven’t.” 

Plimmer also adds that it’s worth scouring the application for any options to get in contact for further details.

“If we give a contact number for more information, contact this person. We don’t just put it there for no reason,” she says.

Make your CV memorable...

Some applications still ask for applications to be posted or hand delivered rather than emailed across. In those circumstances, you can find a reason to ensure that you stick in the memory.

Stiles suggests that although people say they aren't susceptible to these tricks, the human brain clearly thinks otherwise. 

“I met a chap at an event and he handed out his business card, made a very thick card, and we all commented on it. And he said ’That's exactly the reaction I wanted, because now you will all remember that I was a person with a very, very thick business card’. And it was true!”

...but don’t be too crazy

However, Stiles warns against trying to be too quirky. It can make you memorable for the wrong reasons.

“On the whole, I think it is best to just play safe. It’s probably the easier option,” says Stiles.

“Maybe wait for the interview, or if there is a second round, to introduce the humour. You want to focus on just getting in the door first.”

Hannah Plimmer works for Ark, a charity of 37 non-selective state schools found in Birmingham, Hastings, London and Portsmouth. 

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