4 ways to stand out when applying for a PE job overseas

The market for PE roles in international schools is fiercely competitive right now – so Philip Mathe offers some advice

Philip Mathe

International schools: How to land your dream PE teacher job

Having been involved in PE teacher recruitment for a long while, I’ve never known a time when there were so many recruits all vying for jobs.

As such, over the past few months I’ve seen hundreds of applications from PE teachers, or those desiring a role teaching PE, with a huge variety of experience, skills and knowledge, trained in all manner of ways and originating from every corner of the world.

Yet many of these applications never make it past the initial filtering process as a lack of accuracy, no teaching experience or qualifications, or poorly constructed paperwork that doesn’t tell you enough to consider them is the norm, and 200 applications for a standard PE role is not uncommon.

Tips for landing your dream PE teacher job

So how can you stand out? Here are some core tips to follow:

1. Ensure everything is accurate

If your paperwork is not complete, accurate and legible, then you’re already putting yourself out of contention.

It's amazing that even with all the advice around CVs and covering letters, this is still holding a lot of people back from progressing to an interview. After all, with so many applications to get through, any errors or issues make it very easy to move an application to the rejected pile.

Ideally, though, this would not be a problem and it would be all about the quality of the applications – which is where the following comes into play…

2. Know what you are applying for

This seems simple enough. However, it’s amazing how many applicants appear to be applying for a role that isn’t really right for them.

If you are applying for a medium-sized school in a relatively local setting, then focusing on your competitive coaching background may not fit with the “inclusive, sport for all” ethos of the school.

Likewise, big-city, big-profile schools will be looking for PE teachers who show evidence of going that extra mile, willingly giving weekends over to school sport.

Saying that you spend your weekends travelling or socialising is great but if it doesn’t match the ethos of the current PE programme, getting an interview may be unlikely.

The solution is to do thorough research – not just on the school website, which we all know is designed not for you but for prospective parent customers, but on social media, the wider internet and especially Facebook and Twitter. Get underneath the top level and really know what the school is looking for.

Then select schools that match your beliefs and passions and you’ll be a far more authentic candidate as a result.

3. Have the right experience

During this recruiting cycle, I saw a CV from a candidate who, while lovely, professional and hardworking, never made it very far because their “PE experience” consisted of a two-week yoga instructor course.

If you know you are lacking in an area, take the time to go and find the experience. Sports clubs and schools in your local area will bite your arm off if you, as a DBS-checked volunteer, offer your time.

Having a teaching qualification is obviously important but often it's your other experiences, especially involving young people, that can make the difference.

On the flip side, if you do have lots of experience in this area, then don’t sell yourself short as it could make all the difference.

Once you know the type of school you are looking for, make your application match its key activities.

Oh, and the biggest thing that will help in international schooling is swimming. I cannot stress this enough: if you have a swimming qualification, international PE departments want to know!

4. Have a presence

In today's connected world, it takes me all of two minutes to find out everything the internet knows about you.

We all know the importance of privacy settings on your Facebook account but the opposite is true when it comes to your professional profile. Don’t kid yourself that a prospective employer isn’t going to look for you, because the chances are, we will.

A good, regularly updated LinkedIn profile and an active Twitter presence could make all the difference. Feel free to look me up on LinkedIn or Twitter to see what I mean.

Being judged by others is never a nice feeling and all the heads of PE or directors of sport who I know appreciate just how much effort can go into an application these days.

Good recruiters are trying to make the interview process less formal and more pleasant for candidates, but if your CV didn’t make the shortlist, then you will never get the opportunity to show just how wonderful you are.

The chances are you are professional, hardworking, committed and brilliant, but you need to make sure that everything from initial application to final interview showcases all of that and more.

In a world where 200 applications is the norm, can you afford not to?

Philip Mathe is director of sport at Brighton College Al Ain in the UAE

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