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Make your mark

The job application form is your first and, perhaps, only chance to make a good impact. Sara Bubb gives some tips on how to complete it.

Filling in application forms is a time-consuming job that most of us dread and put off until the last minute. But it's vital to do it well. It will be your first encounter with the school or LEA that you want to teach in - and first impressions count.

Remember, your form will be just one of many that will be read, so look at it through your reader's eyes. To get short-listed for an interview, where you can impress them in person, you need to make an impact. Here are some tips.

* Only apply for jobs that you really want and think you can get. Read the person specification and other documentation and ask yourself whether this is really the job for you.

* Find out about the school. A useful starting point is to read the latest Ofsted report. Ask people if they know anything about the school. Visit, if you can. Even walking around the outside of the building will give you an idea of the catchment area and school environment.

* This information will be useful in saying why you want this specific job. Think carefully about how to phrase this. "I am keen to work in my local community" sounds better than "it's near where I live".

* Read all parts of the form, accompanying letter, job description and person specification carefully before writing anything.

* Do as you are asked. It will almost certainly go against you if you don't. For instance, the closing date really is the last day on which applications should be received. If he form asks you to list your previous employments starting with the most recent, do so.

* Plan your supporting statement with care. Use the person specification as a starting point for deciding what to put in each paragraph.

* Account for any gaps in your CV and explain anything, such as resitting a teaching practice, that might look suspicious. Be concise: don't waffle or repeat information. Try to keep within two pages.

* Avoid sounding as if you're regurgitating essays on educational theory. As Janet Manning, Lambeth's recruitment strategy manager, says: "Be specific, and give examples to show how your knowledge, skills and experience meet the criteria in the person specification."

* Remember to mention any skills and experience outside education, such as playing an instrument, that might be of interest.

* Pay particular attention to presentation. Photocopy the blank form in case you make a mistake. Aim for the best handwriting and word-processing, and ensure you use correct spelling, grammar and punctuation.

* Communication skills are a criterion for most jobs, so don't fall at the first post by allowing any mistakes in your writing. Ask a friend to go through your application form with a fine tooth comb - one often doesn't notice one's own mistakes.

Finally, keep a copy of the completed form - it will help you prepare for the interview.

Sara Bubb teaches primary PGCE students at the University of London Institute of Education. She also answers questions for students and NQTs in Friday magazine and on The TES website (www.tes.co.uk)

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