So you've found a vacancy you want to apply for and you're ready to launch yourself into your career, and that means putting together your application. An estimated 39,000 NQTs will be looking for jobs this year, so your application must create the best possible impression of you it can.
Filling in the form
Before you start, read through the whole form so you understand exactly what information you are being asked to provide. If it is in paper form, photocopy it so you can fill out a rough version first. If it is an electronic or online form, again, print out a copy so you can do a practice run. Either way, make sure you keep a copy for your reference.
It is vital to avoid basic errors such as getting the name of the school or the headteacher wrong, particularly if you're cutting and pasting answers from previous application forms. Lack of attention to detail like this does not create a good impression.
Make it personal
However, as Sarah Gray, head of English at Robert Blake Science College in Bridgwater, Somerset, points out, it's the personal statement part of the application form where you really get to sell yourself.
"This is often the biggest hurdle for applicants," she says. "Focus on showing what skills you have and where you have used them. I look for evidence that applicants have a clear knowledge of the different stages of the curriculum and that they know how learning takes place. I also want to know about types of teaching you've experienced yourself and what made it good or bad, as well as `reflectiveness' of what you know and what you know you don't know."
You also need to make sure your history - where and when you were educated and anything that you've done in between - doesn't contain any gaps. Anything missing makes schools suspicious, so even if you've had time out to go travelling, it's important that you account for what you've been doing.
Don't worry if you are a mature new teacher with previous work experience outside teaching - this is often seen as a bonus. "I see more applications from new teachers who have come from industry rather than straight from college," says Ms Gray, "and I like to see them demonstrate the links their previous career knowledge can make to their teaching aspirations."
Ben Noble, an NQT Year 2 teacher at St John's International School in Sidmouth, Devon, says it pays to tailor your personal statement to fit the school to which you're applying. "Do your research. All schools have a school improvement plan, so mention how you can help them achieve its aims. Give plenty of examples of what you've been doing and add comments and feedback that you've had from your course leaders or teachers at other schools you've worked in, and explain why you chose your subject specialism in the first place."
Sending it off
It's important to keep a copy of your completed application, and make sure you send it in on time. If you are posting it then bear in mind that while first-class post is supposed to take one day, and second-class a couple of days, this isn't guaranteed. If you need to make sure your application gets there the next day then pay a little extra to send it by special delivery.
And don't expect to hear back if your application has been unsuccessful. "Eighty per cent of the time you don't hear anything unless you are invited to interview," says Mr Noble, "but if you weren't successful, then do call them for some feedback to see why you missed out."
It could be something very simple that you can easily change next time around. Remember, schools want to everything to be crystal clear with no glaring errors. You need to sell yourself in a logical way that's easy to read and talk about what is current in education. You've got to show you know what's going on, even if you don't have much experience of teaching yet.
Good courses should prepare you for the application process, so if you don't think you've got all the tools, you need to ask for help - try www.tes.co.ukcareerclinic. Don't forget new jobs are listed daily on TES Connect and printed weekly in The TES, TES Cymru and TESS, so keep looking and concentrating on filling in your applications - and good luck.
FOR MORE ADVICE
If you need more help, or are always missing out at the final stages, the TES Careers Service offers personalised services for checking applications or one-to-one careers advice. For more information see www.tes.co.ukcareersadvice
For more advice about successful job hunting, Sasa's new book Applying for a Job: the essential guide (pound;9.99, published by Need2Know, ISBN 9781861440990) is a straightforward guide covering the whole job-searching process, from finding vacancies to filling in application forms, going for interviews and what to do once you are offered (or not offered) the job.