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Proactive, self-motivated, inspirational...whatever

The TES often includes columns of advice for job seekers. But what about schools trying to attract candidates? Their advertisements - the most important first contact - aren't always as good as they should be. Here's my advice to avoid pitfalls.

First, do not request that the applicant send an SAE to receive details and an application form. It seems mean-spirited and penny-pinching. What sort of organisation charges prospective employees for the privilege of finding out more about it and the nature of its vacancy?

Second, watch your language. Using words that have lost all their meaning through overuse reveals a lack of effort and imagination. You will find them littered throughout the current crop of advertisements with a wearisome predictability: proactive, dynamic, self-motivated, inspirational and positive are all good examples of the lazy copywriter's art.

Just as important is avoiding words and phrases that are likely to convey a hidden implication. For instance, many schools are looking for someone with a good sense of humour. Why? Do you need one to work there? Haven't they got anybody with one and are you being asked to provide staffroom entertainment? Another example: the applicant is required to be "committed to inclusive education". Again this gets alarm bells ringing. Just how inclusive is the teacher going to have to be? What horrors (little ones) await?

Third, let's consider visual impact. As in life, size is important. Too large and the advertisement smacks of desperation, too small and it won't stand out from the crowd. A discreet logo can add a touch of class, but any picture, particularly those drawn by children of little discernible talent, just looks twee and will only attract a twee teacher.

Also avoid quotations from recent Ofsted reports, however glowing. In fact, the more effusively complimentary they are, the less likely it is that they will be believed. They're rather like the quotes that adorn film posters and book jackets; selectively chosen and, in all probability, unrepresentative.

Finally, please include all the information a prospective candidate might need. It is remarkable how many schools leave out telephone numbers, website addresses, the number of children on roll - even the name of the headteacher. Applying for a new job is onerous enough without having to dig for all these important details.

Employers should use their press advertisements to demonstrate that they truly value all prospective candidates. Be clear, be honest, be considerate and be as informative as possible at this vital stage in the relationship between school and candidate. You then might, just might, get the employee you deserve.

Paul Warnes

Paul Warnes is a primary supply teacher in Kent

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