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Stand out from the flock

Want the job? Learn to sell yourself. Elizabeth Holmes explains.

For success in the application game, you need not only a keen sense of the rules but an ability to exploit them, leaving the selection panel in no doubt who the winning candidate should be. This is not as difficult as it seems. You hold the trump cards when you consider the value of new teachers to a school, so with enough care over your application, you can secure your ideal job.

Before looking for vacancies, you should be comfortable with the concept of selling yourself through every pore of your body. You have a product to sell, the package of your skills and experiences, and how you do this will contribute largely to whether or not you secure the post. Your greatest allies in the application procedure are the supporting statement on your application form and your portfolio. By gathering your skills, experiences, achievements and evidence of self-evaluation and reflection, you present to the selection panel the evidence of your suitability for the job. Don't sell yourself short.

The "relevant experience" or "other information" section of the form presents the biggest challenge. If you're making more than one application, it is essential that each supporting statement is written with a specific job description and applicant profile in mind. A statement drafted non-specifically will not perform for you. Take the time to craft your words - a well written statement will truly support you on interview day. These ideas will help:

* Read the applicant profile and make a list of the key skills and characteristics the panel is looking for. Then think how your very own skills, unique selling points, etc, can match them. These notes will form the bulk of your statement. Make sure you relate your skills to every single aspect of the applicant profile.

* Write a rough draft of your statement, and read it over, paying particular attention to the impact of the first and last sentences.

* Reveal a sense of your personality. It is far better to join a school where you will fit in naturally than to have to squash your most endearing traits to blend in with existing characters.

* Take maximum advantage of your suitability for the job, but remember you will be questioned on your statement at interview.

* Be honest about what attracted you to the job, particularly if you are applying for more than one job.

* Get a second opinion on your statement before completing the form.

* Make sure any additiona sheets are firmly secured. Do remember though, that these forms are well designed and in most circumstances enough room is provided. If space is a problem, check the statement for unnecessarily long sentences and paragraphs. Each word should work for its place.

* Never regurgitate your supporting statement on subsequent application forms. It may seem a hassle, but it is essential to show that you have considered thoughtfully each applicant profile. The panel wants to read your application for the job they have on offer, not for a job in another school or LEA.

Portfolios, which have become important aspects of the interview process over the past few years, give give you an opportunity to show as well as tell.

Brian Aikens, headteacher of Willingdon Primary School, Eastbourne, in East Sussex, has worked extensively with new teachers advising on their development. "Time involved in putting together a portfolio is time well spent. Not only will it help to secure that all-important first teaching post, but it is also an investment in the future," he says. "All teachers, at whatever level, should update their portfolio regularly to reflect their skills and experience and to record their developing career."

Jan Blakes of Jarvis Brook School, Crowborough, agrees. "Building and maintaining a professional portfolio demonstrates an ongoing commitment to personal development," she says. Putting together a portfolio is easier than it may seem and is invariably an exercise in confidence boosting as you amass your finest work.

* Choose an A3 folder so that you can include larger pieces of children's work as well as relevant A4 documents, perhaps relating to planning or evaluation.

* Avoid using folders with inner plastic pockets, as speedy retrieval of contents could be tricky! Sort out the contents of your portfolio before each interview so that only relevant items are included in the order in which you want to talk about them.

When deciding what to include, consider all aspects of your teaching work and make sure you include an item to reflect each. For example, samples of children's work that show evidence of developments in learning and photographs of displays, planning, assessment and evaluation.

Think about the scope of the contents and use your portfolio to express your understanding of the current education issues. Above all, be enthusiastic when discussing your portfolio at interview and never miss an opportunity to show evidence of what you can do.

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