23rd October 2009 at 01:00

I'm looking for my second job and sent 40 applications for posts at the start of the school year but have only been invited to an interview twice. Why am I not being shortlisted?

For some posts there are 50 to 100 applications, so schools can afford to be pretty picky. However, without sight of your application form and personal statement, I can only assume you are making one of the classic mistakes from the list below:

- Your letter begins Dear SirMadam. Check the documents and use the name of the head.

- You put the name of the wrong school in your letter.

- You send a photocopied letter with the name of the school written by hand, so it's obvious you haven't personalised your application.

- You have little, or inaccurate, information about the school or area: "I wish to work in a vibrant, ethnically diverse community such as Surrey." That application was from someone lazily using the same letter for every post, not bothering to see if it was relevant.

- You apply for a job that is not on offer. You say: "I am particularly interested in this foundation stage post." Sorry, ours was key stage 2.

- You apply for too many jobs: "I have seen on The TES website that your school offers many employment opportunities and would like to apply for the posts of senior teacher in the junior school, head of physics, head of psychology and teacher of English in the senior school." I have seen this done.

Many candidates simply do not follow the instructions in the application. For example, if a school asks for a supporting statement of no more than two sides of A4, do not send double that amount.

Or perhaps you leave parts of the form blank. Although it is easier for you to use the same CV for a number of applications, this does not make it easier for the school. Government advice to schools is not to ask for CVs any more; if everyone fills in a form this enables them to compare 50 different candidates easily.

Another classic mistake is to leave out contact details for referees, including a fax number. If you are even-stevens with another candidate and they gave all the details, who is the school more likely to go for? You must give your current headteacher as a referee. Schools are required by safer recruitment guidelines to get a reference from your current employer (or most recent if you are not teaching at present).

Presentation is also an issue. Think about whether you complete the forms in a scruffy fashion. Or perhaps your spelling, grammar and punctuation leave much to be desired. Do you leave gaps in chronology? The school will not know whether any unaccounted time was spent in prison and it will need to consider this possibility under child protection guidelines.

Or perhaps you are simply trying too hard to impress. If your CV begins with the mission statement: "An educator seeking appointment in fast-paced demanding professional environment", what does this actually mean? Alternatively, you may be focusing too much on your own school experience - the school does not need to know you were a prefect in sixth form.

Most applications do not have any of these faults, but some do, making it all too easy for us to pass yours over and move on to the next

Theogriff has almost 40 years of teaching under his belt and nearly 20 years in senior management. To see more of his jobseeking tips and advice, visit www.tes.co.ukjobseekers.

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