How to impress the next boss

27th October 1995 at 00:00
To write an application that gets you in front of a selection panel, check this list compiled by David Whitehead

We received 134 applications from a local advertisement for a temporary one-year post teaching a class of 7 to 8-year-olds (Year 3).

About half were from students; most of the others were from teachers who had been on supply for one or two years; a few were from those wishing to move home. We had expected a good number, but not so many. Yet we were disappointed.

Our selection panel had thought carefully about what information we should send to candidates.

We had indicated what our requirements were in terms of qualifications, experience and personal qualities. We had asked applicants to state their interests and strengths and say why they were suitable for the post.

What did we receive? A great variety of letters: many very brief, some that ran to four or five sides of paper. Most were handwritten, many rather scruffy; few were proof-read. Spelling was a problem for quite a few, particularly "liaison" and "commitment".

Most letters were disappointing and went on my "no" pile. Very few went on my "interesting" pile. Most were formulaic, mainly descriptions of recent experience (lots of enjoyable successful teaching practices) and quite a bit about their teaching philosophy (differentiation, active learning, collaborative approach, stimulating displays). But that was not what we wanted.

Did applicants read and understand our instructions? Not many. Some seemed to be applying for a different post altogether. Most seemed to be using a standard all-purpose letter.

Are student teachers advised about how to apply for jobs? If they are, we didn't see much evidence.

Short-listing was very difficult. There was so little to go on. Few applications shone out as being from interesting candidates whom we wanted to see.

I feel sure that we rejected a number of worthwhile candidates because they did not do themselves justice. To them, I offer the following advice:

* Think very carefully abut your strengths, and seek evidence to support these (previous jobs, college, other activities)

* Read the job description properly, person specifications and other details

* Explain briefly how you meet requirements, giving evidence

* Make it readable and personal: cut the jargon. This is not a college essay - you should be aiming at lay people

* Set it out carefully and legibly. Get someone else to check spelling, grammar and tone. Tone is very important. We're a bit wary of Goody Twoshoes. Everyone is still learning.

* Don't forget: you will be judged by the quality of your application.

David Whitehead is chair of governors at Henderfoilan primary school, Swansea

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