It's a knock-out

15th April 2005 at 01:00
Applications, interviews, career planning, and much more: everything job hunters need to know in an exclusive three-week TES series

A glittering CV may not be enough to beat other candidates to that dream job. Pack a punch by following Phil Revell's guide and put yourself ahead on points


Don't invest too much in a single application. No matter how attractive the job, or how well-qualified you may be, it's always possible that someone else may snatch it away. Don't write and then spend the next 10 days hovering by the letterbox awaiting the reply. Be prepared to write many - and apply early. The first letters a school receives will be eagerly scanned to see the calibre of candidates; the last few will be simply added to the pile.


This sounds so obvious, but you would be amazed at the number of applications that are littered with simple spelling errors and grammatical mistakes, including those for senior positions. It pays to write the whole application out in rough beforehand. Heads are old-fashioned about these things; they think that teachers should be able to spell.


Most schools use a form of some kind. If you are asked to fill it in using black ink, then do so; this is not the time to demonstrate independence of mind. Most forms are badly designed, with acres of space for address and primary education, and three lines for academic background. Don't attempt to squeeze masses of information into an inadequate box; write a supplementary sheet. It helps if you can type, but think twice or three times before attempting to type on the form.


No one is interested in your GCSE grades, or your swimming certificates, or the student jobs you had during the university vacations. The rule is that the longer ago it happened the less detail you should include. For newly qualified teachers this means lots of detail about your training and degree, but minimal information about anything prior to the sixth form. For middle managers, it's debatable whether the class of your degree is of serious interest to an employer, who will be far more interested in your professional history.

What curriculum projects have you led; what professional development have you had; how wide is your experience?


Some employers specifically rule against the curriculum vitae. "No CVs", they say, which is odd, because a good CV says a great deal about a candidate. It should be concise, ideally on one side of A4; it should offer a brief career and education history, with the most recent jobs and courses first.

There should be no unexplained gaps. If you leap from university in 2002 to your PGCE year in 2004, the school is going to wonder what you were up to in 2003. Drug running perhaps, or lap dancing? Better to come clean and admit that you spent the time on the till at the local Spar.

Tailor-make your CV for the job you apply for. If this primary is looking for a teacher with some musical ability then mention that level 6 recorder you passed when you were 14. And it always helps to mention sporting interests.


The tricky bit. Schools that use a form will expect a personal statement, often leaving an intimidating amount of space for you to fill. Or they may ask for a letter of application. Either way this is the part of the process that you need to spend most time on. This is where you can distinguish yourself from the other applicants, for better or worse.

Start by re-reading the advertisement and the information about the job in the application pack. What are they looking for? This is where you need to junk the modesty and promote yourself. What are you good at? What have you done in your teaching career or training that fits the school's "wanted" description? Too many people sell themselves short at this stage. If your classroom management is good, say so. If your head has congratulated you on the way you rewrote the key stage 3 curriculum, say so.

Don't rely on other people putting this kind of vital information in a reference. Include something about what you would hope to achieve in the new post. Does this school share your vision for education? No? Then you probably don't want to work for them anyway.


All applications will expect a couple of referees, and there are some ground rules to be followed before you use someone's name. Ask them.

Unfortunately, that means telling your employer that you are thinking of leaving - something you may have avoided doing until now. But it has to be done, and your head has to be one of your referees.


Don't apply for jobs without checking when the interviews are to be held.

Don't write in green or red ink; it immediately identifies you as eccentric. Some heads throw such applications away without reading them.

Don't enclose a photo; it's not a beauty contest. Don't write more than the recommended amount. If you are asked for a 500-word personal statement, give them 499 words or less. Don't go into detail about hobbies, especially if you are a train-spotter or birdwatcher. Don't make wild promises; someone might ask you to live up to them. Don't fib; mistakes can be grounds for dismissal if they are discovered at a later stage.

Do remember to put a stamp on the envelope.

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