Thunderthighs are No

24th January 2003 at 00:00
Your email nickname is fine for your friends. But what messages does it send out when you're job-hunting? Keep the public you and the private you separate and appropriate, advises Jill Parkin

Dear 2sexy4U,

The school governors regret to inform you that we could not possibly interview someone with such a downright silly e-mail address. Suggest you change it, unless your next application is for a job in a lap-dancing parlour.

A thoroughly professional application form may be ruined by an all-too-revealing e-mail address. If you are normally jellybelly, thunderthighs or fudgeface, get yourself a neutral ID for grown-up stuff like this. In fact, for everything: e-address jokes have a one-smirk life.

Remember when you fill in your phone number that the same goes for your voicemail, which should sound efficient and friendly. Sam and Jan may make their friends envious with that breathless "Can't get to the phone right now" against a backdrop of Ravel's Bolero, but it doesn't give the impression of someone who can control Year 10. Or someone who will even be awake enough to try.

Applying for a job is really a matter of answering their advert with one of your own. It is not about throwing together the sort of biographical detail that makes James Boswell's effort on Johnson look amateurish. Nobody cares what you thought of your NQT mentor; no one wants to know that you supported yourself through college by running Ann Summers parties. They can guess that from your e-mail address, anyhow.

What they want to know is that while at your first school you worked with the educational psychologist to produce pupil targets for underachievers; that at your second school you piloted the International Baccalaureate in your subject; and that you have 57 varieties of learning methods at your fingertips.

All your achievements need to be presented to match the job you are going for. A bog-standard, one-size-fits-all career resume will not stand out from the pack. Nor will it go on the "maybe" pile. Highlight what fits the job description for the post you want - and the person specification.

This all takes concentration and effort. Of course you should list your degrees and certificates, but they alone won't get you a good job. Nor will a teacher shortage - unless you're a maths graduate in central London. A good applicant these days will have the best choice of jobs and get perks too.

If you're a first-time teacher with another career behind you, use it in your application but make sure you join up the dots. The information about your years spent in systems engineering is only relevant if you can show how it relates to the physics post you're after.

And don't succumb to listing all the negatives about your old career, no matter how hacked off you eventually got with systems engineering. It doesn't sell you and it can lead to wry smiles: teaching too has interminable meetings, red-tape and self-interested dictators. Instead concentrate on the positives which attracted you to teaching and save them for the interview.

The spadework doesn't stop with the application form. There's no point in turning up at an interview with enthusiasm, personal charm and little else.

School administrators often complain about candidates who have no idea about the school or the population it serves.

Your questions should be informed rather than general and should seek information not easily accessible in the job pack or on the website. "I see from your website that you're an outreach school. Does that mean you have good shared resources for arts projects?" is better than "What arts projects have you lined up?"

Work on your questions beforehand, making sure they show you have done your research, thought about how you might contribute and that you've thought about your appointment as an opportunity for the school as well as for you.

Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, says it's important to remember that employers want a real person.

"Don't present yourself as a robot. Don't give them your life story but do include non-work experience which is relevant, whether it's working in a youth club on Moss Side, Manchester, or doing Camp America as a student.

"Teaching is still seen as a lifestyle career in the sense that it's like a vocation so it's important to convey commitment, enthusiasm and interest.

So don't go in asking about laptops, holidays and other time off.

"People tend to blurt out unsuitable questions like that largely because they haven't prepared anything sensible. So don't go in without sussing the school out, without reading the local paper and talking to people. Show an interest in the parent body and the school's role in the community. Your questions convey your motivation, so don't ask anything inane.

"If you're miles off the person spec, there's no point in pretending.

Better not go for the job than pretend to be something you're not.

"Finally, you should remember that when the employers read your application they are picking up all sorts of clues about you. So avoid negatives and make sure you can confirm the positives at interview."



Follow the employer's instructions.

Use your supporting statement to relate your experience and skills to the person specification

Be concise

Set your application out clearly

Use black pen so it can be photocopied

Watch your spelling and grammar

Answer all the questions

Keep a copy

Ask someone else to read it all through


Phone for an application form if they ask you to write

Forget any criminal convictions including juvenile offences, cautions and bindings over

Forget to ask your referees' permission before filling in the form

Include a CV unless asked to do so

Provide irrelevant information

Include anything you can't back up in an interview

From advice issued by the National Union of Teachers

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